It was the first approach of the night. I was in a bar in Washington DC with two students in tow. I approached and I was a bit nervous. I hadn’t opened anyone in DC yet. I start to talk to the girl. She’s not having it. I can feel it.
After a while she is trying to be bitchy and says “You know, you say the word ‘like’ a lot.” And she was right. Every other sentence I was, like, dropping in the word like as if it was, like, going out of style.
At first I was a bit irritated at her bitchiness. Now, I wish I could go back and thank her. Every once in a while I’ll get rejected and a girl will drop some clue like this that helps my game more than hours of self-analysis ever possibly could. So precious and rare.
The word ‘like’ is a filler word. Filler words are unnecessary and useless verbiage that people throw into conversation. They are useless and distracting. Beyond that, they convey a sense of nervousness and insecurity.
Filler words can be connector words between sentences, like starting each sentence with an unnecessary ‘so.’ They can be unnecessary words and phrases like ‘like,’ ‘right’ and ‘ya know.’ The most common and distracting fillers are non-word fillers including ‘uh’ and ‘um.’
Filler words are the verbal equivalent of nervous fidgeting.
When I teach guys about body language, I teach that whoever moves less has higher value. If you are playing with the label on your beer bottle, or moving your hands, or your stance, or any other part of your body, you are projecting nervousness and low confidence. Nervous fidgeting makes you come off like an 8-year-old on the playground. If the woman you are talking to is moving less than you, you come off as a child to her parent.
Beyond that, by allowing yourself to move to your nervousness, you are in fact becoming more nervous. If instead you act confident, you will feel confident.
The same holds true for using filler words. If you learn to cut out the nervous fidgeting in your speech, you can begin to feel more confident in high-pressure situations, i.e. talking to women.
One of the best ways to improve your speech is to go to Toastmasters. Among a number of other things, Toastmasters helps your game by having you speak in front of a group of people and keeping track of the number of filler words you use. Speaking in front of a large group of people is a great equivalent to speaking in the high-pressure situation forcing you to cut down on the number of “filler” in between your words. (I wrote a full article about my experience in Toastmasters here: How Public Speaking Can Make You More Confident Around Women)
But how can you learn to do this on your own? I have two recommendations:
1. Become aware of filler words. If you listen closely to people speaking, you will start to become hyper aware of all the ums, uhs, and other useless verbiage. You should begin to become aware of the filler words in your own speech. If you aren’t, you can record yourself speaking. Try recording a phone conversation and go back and listen.
2. Slow down your speech and filter your words. I began eliminating these words from my speech by slowing down and being very careful about what I was saying. At first it was awkward and weird. I felt clumsy and unrelaxed. But I eliminated a lot of the annoying filler. After a while I began to feel more comfortable speaking and watching what I was saying.
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