The Ums And Ahs Of Communication
What Do Ums And Ahs Communicate?
It is amazing how two little words Um and Ah can have such a powerful impact on your ability to construct or destroy your standing in the eyes of others. Whether you are making a presentation , giving a speech or engaged in a social conversation each time you interact with another you are creating your public image , building your credibility and establishing your reputation . You are in fact selling yourself every time you open your mouth to communicate with another.Those two little words, those ums and ahs , communicate far more that a mere vocable. The truth is ums and ahs communicate volumes in terms of the state of your self confidence , self image and your credibility. Any insecurities you may have, even those you may not be aware of, will be exposed for all to see with a simple um or ah . You may know your topic inside and out but ums and ahs may well give others the wrong impression as they will assume that you do know very little about your subject. this is because ums and ahs are caused by either a lack of self confidence , a lack of sincerity or a lack of knowledge . As ums and ahs also communicate how well you know your subject their usage will lay open to others that you have not mastered and taken ownership of your knowledge. Ums and ahs will then serve to communicate that you are operating at a level of mediocrity or worse, by rote in relationship to the subject.
It Does Not Have To Be A Grind
Even if you have no need of public or professional speaking skills you do need social skills. Your ability to communicate effectively is a skill you need to foster in order to achieve success in any endeavor you undertake as communication is a key element in any relationship whether it be personal, professional or casual. Therefore it behooves you to rid yourself of these two dastardly little um ah vocables. There are Toastmasters Clubs world wide and these clubs are an excellent training ground for mastering the art of communication . You may have to "shop around" a little to find the club in your area that suits you and your needs but it is well worth it to find one that does. One of the first steps to handling ums and ahs is practice, practice, practice. It is through such practice that your self confidence and self esteem will grow. No different than the means you employed when you learned to tie your shoelaces. There are any number of other organizations and individuals who lend themselves to assisting and enabling others to communicate more effectively . You can even put your own group together in order to practice your speaking and listening skills. Ums and ah s are what your mouth spits out while your mind is occupied with grinding away trying to think of what to say. Feed your mind, boost your confidence and those little ums and ahs will disappear back into the unknown from whence they came.
The first time I ever gave a speech at Toastmasters I was surprised that a body could shake so hard and still remain standing. Even though I had the benefit of notes as a newcomer and had in fact read my whole speech I was awash with nerves. The following is a short list of the effective methods I used to overcome my shaky, shaky heart.
Some Um And Ah Tips
Locate Yourself In The Space - this little exercise allows you to become familiar with and comfortable in your physical surroundings. As you do this exercise your sense of belonging will increase and you will feel a sense of expansion.
Look at the top four corners of the room - first one corner, than the next and so on until you have connected with each of the four corners. Couldn't be simpler but it makes a big difference!
Increase Your Harmony With The Room
Look around the room and find something that you like. Notice it's attributes and its use or function. What is it about the object that you like? Continue looking around the room selecting and noticing objects and identifying what it is you like about each object that you select. Again, simple but your affinity for the space you are occupying will increase and you will not be fighting your environment.
Connect With The People In The Room
The same method that you applied to objects you can then apply to the people in the room. Look around the room, select a person in the room, find something that you can like about that person be it a hair style, the way they smile, the color of their shirt, whatever it is that you like. Do this with a handful of people in the room. Now you have made a connection with some of the people in the room and you are feeling friendly towards them and comfortable with them.
Now you will be communicating in an environment that you are in harmony with and feel friendly towards. These little exercises can be done regardless of the venue for your social interaction. It can be giving a speech, attending a business conference or sitting down for a social lunch. Anywhere, anytime you are feeling uncomfortable and insecure these simply little exercises will go a long way to pulling you out of that state.
Know Your Stuff
A simple statement to make but not so easy to
achieve. Depending on your subject you may find yourself studying and
practicing long and hard before you really know your stuff - inside and
out! Knowing your subject will allow you to speak with authority and
with sincerity. You will be listened to and you will be sought after.
When you get into communication with another it serves both parties well
if you know what you are talking about! If you don't know your subject
you will be scrambling around in dead area space and that is where the
lurking ums and ahs will make their way into your mind and out your
If You Don't Know Your Stuff
Ask intelligent questions. This will validate the party communicating. It will keep the conversation going and you may well learn a thing or two and walk away from the exchange that all the wiser for it. This will go along way to build your reputation as being a person well worth talking to.
listening. To often when someone else is speaking we are not listening
as we are too busy thinking about what we are wanting to say. We've
all been party to social exchanges where very little communication
actually reaches it's destination as we all strive to talk over the top
of each other. Good listeners are extremely valuable and they too are
sought out by others.
Look The Monster Dead In The Eye
As I progressed from a newcomer to a my next level as a speaker in Toastmasters the bar was raised and the expectations were higher. In Toastmasters there is a "grammarian" whose duty is not only to keep an ear out for word usage and grammar but also ums and ahs. Indeed they actually count ums and ahs and give a tally at the end of the meeting as to who had how many of each or both. The thought of someone keeping score did not disconcert me, it terrified me as I have a tendency to do the very thing that I do not want to do. I don't want to sound stupid, I don't want to make mistakes, I don't want to look like a fool and on goes the I don't want list. I don't want to say ums or ahs when I speak - take it to the bank they will drop out of my mouth like rain from the sky.
The first time I had to give a speech where my ums and ahs would be counted I decided to be at cause over the little critters. Following is the speech I presented in order to do just that.
"I stand before you today to address a plague. A plague that descends, seemingly out of nowhere and afflicts its unwelcome self on Toastmasters, executives, students, teachers, parents, children, in fact anyone who ventures into the area of communicating with others.
Madame Chairman, Fellow Toastmasters, Most Welcome Guests
This plague can
present itself in two words – the word um and the word ah. In order to control anything you first have to be able to define it and as I am not alone in my desire to control those ums and ahs I share the definition with you here.
Um is defined as a word used in writing to signify the kind of sound people make when they hesitate while speaking.
Ah expresses emotion which can range from sheer delight through to acute distress depending on the tone the speaker uses when uttering an ah. Ah can also be used to express understanding, surprise or recognition.
I have often found um or ah to be preferable to some of the other words that find their way out of my mouth when one of those silent but often deadly moments of mind flatulence has ambushed me. I cite you three examples of when an um or an ah would have been just dandy to have on hand as response rather than what made it’s way out of the abyss of mind flatulence, known in some circles as the brain fart.
I am sixteen years old, we have just moved from Kerrisdale to ten acres in Langley. Our new neighbour, a wealthy, distinguished looking West Vancouver lawyer who has a weekend estate down the road a piece approaches me. I want to appear sophisticated, grown-up and intelligent. I failed. As he proceeded to tell me how another neighbour’s herd of cows got out on our property, over the front lawn, through the vegetable garden, in the flower beds, I find I have very little to say in response. Um would have been good. Ah, would have been awesome. Instead, I stood there slack jawed uttering a refrain of well dispersed “Holy Cow”. Over and over and over again in spite of me silently beseeching my mouth to stay shut.
Now I am
nineteen. It is just before Christmas
and I have started a new job in an Engineering Department at the
company. There are engineers,
technicians, draftsmen and engineering clerks of which I am one. The
big boss has a corner office and is
seldom seen by the lowliest of the low such as myself. One day the
whole office went out for a
Christmas luncheon. On returning the big
kahuna from the corner office, I didn’t even think he knew I existed,
how I liked my new job. I told him I
liked it and then, one of those blank spots hit. He was looking at me
like he expected me to
say more. So, wanting to seem grown-up,
sophisticated and intelligent I asked him if he would like to hear my
toast. Without waiting for a reply, I
launched - "I wish I could drink like a lady. I wish I could learn to coast. One drink I'm under the table, two drinks I'm under the host!"
One look at his face and I knew that a well placed um or a thoughtful ah, would have been a far, far better thing to have uttered.
It gets worse. It gets terrible. I am twenty-four. All grown up, I’ve just purchased my first home. A friend’s mother called and asked if her son was there. No, I replied, but I am expecting him shortly. She asked that I have him call her as soon as he got there. It was important. His uncle had just committed suicide. Oh No, I cried, what happened. He had shot himself. As she moved through her story of what led up to it and the details of what happened I found myself at intermittent moments throughout the tale, “Doesn’t that just blow you away?” Over and over and over like the Moronic Tabernacle Choir, my mouth was fully engaged, and it would not do my bidding at all. Repeated pleas from me to myself to SHUT UP were to no avail. Ooohhh thirty years later and this still makes me cringe. What I wouldn’t have given for a few uhs and an empathetic ah or two.
It is time to put the
ums and ahs plague into perspective. Far
worse things can spill out of your mouth than an um or an ah. It is
said that the thing you resist you get
more of. Well I have totally given up
my resistance to sounding stupid. I can be at
the effect of my own stupidity and I can be the cause of my own
stupidity. Resisting anything makes it stick like the proverbial tar baby and the best way to handle your resistance is to play with it, make more of it, get at cause over the thing, go the effect of the thing. Well, um, the only thing left to say is that I'm done so now you can all let out a nice long, Aaahhhhh!
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