Whenever I interview subjects for stories, I always record the calls. In the beginning, when I’d play back these conversations, I would cringe almost constantly. I had no idea how many filler words (also known as detractors) I’d been using without even realizing it.
We all say phrases like um, uh, like, you know and I mean. An overreliance on crutch words like basically, stuff like that and things like that are basically a universal issue. (See what I did there?)
But using too many fillers can also undermine your message.
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So I reached out to one of my former college instructors, Louis Dell’Omo, an associate professor of communications at Middlesex County College and an on-air disc jockey with 94.3 The Point FM, for a practical solution to this problem.
As it turns out, my technique of recording my interviews was spot-on.
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“Record a brief conversation between you and a partner,” recommends Dell’Omo. “Listen to the playback and, with pen and paper, count the number of detractors in your speech. You will be amazed.”
The point of this exercise isn’t to shame yourself for using so many fillers. It’s to become more mindful about when and how you use them—so you can avoid them in the future.
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“Try this technique several times until the number of detractors diminishes,” says Dell’Omo.
Now that I’ve listened to recorded conversations I’ve had several times, I’m happy to say that I no longer use so many detractors. Going through this exercise may be a little tedious, but I promise the payoff—of sounding much more self-assured—is worth it.
Brian Roberts is a writer, entrepreneur and university guest lecturer from New Jersey.