Let’s talk about Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

A “dirty” habit that has become a social disease. One that is not being spoken about enough.

I do not know about you, but I have a three strike rule: Three filler words and I am out, not listening and do not care. The daunting process of completely debugging social speaking habits and patterns is one of my missions. Not just for public speakers, but social media videos (particularly present in live videos), podcasts, media interviews and in every day conversations.

These “Filler” words: um, ah, like, you know, well, so, and er may seem like minor elements, but they add up. A message becomes like pea soup, as the listener uses more energy and concentration just to understand what is being spoken about. The credibility on the topic is significantly reduced, the listener loses faith in the speaker as an assertive leader and it can just make you sound, well stupid. No, it does not make you sound more real or natural and creates a sympathetic response in the listener: usually one that is unpleasant and frustrating.

Why do we use these words?

According to Harvard University- “The simplest answer is that we have been conditioned to answer questions immediately from an early age. When our mother or father asked us a question, we were sure to answer right away—either because we wanted to show respect or because we were afraid of what would happen if we didn’t answer. Consequently, we feel the urge to speak when spoken to.”

The two places these words commonly appear are at the beginning of a statement and between ideas. Try to become aware of what happens the next time you answer a question. Do you say um or uh without thinking? When you finish one statement and are moving onto another thought do you add in a few filler words?

Let me ask you this question. When you are thinking inside your head, do you use the words um, ah, like, you know, well or so? Absolutely not! So what is happening. You are thinking verbally while trying to think of what the listener wants you to say, rather than what you have to say.

What to do?

Practice my 3P Method – Pause, Process, Proceed.

Pause – Allow yourself to Pause and think rather than using the filler words. The listener will wait for the next powerful piece of information that you are about to share.

Process – Allow time to process your next statement and also let your listener process what it is you have just said.

Proceed – Bring awareness to what you are about to do. Take a nice breath to support your authoritative tone and ensure your body is matching the content you are delivering.

All of these elements are imperative to creating a pleasant experience within your listener as you educate and impart information.