“Where do you, um … like, want to, like, have lunch today?” 

Whenever, like, I hear people, like, speaking with copious verbal, like, fillers in a sentence, my mind starts to wander elsewhere, to places like the “Am I The Asshole?” subreddit (I am).  I start to count the number of filler words the person says rather than focusing on the actual message, because I do not care what they have to say, and nothing brings me joy in life. It gets hard (haha) after I run out of fingers. Op-eds convey meaning, but meaningless op-eds have overtaken our Daily Pennsylvanian. 

This pattern is especially, particularly, indubitably pronounced among college students. I’m not, like, like other college students. I’m, like, different. A 2014 research paper from Charlyn Laserna showed that college students on average are three to four times more like, likely to use discourse markers such as “like”’ or “you know” compared to people in their early and late adulthood (as opposed to adulthood that is not early or late), which is like, just crazy, you know? We all prefer navigating without markers (fuck markers) – who pays attention to road signs anyways? “This trend [that people, like, use fewer fillers as they age] may be in-dick-ative of a normative life transition into adult roles, such as when one stops caring about what hypothetical interviewers think,” explained Lasagna. 

Indeed, what we say in our everyday lives can also shape how others perceive us. [[Insert some random psychology article to back up my point here]]

Like it or not, audiences make assumptions about speakers’ characters and personalities based on, like, facial expressions, body language, voices, words, or, you know, like, personalities. Would you walk into your MGMT201 class without wearing a suit? Speaking with fillers is the auditory equivalent of going to class without wearing business casual. Embarassing!

Defined as verbal fillers, words like “um,” “ahhhhhhhh,” “ooo,” “ahh, ahh right there,” “oh yeah,” “harder, harder”* and “like” serve many purposes when a person speaks. Speakers use filler words to shaft shift between conversations and involve more people–the filler words of real life–into the discussion. Another common, plebeian explanation is that people use fillers to get over a mind blank. Our words tend to get ahead of our thoughts when speaking in a high-pressure setting or feeling nervous or when we’re bull-shitting discourse in an op-ed. 

While these uses are understandable and, sometimes, occasionally, even necessary, I think you are less-than for using them xoxo.

Frederick Conrad, a methodology research professor at the University of Michigan, conducted an experiment to test the relationship between telemarketers’ success rate of obtaining an additional, interview from the phone recipient and the frequency of filler words they used. The results show that their success rate decreased monotonically and continuously (but not differentiably) with the filler rate. When the frequency of using filler words is between 0 to 1.28 fillers per 100 words, the success rate is 36%, compared to a 12% success rate when the filler rate exceeds 3.49 words per minute, compared to my 0.03% success rate at getting bitches. 

In real life, our frequency of using filler words far exceeds the optimal rate. After analyzing over 4,000 spoken communication samples, Noah Zandan, CEO of Quantified Communications, found that the “optimum frequency is about one filler per minute” while “the average speaker uses five fillers per minute.” We should strive to be like the Love Island contestants, who only use “ten fillers per year.”  

If we are using too many fillers too often, how do we prevent using fillers? Practice awareness and pauses…

We can turn this weakness. 

Into an advantage. 

By replacing filler words with. 

Small pauses. 

In our speeches. 

One of the most common situations I hear someone using fillers is when answering a challenging question (Like, when I ask someone, “what do you like about me?”): 

Interviewer: “So, what is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in work, and how did you overcome it?”

Interviewee: “Umm … well … you know …”

Most people rely on fillers when they think about how to answer a challenging question such as where the clitoris is. I simply rely on fancy bullshit words that make low IQ plebeians feel inferior. 

In these circumstances, the best rule of thumb is to simply stop. Don’t allow your facial expressions to show signs of panic or unpreparedness. Simply stop talking – you clearly don’t have anything valuable to say.Instead, say, “could you repeat the question? I couldn’t understand what you were saying?”

Pauses can feel…intimidating. For many speakers, brief pauses can feel like an extended and awkward silence. Sometimes, what felt like it lasted an hour only lasted a minute. But in reality, we create distorted perceptions of how fast we speak. One (only one? That’s bad science?) researcher from the College of Wooster finds that those of us with superior intellect can think upwards of 4,000 words per minute while most examples of speech are spoken between 0 and 300 words per minute. Because of such a gap, what feels like an eternity is really just a few seconds.

Despite the feeling of awkwardness, shutting up can help you collect your thoughts, calm your nerves, and make people like you more. 

Silence is golden. Not only does silence allow the audience to reflect upon their life regrets, but it also adds cadence to your speech. Speaking non-stop can assert your dominance and superiority to the listeners, like a verbal T-Pose. That’s not always appropriate. The ability to either talk nonstop or shut up can regain the audience’s attention. 

So yeah, just like, stop using filler words. Doh!

*According to the Oxford Dictionary, “Harder, harder” are classified as fill-her words. 

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