I once underlined this sentence in a book I was reading titled How to Deliver a TED Talk by Jeremy Donovan. I feel it is a message worth repeating today.
You have probably heard me say more often than not, “Don’t speak unless you can improve upon the silence.” I remind myself of this suggestion more than I like to admit.
But today I want to focus on the ums, ohs, and “as-I-saids.” Unless you make a concerted effort to notice how prevalent the use of filler words is, it will go unnoticed. Begin by listening to others and to reporters on television. Yes, even the so-called pros fill silence when they are not fully prepared or rehearsed.
Some of the more common ones include, “Um,” “Eh,” “You know,” “As I was saying,” “Follow me,” “Like,” and others.
The truth is that most people feel very uneasy when it comes to silence. In fact, as a professional speaker, I learned early in my career the power of the pause (prolonged silence) when trying to capture the attention of an audience. It is virtually a sure thing. When you stop talking people begin to listen.
The majority of people, however, can’t pull this off. As a matter of fact, 1.5 seconds of noiseless conversation sounds like four minutes of deafening silence. People have an urge to fill that void. So, they make noise. And if they have nothing concrete to say, they think of things to say while talking. And, to give their minds time to conjure up something of value, they make more noises while their brains try to engage. Hence, the filler.
Try this exercise when you have a minute: The next time you are with somebody you feel comfortable being around, introduce a little silence into the conversation. After they end a thought, don’t immediately add to it. Silently count to ten before speaking. Try it. This just may be the most difficult thing you have challenged yourself to do within the last 20 years. Just be quiet.
In nine out of ten instances, I will tell you what will happen. After two seconds of you not saying anything, they will continue talking. I’m not making this up. That is exactly what will happen.
But I digress. We are not focusing on silence today. We are trying to eliminate filler language. So, let me try to tie the two things together. During your silent pauses, and after hearing what was just said to you, take an additional moment to think about your next verbal contribution. This can be considered as mental rehearsal.
Chances are, when you do begin talking again, your message will be void of “Um,” “You know” and “Like I was saying.” You will come across as a more polished, confident professional – and people will be more prone to endorse your position.
Mike Marchev is always looking for a few more proactive travel professionals to join his Sales and Marketing Club. Send for details.