I spoke to a woman today who struggles with “um” using “um” as a filler phrase between her words. She is very uncomfortable with silence, so she knows she uses the “um” word to make herself more comfortable when speaking. She knows she needs to change this habit and she’s trying.
I shared with her my own story on that topic. I told her my life changed when I became comfortable with and embraced silence. When I finally knew how to be comfortable with what made me uncomfortable everything got better. I learned to ask better questions and listen for the answers, listen to the words people chose and what they are trying to communicate. It all boils down to creating a shared understanding and we cannot do that if we do not embrace silence. We must listen which means allowing the quiet in a moment to do its job. People need time to think and process because we do not all process information at the same rate.
With so much sensory input in our lives – email, phones, social media, tv, downloads, streaming and even just the radio- we forget the gift that silence gives. It gives us a moment to let the message settle in and find its place in our own thought processes. A pause, a deep breath, a heavy sigh or even a moment to swallow, all of this can be the key to giving ourselves enough time to think and respond. Not all of us can think or process quickly, and in a moment or two of peace and quiet can be just enough for our listeners to better understand our message.
Have the courage today to “um” let yourself and your audience absorb, understand and “um” free themselves of the noise of it all. Give the gift of silence, let silence do it’s job.