A few weeks ago I received some seemingly simple but very powerful advice – stop saying like, um, and you know.

I was told that I have lots of good things to say and am highly valued for my knowledge, but by overusing these words, I wasn’t being effective with my delivery. If anything, I sounded less confident and less competent.  To be honest, it was unsolicited advice (and a little hard to digest at first) but something I needed to hear.  It came from someone I really respect at work, so I took it to heart and have tried to stop using those filler words/phrases.

In trying to work on myself, I’ve noticed that so many people I know use these words, as if they were supposed to be built into their sentences.  Even my super smart husband.  So together, we’ve been on a mission to eliminate them from our personal dictionaries.  It’s a work in progress, but we’re getting there.

In the spirit of transparency, I still have to fight the urge to say “you know” at the end of every sentence.  No one said it was easy!

Anyway, if you’re like us and want to stop sounding like a stereotypical valley girl, maybe my tips will help!

  • Buddy up – Find someone in your life that also wants to stop saying like, um, you know, etc. and buddy up.  When you catch each other using filler words excessively, stop and say something.  For example, when I say “you know” at the end of a sentence, Vishnu will mouth the words back to me.  Sounds silly but it works.  My use of these words has decreased significantly just by giving Vishnu permission to call me out.
  • Slow down – If people, myself included, just took the time to slow down when speaking, there would be less filler words flying out of their mouths.  Personally, I found this hard to do because I felt like I was talking too slowly.  But Vishnu and people at work confirmed that my pace was comfortable and natural.  One person even said I sounded like “I have my s*** together.”  Ha!
  • Pause – By taking a “smart” pause, you give your brain a chance to catch up to your mouth, instead of using senseless likes, ums, and you knows.  Pausers, as I like to call people who are good at this technique, sound smarter.  It’s as if they really care about what words are filling their sentences because what they have to say means so much.  I want to be one of these people!!
  • Breathe and speak from your chest – The breathe part of this is pretty self-explanatory.  The speak from your chest…not so much, but let me try.  Personally, I found that when I was in meetings or on calls, I wasn’t using my entire body to control my voice – I wasn’t speaking from my chest.  Instead, I sounded a little nasally and young.  So now, before I speak, especially when the stakes are high, I take a deep breath and use a deeper tone that feels like it’s originating in my chest (if that makes any sense) versus my nose.  Believe it or not, this method has helped eliminate the fillers.  Maybe it’s the breathing or maybe it’s the increased self-confidence that comes with sounding more professional/mature or maybe it’s both.  Whatever it is…it works!

Are you a chronic “like, um, you know” user?

By Parita

7 thoughts on “4 Ways to Eliminate Like, Um, and You Know”
  1. Thank you for sharing Parita. About two months ago my dad mentioned I say “you know” alot and although I was like well that’s the way I speak, it’s been on my mind. And your colleague is right, it takes away from what we’re saying. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    1. You’re welcome! I always thought my “you knows” were part of my style but then I realized I say that one phrase after every sentence. Personally, the way I would say it almost made it seem like I need validation for all of my opinions. I’m glad this helped you!

  2. Love these tips especially since I find myself using those expressions more often than not. It’s definitely a habit I want to nix- to some extent I’m certain that it undermines whatever I am saying. I’ll let you know how these tips work for me- going to try ’em out tonight at dinner!

  3. Hello Parita,

    Have been following your blog for a while and enjoy your posts. This is a great post and what your colleague said is 100% correct.
    I attended a training on how to give presentations and eliminating filler words is a big thing that they stressed on.
    And as I have made these changes, I noticed a great improvement on how my presentations at work are received as well.

    Thanks for all these tips.

  4. I totally am! Although if I’m really thinking about it, then I can usually control it. And once I get it under control, I notice it from other people!!! These are great tips ,and I think I’m going to make my boyfriend buddy up with me on these 😉

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