The Unconscious Habit
Much of what is written about fillers such as uhms and ahs states that they are an unconscious habit. The sounds, words, and phrases that fill up the silences are for the most part not even recognized by people as they speak. Unconscious means out-of-awareness. When a habit is repeated without conscious awareness, we can guess that there is also a reason for that habit that is not yet identified or understood. The uhms and ahs serve some purpose whether the person realizes it or not.
When I first ask a person why they use fillers, they are often uncertain and can’t explain it even to themselves. I ask the question again. Once people start to look for their answers, they discover amazing personal insights.
Underlying Reasons for Using Uhms and Ahs
Here are three examples of responses I have received. One person said the fillers were like “stepping stones” to the next thought. Without the steps he imagined he would stumble and get lost. Another person said that she used fillers to tell people to wait while she went inside to retrieve her next thought before coming out to share it. If she didn’t tell them to hold on and wait, they might stop paying attention to her. Still another person used fillers to carefully consider what she was about to say so she would be less likely to make a mistake and be criticized when she did speak.
Uhms and Ahs Fill The Silence
These examples are unique to each person, but what is similar is that fillers are ways that people avoid taking a risk. Fillers keep people safe. Safe from stumbling and getting lost; safe from being left; safe from the consequences of making a mistake in public. Whatever reason, conscious or not, when an uhm is uttered it is a signal that uncertainty and anxiety is lurking around the corner. People are afraid. They are more comfortable saying uhm than just being silent.
Be Bold and Stand in The Silence
Stepping into the silence and letting go of the filler is courageous. To consciously choose to face one’s fear is bold and beautiful. As fear dissolves and fillers disappear, then an awesome powerful presence is uncovered. People begin to radiate an inner strength. In the silence they claim their power, they find themselves, and they compel rapt attention.
To try to cover up or eliminate the uhms and ahs without first understanding the personal significance is both extremely difficult and a missed opportunity to transform fear more deeply and completely into a stunning and powerful presence.
Doreen’s Essential Speaking Tip:
To fully examine why you use fillers, we first have to determine if you have this habit. You can record yourself, ask others, or listen more carefully as you talk. The place to really observe is when you do use a filler. Note it and then later go back to ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t use the filler? Were you afraid of anything? How about if you just took a breath and paused? Would someone jump in and interrupt? Would you lose your thought? The point is to practice pausing and see what you discover.