If you, uh, have a tendency to use filler words like “um” or “like” when you talk, it’s not the end of the world. Turns out they can actually be a good thing — as long as you use them right.
We’ve been trained to believe that filler words like “uh”, “um” and “like” are bad, especially when public speaking. But as Susmita Baral at Quartz explains, there have been a few studies that suggest the use of filler words comes with some unexpected benefits. One study, conducted by the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas, and published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, suggests filler words can be used as personality markers and make people seem more conscientious. Another study, led by Scott Fraundor, assistant professor in Psychology at University of Pittsburgh, and published in the Journal of Memory and Language, found the filler words helped with listener recall.
But, according to the experts, there’s still a right and wrong way to use them. Fraundorf recommends you try to use only a few when you talk, noting that too many can make comprehension harder. And Steven D. Cohen, assistant professor of communication at the University of Baltimore, suggests you use “like” and “I mean” as fillers instead of “uh” or “um”. People tend to be more forgiving of words that suggest contemplation as opposed to words that draw attention to a loss for words. Cohen also points out that filler words used in the middle of a sentence are less likely to be noticed, and a silent pause may be the best form of filler if you’re looking to have a dramatic impact on your listeners. If you want to read more on the benefits of filler words, check out the link below.