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February 25, 2019

The Theory Behind Eliminating "Um" in Speech

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We all communicate in our lives because it’s an essential part of being human. And many of us have picked up the same mannerisms just based on what is socially acceptable. One of those mannerisms is the use of filler words. The reason we use filler words are because, when we are transitioning thoughts but want to continue speaking, we feel the need to communicate that we will continue speaking. So, we fill the space to discourage others from interrupting us.

Essentially, this is a defense mechanism that protects us from awkward communication. And we have all adopted it because it seems to improve the quality of communication.

However, these filler words, also known as “crutch” words, often do more harm than good. Words that disrupt the normal flow of language make the speech more difficult to understand and the message less engaging overall.  

So what’s the alternative? Instead of using a filler, embrace a pause. The silence strengthens the weight of the words, injects a perception of confidence in the speaker, and demands attention. It is an extremely effective tool that many great public speakers use often to be more effective.

A few good steps to get rid of your ums is awareness. Start to notice how often you use your crutch, and maybe even try recording yourself. Next is preparation, and it just requires practice. Embracing silences, speaking slower, and gathering your thoughts are all ways to reduce the need for fillers.  And last, is perform. Often times, our fillers come out in public speaking settings, and being able to fight the nerves, and have confidence in your speaking abilities, will help you to perform.

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