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Photo: mentatdgt (Shutterstock) If you’ve ever listened to someone, like, pepper everything they say with, like, a never-ending litany of likes, ums, or ahs, you know it can be distracting and—whether fair or not—can diminish what they’re saying. We all occasionally lean on verbal crutches, or what academics call “disfluencies” when we’re nervous, distracted, or at a loss for what to say next. But when these verbal tics dominate our speech, the message we’re trying to communicate can suffer. And most of us do it—a lot. According to the Harvard Business Review , “using research that incorporates behavioral science, AI, and data, the people science firm Quantified Communications determined that the optimum frequency is about one filler per minute, but the average speaker uses five fillers per minute—or, one every twelve seconds.” If you suspect you may use too many filler words in your everyday speech, here’s how to curb the habit. Why you should use fewer filler words Some amount of fillers are to be expected, but when they’re used excessively, your audience may lose interest and becomes disengaged. Filler words can make us sound nervous, distracted, or worse, inauthentic. And, says Harvard Business Review , most people will give up trying to distinguish your main message when it’s disguised by all those superfluous ums : “If you want your audience to buy into your message, you have to make it clear, logical, and easy to follow. Unfortunately, filtering through crutch words to catch the important parts requires […]