Dear Latimer: More Answers to Your Questions

Hello friends! We recently added a new element to our website, where you can submit your communication questions directly to us. We will collect the questions, and either answer directly back to you, or when appropriate, publish a series of questions and our answers on our blog. Our goal here is to give you some quick support and answer your most pressing questions about the all-important skill of persuasive communication.

So, fire away with those questions, and we look forward to hearing from you. If you want to submit a question, look for the “Dear Latimer” box on the right side of the screen on our blog page.

Have a great day! ~Dean and Hannah

Dear Latimer,

I know that I use a lot of “um’s”, (everyone tells me about it). I have for most of my life and I’m sure they are distracting to other people… sometimes they even distract me when I am speaking. Any strategies on getting rid of them?

  • Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

We’ve all been there. Whether it’s “um”, “uh”, “you know”, “kind of”, “okay?” or something entirely different, we have all had fillers creep in from time to time. They really show up to the party when we are feeling most nervous, which can – as you say – become distracting… for everyone.

The good news is, there is a process for reducing and ultimately eliminating them. Of course, it requires deliberate practice and commitment – and also a healthy dose of patience and self-compassion.

The even better news is that you have already reached the first step in the process – becoming aware of them. Many people don’t even hear themselves using filler, but obviously you can, so congrats – you are on the path to progress!

Next, record yourself speaking on a topic for three minutes. Then go back and listen to the recording and count the “um’s” you hear. How many are there? 10? 25? 39? Whatever the number, write it down. Then record yourself again and count again.

As you are doing this, work on replacing the filler with silence. Becoming more comfortable with silence is a key step in removing the verbalization that is filling in.

You should repeat this multiple times over the course of a week or more, speaking about a variety of topics. This will help you see if there are certain topics or moments (e.g. as you warm up, when you run out of ideas, as you transition between points, etc.) that cause an increase in fillers.

By paying attention to this in your personal and professional communication, you will increase the chances of real improvement. It will be distracting at first to have to be so deliberate, but over time you can start to build new habits. This doesn’t mean that you have taken care of them for good – they may still show up when you aren’t paying attention, but once you’ve trained yourself to replace them one time, you will be able to manage them far more quickly and easily in the future.

Good luck with it!

We believe that great communication skills change the world. We transform people and organizations of all sizes with simple, repeatable techniques, through an integrated platform of corporate training, coaching, and asynchronous learning.

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We look forward to hearing from you.

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A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.