“So” is the new “Um”

by Kelly Decker

You know to avoid “um” and “uh,” but what about “so”?

“So” is the newest filler word on the block.

It made it on this list of words that can sink a job interview, and NPR calls it a “weasel word” that can make it seem like you’re trying to avoid giving a straight answer. Ouch.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on one word, but it can’t be denied that filler words eat away at your credibility and detract from your message.

Whether you use the word “so,” “um,” or one of the more recent trends, “literally,” I guarantee you have a filler word even if you don’t notice it.

Here are two easy steps to cut out your fillers:

  • First, find out what your fillers are. You can’t change a habit until you realize it’s there. Record a voicemail to yourself and then play it back. Take notes on what fillers you hear. Common fillers to watch for: “like,” “just,” “um,” “uh,” “actually,” “you know,” “honestly,” “literally,” and – of course – “so.”
  • Then, practice pausing. When you pause, you’ll naturally drop the fillers. Record another voicemail and be intentional about pausing. Challenge yourself to pause for longer than it feels comfortable. The average pause is only about half a second. Try and stretch that out to 2 – 3 seconds.

Getting rid of your fillers might take some practice, but it’s worth it. You’ll sound more confident and your message will be clearer.

Are there any fillers you’d add to this list?

Kelly Decker, president of Decker Communications, is a keynote speaker, messaging expert and executive communication coach. More practical tips can be found in her new book, “Communicate to Influence: How to Inspire Your Audience to Action.” Version of this article originally appeared on the Decker Communications blog and Ragan.com.