We’ve all fallen into this trap. We are asked a question and instead of answering, we throw in a bunch of extra words and sounds which only get in the way. Here’s how it plays out – see if you have heard it: A person is asked a straightforward question, like “What is your goal for this project?” Instead of just answering, most of us start with some version of, “Yea, so, right, uh, well, umm….” Only after they make their appearance does the actual answer show up!
Listen for this phenomenon the next time you’re in a meeting or watching a panel presentation or an interview on TV. Once you notice it, it is hard to un-hear! So, let’s work on eliminating these extra words and sounds from our speaking style.
The Power of the Pause: What’s really happening when we use filler words and sounds? I believe we are trying to decide where we’ll go with our answer. All those sounds and words buy us time to get to a place where we start to deliver the REAL answer. To avoid this, understand the power of the pause. Pause before you answer. At first it will feel uncomfortable. It will feel like it takes a long time. In actuality, it will be two to three seconds and you’ll come across as more thoughtful and mature. Realize you have at your disposal the power of the pause. Use it!
Know Your Message: If you really know your message you are much less likely to stumble around using filler words and sounds before you get to your answer. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to sound like a robot, but message clarity will help you provide much sharper answers. The question comes your way and you know exactly where you want to go because you know your message.
Practice Makes Perfect: If you’ve never said – out loud – the answer to a question, why would you think you’ll be ready when the question comes your way? My experience tells me only through practice do you have a realistic chance of convincingly answering a critical question. When I say practice, I mean you have someone throw the question your way and – out loud – you respond. If you’re serious about this, video your response. It’s amazing how much you can learn by looking at your response on playback. Most people hate this exercise, but it is the absolute quickest way to get better, sharper and more on point. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and go through this exercise. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.
From this moment forward, listen for the words and sounds to avoid. You’ll be amazed how many times they come up. Once you realize there is a way to avoid them, you’ll want to make sure you and everyone on your team is banishing them from their vocabulary. You’ll be far more effective because of this small attention to detail.