Does this sound like you? Maybe not that bad, but the point is that people usually don't notice when they're using these "filler" words and expressions, especially when they are nervous.
Professional communicators are not immune to this type of speaking behavior either. It was only a few weeks ago I took note of the over 50 "ums" a candidate said while phone interviewing with me. That is a lot of "umming" for one conversation.
While my husband is learning English, I'm realizing how much we use these expressions. I'll hear him say things such as "you know what I mean" or "ya know?" at the end of his sentences as if they make him sound more fluent. He picks it up from his teacher, our English speaking friends, and me.
It's difficult for a listener to concentrate on what the speaker is saying if the message is littered with these tics - especially in an interview! Rowan suggests that you "tape yourself delivering a couple of interview answers or a section from a presentation and play it back. Is your tone interrogative when it should be declarative? Are you saying 'like,' 'you know,' 'kind of,' 'sort of,' or any of the myriad other verbal tics with noticeable frequency?"
If you don't have a tape recorder, leave yourself a voicemail or practice with a friend and let him count how many times you use filler words or sounds.
Another good resource is Sara Reistad-Long's article on Real Simple about correcting these common speech tics. She covers eight common speech problems, why they happen, and how we stop them, including:
- Apologizing before speaking
- Speech tics (er and eh)
- Saying "exactly" or "I totally agree"
- Grasping for words
- Finishing others' sentences
- Letting your pitch rise at the end of sentences