Like, Eliminate Ums and Ahs, Right?

Easily eliminate your ums, ahs, and other disfluencies.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #9

Um, Like... Do I Have Disfluencies?

The first and most important step towards more fluent speaking is to become aware of your distracting speech habits.The fastest way to find out if you have trouble in this area is to ask a close trusted friend (or public speaking coach, hint, hint).

Anyway, perhaps the BEST way is to record yourself. If you are comfortable with technology I suggest using free audio editing software (Garageband on mac and Audacity for PC). With this software you actually see your words in audio format. For a more simplistic solution try Utterz.com--you can just call a phone number and it will record your voice.

Once you’ve got some sample recordings, the next step is play back your recordings several times. Listen specifically for your disfluences—go ahead and make of game of it. First just list them and then start counting them. If you are counting past three or four, you’ll know you have a problem.

Focus on Listening to Yourself Talk

If recording seems like too much effort, just focus, for one full week, on listening, really listening carefully for distracters when you talk. Some experts like to suggest you put tiny “um” and “ah” stickers on your computer or cell phone to remind you to be listening.

Trust me, after a week of listening, or recording and listening, you'll have become acutely aware of your specific problems.  And that’s exactly what you need; awareness. You need to be able to hear your disfluencies in your mind before you blurt them out.

How to Reduce Your Credibility Killers

If you've done your homework you'll know when one of your credibility killers is just about to escape from your mouth. Then, all you'll need to do is to keep quiet. I know, easier said than done. At first you’ll have awkward pauses in your speech, but that’s still better, actually far better, than speech peppered with "likes" and "ums." Eventually the pauses get shorter. With time, you'll be more fluent  and have fewer "ums" and "ahs."

So the next time you introduce yourself, be warned, somebody sitting next to you might just be counting your "ums", "ahs", and "you knows". Don't let your disfluencies kill your credibility. It really is worth it to take some time to focus on this. It can make a big difference in how you're perceived.

This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker, passionate about communication, your success is my business.

If you have a question, send e-mail to publicspeaker@quickanddirtytips.com.  For information about keynote speeches or workshops visit lisabmarshall.com.

Young Woman image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.