First, let me confess, I am not the most eloquent speaker. Because I speak like I write – composing each word – I am prone to pauses as I struggle to frame a thought or come up with just the right word. But better the occasional silence than the prolonged ums or ahs or, far worse, the annoying repetition of filler words that add nothing of substance while distracting from our message.
One of the worst examples of this has come from those who feel they need to begin every response with the word “so.” I’m not certain how this started or who started it, but I suspect the academic community. It mimics a professor’s knowing response to a student’s question and perhaps lends an air of authority to the speaker. “So we looked at the Land Rover and the Ford Explorer, but there was really no comparison between the two.” So this. So that. So what? Or more to the point – why “so?” Another ubiquitous filler word is “look”—again at the beginning of a sentence. “Look, my position on this has been totally consistent.” You “look.” I’ll listen.
The bottom line is that the consistent use of nonessential filler words is viewed as a crutch by the discerning listener, causing them to focus on how you’re saying things rather than what you’re trying to say.
Best to opt for the thoughtful pause.