Monday, July 8, 2019
Tim stood in front of the class and took a deep breath. Mr. Jones the speech teacher went to the back of the class, turned on the video camera and said, "Ok, Tim, read your first few sentences out loud." "[um] Hi. [um] My name is Tim Madison and [uh] today I want to tell you all about my Lego collection. [um] I got my first [um, uh] set of Legos from my grandpa when I was [um] 6 years old and now I have over 100 sets… from [um] Medieval Castles to Star Wars, I have it all!" Mr. Jones smiled, "That's great, Tim. Let's watch what you did." He pressed play on the camera and Tim watched himself read what he wrote. Mr. Jones said, "You had great voice projection and eye contact. And your posture was amazing. What did you notice about your reading?" "I guess I said 'um and uh' a lot. I don't remember doing it, but it's there on the recording." "That's probably because you're nervous," Mr. Jones turned to the whole class, "when you're speaking in front of people, you are trying to remember what to say or how to stand or how to speak… and you feel like you need to fill the silence. That silence is your friend. That silence is powerful. You don't need to fill the silence with sound. When you don't know what to say, use that time to smile, relax and think. You can use that silence to build your confident energy and have the audience hanging on your words."
There are times in your life when you will feel a powerful need to fill the silence: when speaking in front of people or in your daily actions. You feel compelled to say or do something in that moment. The stammering words of "um" and "uh" or the "like" "you know" hesitations are emphasizing a lack of confidence. Or maybe there is another crutch word or quirk you have (what do you do with your hands? Where do you look). These are hard habits to break when you're so used to doing it. Instead of allowing the pressure to get to you, use those moments to let people feel your assuredness and composure. Practice in a mirror or in front of friends. Stand up tall, throw your shoulders back, look them in the eyes and be confident (even if you don't feel it yet, you'll get there). Just like everything else, you will get better with practice. You don't need to fill the silence, let the silence fill you.