Last month I was interviewed by a writer at BBC.com about how verbal filler lowers employees’ credibility. The article hasn’t been published yet, but I couldn’t wait to share my latest example of ‘filler-killer’ with you.
A few nights ago I was listening to the news while making dinner. I was stirring a pot of soup at the stove when a male reporter’s voice caught my attention It wasn’t what he said that suddenly made me put down my spoon and listen. It washow he said it.
For the next two interminable minutes, he began almost every sentence with “Er Um…” Never before had I heard a news anchor use such excessive and repeated verbal filler. I tallied his “Er Um’s” as I listened. All together he used this phrase 18 times.
That broadcast left me wondering why this guy was an anchorman. I wondered if he was new and terribly nervous. I imagined that his employer would take him off the air or insist he get some coaching. No matter what scenarios I imagined, one thing was certain. That two-minute debacle of a broadcast hurt the anchor’s credibility with his listeners and also the station he represented.
When verbal filler infiltrates your professional communication, it can be seen as an indication of your lack of preparation or knowledge or passion. Any of these perceptions are bad for employees, speakers, leaders… basically anyone who wants to influence and persuade others.
When I coach speakers, I help them shoot for 90% filler-free language so that their speech sounds conversational, natural and avoids sounding robotic and too polished. In over 25 years of delivering keynotes, I’ve learned that if you can relay a powerful message, most audiences will forgive a few filler words.
Not everyone recognizes the damage excessive filler words can do. But if excellent communication is crucial to your work, it’s important to understand how verbal filler works and how to manage it. In my next article, I’ll focus on this problem and give you some practical tips for speaking almost “filler-free.”
Er…Um…til next time!