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Conscientious People Might Use More ‘Filler Speech’ (Um, You Know)

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Turns out it isn’t what you say — but how you say it, that matters.

There aren’t many guys roaming the earth who’d honestly define their type as the superficial and super-naïve Cher Horowitz from Clueless. The valley-girl persona has always been associated with a narrow world view and, well, talking like you’ve hiked up the Kardashian hill has always made you look a little stupid.

But apparently, all that’s about to change. According to new research published in The Journal of Language and Social Psychology, people who use “filler speech” are actually more conscientious than we’ve ever given them credit for.

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One possible explanation why people who fill their sentences with “like,” “uh,” “um” and “you know” are miles ahead of the rest of us in terms of thoughtfulness?

Researchers write that “conscientious people are generally more thoughtful and aware of themselves and their surroundings. When having conversations with listeners, conscientious people use discourse markers, such as ‘I mean’ and ‘you know,’ to imply their desire to share or rephrase opinions to recipients. Thus it is expected that the use of discourse markers may be used to measure the degree to which people have thoughts to express.”

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But has your valley-girl-turned-thoughful way of expressing yourself been working against you when it comes to date invitations? We asked guys to dish on what he really thinks of the way you talk.

“I’m listening to what you say and how you say it.”
Adam, who’s 26, says that there’s nothing worse than a girl who’s unsure of herself — and who lets you know it in the way that she talks.

“Guys listen,” he says, “whether girls believe that or not. And we’re not just listening to what you say, but the way you’re saying it. For instance, I dated a girl once who would ALWAYS use ‘You know?’ as a filler. When she was nervous, she’d use it more. So when she first met my parents, my best friends, my coworkers, everything was ‘Hi, I’m Nicole, you know?’ and ‘Adam’s a really great guy, you know?’ It was a broken record you just couldn’t get to stop — and I was really embarrassed.”

David, 29, agrees: “I’m not saying that I don’t use fillers, either, because I definitely do and it’s something that I’m becoming more and more aware of, but when you use them nonstop, it just makes you sound stupid. You could be the smartest person in the world but when you fill your conversations with ‘like, um’ every five seconds it makes it really hard to take you seriously.”

“Some girls think that guys want to date someone that’s really ditzy and isn’t very sure of herself,” says Cole, 33. “They think that they need a ‘protector’ and someone to ‘safely show’ them to the world — and it’s not true. Personally, I don’t like it when girls try to sound like they’re not as educated or not as smart. You are smart. You are educated. Own it. It makes you sexy.”

“How you talk doesn’t really bother me.”
“I’m from Georgia,” says Jackson, 26, with a sweet Southern twange, “so I’ve been around a lot of girls with really thick accents. And in the South, we talk real slow and we sorta savor the words. It’s something that’s absolutely different in the North, where everyone talks faster than lightning. That said, I’ve never really picked up on girls who use fillers a lot or who say ‘um’ more than they should. If they can keep up with my drawl, then I don’t really care about the way they talk.”

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“I’ll be the first to come clean and admit it,” says Raphael, 27, “I’m one of those guys who says ‘like’ a lot. I blame my generation — it’s just what we do! So when a girls says it, it doesn’t ever really bother me. If I called her out on it, she’d probably do the same for me. That said, though, my girlfriend hates how much I lean on the phrase. She’s always like, ‘retell that story and stop using fillers!’ I can see where she gets frustrated ’cause sometimes it detracts from what I’m saying, but it hasn’t ever really bothered me.”

Guess it’s not all in the lips, huh?

This guest article originally appeared on What Guys Really Think Of…The Way You Talk.

Conscientious People Might Use More ‘Filler Speech’ (Um, You Know)

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APA Reference
Guest Author, P. (2018). Conscientious People Might Use More ‘Filler Speech’ (Um, You Know). Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 29 Jun 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.