Um, Uh and the In-betweens

Nick Jones Leadership, Workplace Leave a Comment

Ever notice how many people pepper their statements with ums and uhs.

“I was, um, going to the store and, uh, I didn’t remember what I was going to buy, so I, uh, now make a, um, list.

Those little add ins drive me up the wall. They serve no purpose. They make you sound unsure of your thoughts and of yourself.

Seasoned leaders and professionals work hard to exclude such words from their speech. And rightly so, it’s hard to sound confidence when you stammer and trip over yourself. In fact, promotions and leadership positions hinge on your ability to present and communicate effectively and convincingly.

So, naturally, my ears perked up when my daughter’s first grade teacher commented on my her polished speaking ability.

Teacher: I noticed your daughter never says um or uh when she speaks during class. I wish more of my students used um a little less.

Me: Have you told them they sound stupid when they say um?

Teacher: What?

Me: Have you told your students they sound stupid when they continually say um? My daughter doesn’t say um or uh because she knows people sound stupid when they say um. If you want to be persuasive you have to speak confidently.

Speaking Confidently

I recently returned home from a round table discussion in New York on the threats facing the digital media marketplace. Across the table from me were some of the most prestigious media companies in the United States and their leaders. Huffington Post, Slate, Atlantic and others

As these titans of media spoke about their fears and plans, I couldn’t help but notice the way they talked. Not a single um was uttered. Everything they said was thought out and calculated. When they couldn’t find the words, they paused.

The next day, I attended a similar conference with entry level employees from the same companies. These employees were all experts in their field. But when they couldn’t find the words, they didn’t pause. They stammered nonstop.

Leaders sound like leaders, not in small part, because they avoid extraneous utterances. If you want to be a leader, speaking without these verbal crutches is essential.

Fixing the Problem

Here’s how to eliminate needless sounds from your speech.

If possible, plan out what you are going to say before you have to say it. If you’re answering questions off the cuff, don’t be afraid to pause. There is nothing wrong with silence. In fact, silence can be an effective tool as a leader.

But most of all, BE ORIGINAL. Don’t spend your time focusing on sounding like someone else.

You are you and that is who you need to sound like. Don’t try to sound more professional, more technical or more official than you are.

If you want to be a leader, speak confidently.

Leave a Reply