When Filler Words Can Actually Be Helpful…

Filler words…the trendiest metric most AI tools will measure. 

But are they really that bad? Wouldn’t it sound robotic if you didn’t using a single ‘um’, ‘ah’ or ‘you know’?

Understanding the psychology behind filler words can help us understand why we might want to avoid them for the most part…but also why we might indeed want to use them strategically in certain scenarios. 

Why We Tend To Use Filler Words

In general, we fill pauses, or gaps in sound with ‘filler words’. Instead of pausing, taking a breath, and continuing with real, meaning based words, we say something like ‘um’, ‘uh’, ‘ah’. Instead of finishing a sentence as a statement, we will often add a ‘ya know?’

Why We Want To Avoid Using Filler Words

It’s easy to see how vocal expressions like this can really detract from a message delivered with clarity and authority. With these examples in mind, becoming more aware of the types of ‘vocal fluff’ we use and when, is important. Ultimately, we want to have a clean, clear and crisp vocal presence. You can check out our video on the subject here, or below. 


Why We Might WANT To Use Filler Words

There are also scenarios in which adding in some filler words can be helpful:

📢 If you are getting interrupted a lot. Maintaining the speaking baton with a well leveraged filler word can help you maintain the vocal floor. 
💛 If you are trying to speak more colloquially, to a colleague or a friend, having less than perfect vocal real estate can help people build rapport. 

It’s for these two reasons that we find filler word counters so tricky. Without knowing the exact context and intention, some filler words sometimes can actually be helpful. 

This being said, if you are delivering a speech, a recording, a pitch, it is always best to go with the cleanest vocal presence possible. When every word counts, and when pausing can really accentuate authority and confidence – you don’t want to lose expensive real estate to unintentional filler words. 

What do you think? 

Try out our Virtual Presence Assessment tool to see how you do in our other nonverbal communication metrics.