Vocal fillers: are you guilty of this communication mistake?

by Betty Lochner on December 29, 2011

Here’s a fact: no matter what type of work you do, good communication is in every job description.

Good communication skills — being clear, confident and sincere when you communicate – allows you to work well with your co-workers, clients, and bosses.  It is the cornerstone of every promotion, raise, and job opportunity out there.  It is the difference between average and exceptional – and it’s what makes people become leaders.

Think about this: “Most people feel they have above-average communication skills and average presentation skills,” says Kurt W. Mortensen, author of The Laws of Charisma.  But in reality most people are lucky to have average communication skills and below-average presentation skills, he says.

Get Back to the Basics

There are some really basic things you can do to make a huge difference in how well you communicate to others.  One of them is to identify one really bad communication habit you probably do without knowing it.  The one I’m talking about is one of the most common communication mistakes we make –  the usage of vocal fillers. These are non-words such as  “um”, “uh,” “ya know”, “er”, or annoying words such as “like” or “I’m like.”  They can destroy your presentation, annoy people, hurt your credibility and make listeners tense,” Mortensen says.

Vocal fillers are distracting and make you appear lazy and sloppy.  People use filters because they want to avoid an awkward silence.

How do you fix that?

Here’s the tool you need to overcome this bad habit.  Use a pause in your conversation. This  will help you avoid the dreaded “ums” and move you towards becoming the communicator you want to be: an exceptional one!

Record Yourself

To get the distractions out of your speaking, record yourself and count how many repetitive, non-words, or annoying words you say per minute. You may be surprised.  Now, do it again and replace those nonwords with pauses. Repeat until you are sick of this exercise!

From now on,  when you feel the urge to “um”,  just pause for a second. Then go on. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can get those vocal fillers out of your vocabulary.

Make 2012 the year you communicate better!

Betty Lochner, Cornerstone Coaching & Training

Betty Lochner


Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home. To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website:


For more communication tips and skills:

Join us on Facebook for daily communication tips, advice and challenges!




Share Button

© 2017 Cornerstone Coaching & Training. All Rights Reserved.