Have you ever been in conversation with someone, but instead of paying attention, found yourself counting the amount of times they said ‘like’? I know I have.

Especially amongst teenagers, the use of filler words is almost absurd. We seemingly say ‘like,’ ‘um,’ and ‘uh’ every 3 seconds!

Don’t worry, I’ve been there too.

In 8th grade, my mom began pointing it out. We had driven home from soccer practice and, amidst our discussion, she just interrupted me: “Okay, pause. You say ‘like’ way too much! It makes listening to you really frustrating and difficult.”

Naturally, I reacted with typical 8th grade arrogance. “I do not say ‘like’ too much! You only criticize me because you don’t see my peers. You hold me to such an unfair standard!”

After some brief arguing, my mom maturely said, “I know I won’t convince you by discussing it now, but I’ll start pointing it out whenever I catch it.”

Unsure how to respond—and perhaps a little peeved—I responded simply, “okay, fine” before returning to the story I’d been telling.

After that conversation, my mom began observing my frequent use of the filler. As I spoke, she’d just start counting on her fingers. It was infuriating! And infuriatingly frequent!

Slowly, I became aware of my fillers too. Soon, it became nearly impossible to ignore: my brain was attuned to every time I said ‘like.’

Within a few weeks, I began to notice a change. I still said ‘like,’ but it was becoming less and less frequent. Within a year, I was hardly using the filler at all.

In the years since, my use of fillers has continued to decrease. In the same span of time, I noticed a remarkable change: as I used filler words less and less, people began listening more and more! Even more exciting, they engaged in longer conversations. Peers became more interested in hearing my opinions and adults shared wisdom more frequently.

Today, when I meet people, I still get comments about how ‘natural’ of a speaker I am. I just laugh. If only they knew.

The truth is, I’m nothing special. I’ve simply striven to observe, reduce, and remove filler words.

It really is that simple. If you want people to listen to you, remove your filler words!