It’s not what you say; it’s what you don’t say that counts.

As a speech-coach for a wide variety of C-level executives, I am quick to teach them just that among my 10 Tips of Effective Speaking.

I’ve found that most speakers…well, most people—whether in meetings or on the big stage—are less than comfortable with dead space. Sublime silence.

For some reason, they have a compelling need to fill in that space with words…or ums, or you knows, or a wide variety of mindless fillers. Most of my clients don’t even know they are saying these fillers. It’s a mindless habit that seems quite harmless….or is it?

In fact, the opposite is true. The use of ums, aaahs and you knows takes away from the important message you are trying to deliver. It waters down the urgency and importance of your statements. And worse yet, it denotes a lack of confidence, style, preparation and leadership.

Instead, I encourage my clients to embrace the pause. Be comfortable with a second or two of silence. It goes a long way to keeping the attention of your audience, conveying knowledge of the topic and retaining emphasis on important points. It’s even a masterful way of conveying confidence, knowledge and poise.

Yet even when my clients buy in, they do not find it so easy. That gosh darn silence seems like it’s begging to be filled…not to mention that a lifetime habit of ums, aaaahs, trust mes, believe mes and you knows is hard to hear, let alone to break.

My suggestion is to begin your better speaking habits by embracing the silence and the pause in your daily conversations and in your smaller meetings or presentations, even if they are with only two people. At first, it may seem awkward to state your point and then be quiet. Completely quiet. And yet, you will soon notice the power that silence carries; the lingering effect of your last sentence; and the confident impression of feeling that what you said was enough. It didn’t need any filler at all; your sentence was much more powerful standing alone.

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