So, let's talk about, uh, you know, those words that make you sound, I mean, unprofessional, right? Filler words and phrases (um, you know, like) make you sound unprofessional and less credible.

Now according to a British psychologist, filler words make will make you less charming as well. Dr. Richard Reid says charismatic people use language differently--they are considered eloquent and articulate. Reid says that "vocalized pauses" (filler words) will "severely cramp your communication." 

There are five filler words that appear to be the most common culprits of cramping communication. You're probably familiar with these words because, if you're like me, you may have noticed them creep into your own conversations. 

Five Fillers to Avoid

The five filler words and phrases to avoid are:

  1. So.
  2. Uh. 
  3. Right?
  4. You know.
  5. I mean. 

I'm surprised at how many experts overuse these words. I often watch business news in the background during the workday. I recently heard one economist say the following:

"So, inflation is, uh, you know, the highest it's been in years, right? So, it's bad, right? I mean."

The economist actually ended her statement with the words "I mean." I was waiting for her to continue, which she didn't. Needless to say, the expert lost credibility in my eyes. When I was working as a television anchor for a business news network, a guest like that would never have been invited back, regardless of her credentials. 

Let's reframe her statement without the filler words:

"Inflation is the highest it's been in thirty years. There's no question that this is bad news for consumers and the government." 

In this second quote, the specific number is more credible than a vague statement like 'years'. It also eliminates fillers and sounds more assertive, specific, and credible than the original comment. It also sounds more charismatic.

Use Recordings to Sharpen Your Speaking Skills

A charismatic communicator is someone who others find appealing and who can inspire action through their words. Most people assume charisma is something you either have or don't. The good news is that many of the language habits of charismatic people are relatively easy to develop with a little practice. 

Recording yourself on video or audio is the single best way to eliminate filler words in your speech. Simply being aware of the words you use is the first step to getting rid of those words that serve no purpose. Once you do, you'll start sounding more confident and charming. 

I've been forced to watch myself because I have a YouTube channel where I interview authors, experts, and leaders. I watch the entire conversation (usually 30 minutes to 60 minutes) to find places to edit and condense the final video. I've learned that it sounds better to pause for a second or two before asking a question instead of filling the with empty words like 'uh' or 'so.'

Watch professional sportscasters. They, too, watch replays of themselves to sharpen their skills. The most famous ones who call your favorite sport are polished and often charming communicators who are precise with their language. They comment on the action without rambling and filling empty space. They confidently make a statement with few, if any, fillers.

Charisma can be learned. It just requires self-awareness and practice. If you want to be the kind of person others find appealing, start by paying attention to the words you use--and those you should avoid.