We coach a lot of people on their communication skills. Between live coaching and the data from users on our Presentr app, we see thousands of speakers per year. This gives us great insights into communication trends. For years, we have been helping clients reduce their use of filler words like "uh" and "um". Recently, however, we've noticed the attack of another filler word - SO.
Have you noticed that people now, more than ever, start statements or responses to questions with "so"? This is actually not a hot phenomenon. According to NPR, the overuse of the word has not changed in the past 50 or 100 years. Only our irritation with it has. As a result, so is now topping the list of crutch words that affect the way we are perceived by others. Using the word sabotages our confidence and even can feel like we are talking down to the audience. With that in mind, what can we do to change?
The key to eliminating any filler words is awareness. Consciously admitting your use of a word is a great first tactic. We always suggest, naturally, that people use Presentr as a way to track and start to eliminate their use of filler words. But there are some other techniques as well. Since "so" is most commonly used at the beginning of a sentence, take a bit of a longer pause before you start speaking. Think about the first word you want to come out of your mouth, and then start speaking with that word. Even a pause for a millisecond will give you the opportunity to collect yourself and be intentional about the words coming out of your mouth.