I just read an article about what not to do during a job interview. One idea: Don’t use filler sounds, such as um, you know, OK, like. Eliminating these pointless sounds is not easy. I asked my behavior modification students what they would suggest to a person who wanted to eliminate filler sounds in all situations. Marcela Costanzo recommended habit reversal therapy methods. Used to eliminate filler use, these methods involve four steps: Becoming aware of the use of the filler as it occurs or just before, for instance by recording each use and identifying high-risk situations that require special vigilence; using a more adaptive competing behavior, e.g., keeping lips together to remain silent; garnering social support for eliminating the filler, such as by asking friends and family to point out each time you use the filler; and maintaining motivation to change, for instance by creating a list of benefits for changing and reading that every day or by setting daily goals for maximum number of filler uses and celebrating achievement of the goal. Rosemary Torbay suggested using self-regulation methods. These include eliminating triggers for using a filler. The typical trigger is anxiety about not saying anything. Once a person realizes that others prefer silence to fillers, the anxiety may decrease. Do others prefer silence? I would rather hear silence from another person than a filler. I bet you would too. Fillers are the pomegranate seeds of conversation. Focusing in high-risk situations on remaining silent rather than using a filler can start a person toward a new, more adaptive habit that eventually takes no conscious effort. Persistence with change efforts, especially goal setting and self-monitoring, is key because it can take some time to eliminate the filler habit. Rosemary used self-management methods to eliminate her use of “OK” while teaching. Another instructor I know used similar methods to eliminate a filler he used during teaching. Teachers like me often try to eliminate fillers because we hear our use of them when we listen to recordings of our teaching.
Have you eliminated a filler? How did you do it?
John Malouff, PhD
Assoc Prof of Psychology