You know, when you talk, sometimes the next point you want to, um, make, you know, doesn’t like come to you, uh, right away. So, um, I mean, you know, well, you’ve got to use some filler words.

Ready to strangle me?

In conversation, silence is a valuable tool. A speaker can use a well-placed second of silence to make his points more powerfully. It can give the listener a chance to digest the last point and ready herself to fully focus on the next one.

But even in cases where you’re not trying to underscore a point or add dramatic flair, silence is better than all those filler words I used in that first paragraph above.

If you need a fraction of a second to come up with your next word, take it, quietly. Don’t add a series of ums and uhs and likes and you knows to fill the air.

Now, chances are you don’t even know you’re doing this. So find out. Ask a trusted friend or colleague. Make a tape of yourself speaking. When you’re in conversations, pay attention to whether you use filler words like this—and, if you do, make a conscious effort to stop.

Your listener will thank you.