Widely credited as one of the most gifted orators of our time, President Obama gets away with the occasional ‘uh’ or ‘um’ – but that doesn’t mean you should be using them all of the time.
President Obama and other politicians can get away with these and other verbal fillers because they make these politicians sound relatable to voters who also use them. However, if you are giving a presentation or interviewing for a job, verbal fillers can make you sound indecisive, unprofessional and lacking in confidence.
The good news is that with a little practice, you can eliminate ‘um,’ ‘uh,’ and many other verbal fillers from your speech.
Study your own speaking pattern
Like solving any problem, the first step toward removing verbal fillers from your speaking pattern is admitting you need to do it.
Ask a friend or family member you trust to give you an honest answer about your use of verbal fillers. Another way to assess your speech pattern is to record yourself talking “off the cuff” about one of your favorite topics, like a TV show or local sports team. Listen back to your recording and assess your use of verbal fillers. Take a tally if you must. If you use about two or three per sentence, you have a problem.
After this initial cursory assessment, spend a week paying attention to you speaking patterns as you interact with various people. You may find that certain folks elicit more verbal fillers than others.
All that assessment may seem like overkill, but once you are aware of the problem, you can go about fixing it.
How to fix it
According to Steven D. Cohen, an award-winning speaker from Harvard Extension School, the reason we pick up verbal fillers in our speech is because we are taught at an early age to respond quickly when spoken to. This leads to many of us to use ‘um’ to fill the silence as we think about what we are going to say next.
Cohen has said verbal fillers essentially serve the purpose of vocalizing the thought process. He goes on to say there are two “hot spots” when it comes to verbal fillers: at the start of a sentence and between ideas.
Knowing this, it’s easy to see you can remove verbal fillers from your speech by simply pausing to collect your thoughts.
Moving forward, you should make it a point to take ‘half a beat’ pause before speaking in a professional setting. In addition to helping you gather your thoughts, it has the added effect of adding a tiny bit of suspense and drama to your words.
It may feel unnatural to pause at first, but rest assured, this is a tried-and-true way to eliminate verbal fillers and soon pausing will feel just as natural is it once did to say, ‘umm.’
At ZDA, we know speaking under pressure in a professional setting can be difficult. If you would like help with verbal fillers, or any other aspect of the interview process, contact us today to work with a top supply chain recruiter.