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Like, Um, So, Right, Ah, You Know?

By Autumn McClenaghan on Jan 21, 2013

One time after a 30 minute meeting I was asked how many times I said “you know.” Apparently I used the phrase “you know” as space filler too many times during the meeting. After that meeting I became acutely aware of the phrase. I listened to myself. I listened to my coworkers, family, and friends. I asked my friends and family if I say “you know” too much. I recorded a few of my phone conversations. I put up a sticky note on my desk with the phrase “Do not say you know.” Although I didn’t find that I used it too frequently, once it was brought to my attention I made sure that I did not use it again.

Do you um use words to ah fill silence? Or so do you like to use words to pause in between words and sentences? Um, like, so, right, ah, and you know are words many use as space fillers. Using them, especially during interviews, in presentations, and at work can make you sound inarticulate.

I found a great article and podcast by Lisa B. Marshall, “Like, Eliminate Ums and Ahs, Right? which talks about using these “disfluencies” and tips on reducing usage. A few of the tips she mentioned were ones I tried as well, including reminder notes and recording yourself. I made a list of all the disfluencies and put a check mark as each one was used while listening back to my recorded conversations. It was very helpful and after time, practice, and reminder sticky notes, I no longer use “you know”.

Being aware of your usage of these space fillers or disfluencies is the first step. You want to make sure you come across confident and knowledgeable when speaking, especially in interviews. A few moments of silence is ok! Don’t feel the need to fill space with ums, ahs, and so while formulating your answer to an interview question.

Check out the article, tips and the podcast here.

Topics: Career


Author Autumn McClenaghan of Brandman University

Autumn McClenaghan

As the Director of Career Planning and Development at Brandman University, I work with students to help them reach their career goals. I invite you to subscribe and revisit the Brandman Blog to find information and stories about professional development topics such as resume building, job interviews, career planning, social media and more!