If someone uses these 13 disfluent phrases, they’re probably a socially awkward person

Disfluent phrases are those little linguistic hiccups or filler words that people sprinkle throughout their speech. You know, like “um,” “uh,” “like,” etc. 

But why do some people use them so much? 

Well, some are simply pausing for thought. They’re filing silences, expressing uncertainty, and so on. 

On the other hand, many people who use these disfluent phrases are just socially awkward. So, let’s see what disfluent phrases people like that would use so you know what to avoid.

1) “Um/Uh”

Ever notice when someone’s talking, and they throw in a lot of “um” or “uh”? Does that mean they’re socially awkward?

Not necessarily. Now, using “um” and “uh” isn’t a social crime. It’s a natural part of speech, a bit like mental white noise while your brain gears up for the next sentence.

However, if someone is drowning their sentences in “ums” and “uhs” to the point where it feels like they’re struggling to keep the conversation afloat, it’s discomforting and awkward for everyone involved. 

For me, it’s also painful to listen to.  

But it’s not about the “ums” themselves but how they affect the flow of the conversation and how they make the people around them feel. 

2) “Like”

“Like” is one of the most annoying filler words out there. I automatically associate it with teenage girls talking to each other. 

For instance, you might hear someone say, “I was, like, so surprised,” or “It’s, like, the best thing ever.”

Annoying, isn’t it?

When people drop “like” every few words, how can you take them seriously? You can’t. They not only make the conversation scattered, but it’s hard to follow them because their way of speaking is too distracting. 

They’re using “like” as a verbal cushion, and it’s everywhere.

3) “Literally”

Many people overuse “literally,” and that’s why it’s become just as annoying as “like.” 

Okay, “literally” is fun when you really mean it, but overdoing it can make your statements sound less impactful, especially when you’re throwing it around for emphasis too often.

When “literally” is overused or applied to situations where emphasis isn’t crucial, it diminishes the impact of the word. 

Imagine someone stating, “I literally had the best cup of coffee this morning,” or “I literally just checked my email.” 

The use of “literally” becomes excessive and redundant, and its meaning is diluted.

4) “Well”

If someone says “well” a lot, especially before expressing themselves, and it seems like they’re unsure or hesitant, they could be socially awkward. 

For example, saying “Well, I guess…” or “Well, maybe…” frequently can make the conversation feel a bit stilted or hesitant. 

It’s not about the word “well” itself but how it’s integrated into the dialogue.

Socially awkward behavior means it’s challenging for you to talk to people in social situations smoothly.

These people often struggle with reading social cues, maintaining eye contact, or expressing themselves confidently.

5) “You know”

When someone peppers their sentences with “you know,” they’re inviting you to share their perspective or assume that you’re on the same page. 

It’s a common filler phrase, often used to check in with the listener, looking for confirmation or understanding.

For instance, “I was, you know, so tired after work,” or “The movie was, you know, kind of boring.”

For someone struggling with social cues, the constant insertion of “you know” might be an attempt to bridge potential gaps in communication.

Ultimately, what I’ve noticed is that people use this disfluent phrase when they’re insecure or not comfortable talking to you. 

6) “I mean”

This is a filler phrase I often use. Does that make me socially awkward? Kind of, yeah. I am a bit socially awkward around new people and in groups. 

I’m introverted, so that comes as no surprise, right? 

People throw in “I mean” when they’re backtracking or clarifying. In other words, when they’re worried, you might misinterpret what they said.

On the positive side, using “I mean” occasionally can be a valuable tool for refining and clarifying thoughts. 

It can add nuance and ensure the listener grasps the intended meaning. However, when it becomes a habitual crutch, it means you’re uncertain or overthinking.

7) “Basically”

if someone is secretly attracted to you theyll use these subtle phrases If someone uses these 13 disfluent phrases, they’re probably a socially awkward person

When people use “basically,” they’re often trying to simplify things. Still, it can come off as them struggling to get to the point.

Instead of relying too heavily on it, you should aim for a more direct and succinct expression of your ideas.

For someone who feels socially awkward, breaking down information into simpler terms might be an attempt to go through conversations with less difficulty.

But what they’re actually doing is revealing their discomfort and tension. 

8) “Actually”

Using “actually” here and there can give your words a bit of weight, emphasizing that what you’re saying is real or genuine

Yet, when it becomes a habit, it comes off as a tad too formal or even makes it seem like you’re constantly second-guessing yourself.

For socially awkward people who frequently use “actually” when talking to you, it’s a nuanced attempt to assert themselves or clarify the things they’re saying.

9) “Honestly”

If someone is constantly dropping “honestly,” they’re trying to highlight when they’re being real with you. But do we need a constant reminder?

Using “honestly” sparingly can make it a powerful tool when you’re talking to someone. The problem arises when you’re uncomfortable talking to someone, and the situation gets out of hand, and you start saying “honestly” or “to be honest” in every other sentence.

I can imagine this happening in high-stress situations such as job interviews. And then you start being self-aware, and, next thing you know, you can’t even answer simple questions. 

10) “I guess”

When socially awkward people are afraid to express strong opinions, they’ll use “I guess” all the time. 

Look, I get it. They don’t want to ruffle any feathers, and that’s why this is a good filler phrase for them. 

The big problem is that when someone keeps saying “I guess,” it makes them sound unsure. It’s like they’re not fully committing to what they’re saying.

Encouraging socially awkward people to be mindful of their language and express their thoughts more directly is beneficial for them. 

It helps them build confidence in asserting themselves without relying on linguistic crutches like “I guess.”

11) “Sort of/Kind of”

Socially awkward people are the kings of uncertainty. Saying something is “sort of” or “kind of” like this or that makes it sound wishy-washy.

Again, they don’t want to give strong statements and opinions when they don’t know if others feel the same. 

That’s why, instead of saying they loved a movie, they’ll say they kind of liked the movie before they find out what the other person thinks about it. 

They’re carefully tiptoeing around statements, attempting to maintain a delicate balance in social exchanges.

12) “I don’t know/I’m not sure”

Another phrase that socially awkward people use far too often is “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure.” It’s cool to admit it sometimes, but not every five minutes, all right?

While saying you don’t know something or expressing uncertainty is a part of honest communication, overreliance on “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” will leave others feeling like they’re not fully engaged in the conversation.

Or that you aren’t.

13) “Maybe”

And lastly, many people use “maybe” too much. I always feel like they can’t commit to things and are even worse than those who commit to something but don’t follow through.

They also don’t want to say their true opinions on something because they’re unsure how the other person will react. 

All in all, using “maybe” a lot isn’t a good look, and if you’re socially awkward (but also if you aren’t!), you should use it as little as possible.  

How to stop using disfluent phrases and filler words as a socially awkward person

Pay attention to the disfluent phrases and filler words you frequently use. Knowing them allows you to target them for improvement.

Understand situations or topics that make you more likely to rely on disfluent language. This awareness helps you anticipate and manage these instances.

Train yourself to take a brief pause before responding. This gives you a moment to collect your thoughts and respond more deliberately.

Engage in active listening by concentrating on the speaker’s words and message. This can reduce the tendency to fill pauses with disfluent phrases.

And lastly, celebrate each successful attempt to minimize disfluent language. Positive reinforcement helps build confidence and will motivate you to continue doing so.

Picture of Adrian Volenik

Adrian Volenik

Adrian has years of experience in the field of personal development and building wealth. Both physical and spiritual. He has a deep understanding of the human mind and a passion for helping people enhance their lives. Adrian loves to share practical tips and insights that can help readers achieve their personal and professional goals. He has lived in several European countries and has now settled in Portugal with his family. When he’s not writing, he enjoys going to the beach, hiking, drinking sangria, and spending time with his wife and son.

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