by Opeletia September 28, 2018
How much does saying, “um” really impact your professionalism? What impact does overusing the filler word, “um” have on your perceived expertise? The answers may startle you, but they can also empower you.
- 83% of professionals between the ages of 25 – 65, equate saying, “um” as showing: nervousness, confusion, or doubt.
- 74% of hiring managers question an answer’s validity when an applicant’s answer contains, “um”.
- 64% of law enforcement officials engage in deeper questioning during interrogations when responses contain, “um”.
- 59% of married couples perceive “um” as a space saver to allow time to generate a deceptive response.
Are these statistics, um – azing? Regardless of the impact you personally attribute to yourself or to others when you hear or say, “um”, the average person says um 4.5 times per minute. Listen to radio callers, YouTube videos, live interviews, bloggers, and even your daily conversations. At this average rate, every 15 minutes, the average person has said “um”, 67.5 times!
Here is a sobering thought about “um”: “Um” is used predominantly as a recovery tool. During high emotion (ex: anger, stress, fear, excitement, etc.), the left side of our brain that contains our vocabulary, can shut down. Ironically, during times of pressure is when we want our vocabulary to be at it’s finest. Our right side of our brains controls our emotions. When we get emotional, the left side is struggling for the perfect words. The right (emotional) side kicks up and buys our left (logical) side some time. The time saver the right side gives us is not really a word, but an utterance, “um”. This is the right side’s way of saying to the others in the conversation, “Hold on! I am still talking! Avoid speaking until I can come up with the appropriate words.” Considering that a person processes information at an average rate of 500 words per minute, but can only speak at an average of 150 words per minute. We often feel rushed to articulate the precise words that we are searching for in a matter of seconds (even microseconds).
We use “um” to help us sound more competent when speaking. Unfortunately, to the other person, we just sound nervous, unsure, or
unconfident. The next time you are engaged in conversation and you feel an “um” coming: do the following three things:
- Pause 2 -3 seconds before speaking.
- Allow your brain to catch up to find the appropriate words.
- Select the words that best express what you wish to convey.