Using fillers such as “umms” and “ahhhs” or “You know what I’m talking about.” weaken speech. The simple solution is to inject more pauses. Instead of filling your language with junk, punctuating the point with a pause can be so much more effective. The mind can only work so fast and a tongue stuck in overdrive can lead to disaster. Our perception of time also changes while under pressure. As our heart races, four to fives seconds can feel like an eternity! For some, even speaking to a small group of three or four can seem like a large audience, applying even more pressure. However, pauses in speech can increase our credibility significantly as people are given more time to process the information we have given them.

The best speakers know that they won’t be cut off and this lack of fear (if this is the reason for the filler sounds) is notably absent. Filling the silence with words indicates to others that you are tentative, unsure and less dominant and in control. The only function filler words serve, is to dilute the words we do say, and make the entire collection of words less powerful. Don’t be afraid to leave an audience with silence as you collect your thoughts. Be sure to take time to breath, and therefore think, and use dialogue in short bursts followed by pauses and reflection. Alpha men and women are never afraid of silence, it is their ally and speaking at a half rate is not a terrible strategy either. It gives them twice as much time to think and also builds a huge amount of credibility.

Listening to someone who uses good speech rate, tone, and pitch, on the other hand, can be inspiring. Politicians are especially adept at the pause. Senator Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic race used pause more effectively than any other U.S. presidential candidate in recent time. His speech so much resembled a priest addressing his congregation, that it was startling and even frightening. He paused frequently to allow the crowd to cheer or stir beckoning for more.