Why Do People Stumble When They Speak?

Aiden Przeslawski, Reporter

While many people use “Uh” or “Uhm” when they speak, there’s a valid reason behind it that goes deeper than just being shy or losing train of thought.

Stumbling and filler words can often be a result of trying to talk and think at the same time. When people run out of words to say, they need a moment to find another way that they can express their idea. Despite this, people use extra words like “Uh” to keep the spotlight on them and tell the audience that they still have control. According to Jessamine County Schools in Kentucky, ““Uh’s” usually signal a shorter delay, and “Uhm” often means a longer one.”

Filler words can also be associated with the fact that the speaker isn’t confident with what they’re about to say. People tend to stumble more when they aren’t sure about an answer, opposed to giving away the answer they’re almost sure is right. “Uh” and “Uhm” can be used to draw attention away from their answer, and it’s a way of showing they are afraid of being wrong.

Stumbling can also be tied with people who are fluent with speaking. Expansive vocabulary often makes it hard to find the right words to describe an idea, and the speaker has to take a moment to get the right terms. This is often filled in with “Uh” and “Uhm”, or other filler words; “Like, Right, Ya know, Okay, So, Well, Kind of, I mean and Stuff like that” all fall under the filler category. Avoiding words like these makes your speaking more coherent, which can improve your confidence and decrease your chances of stumbling.

Another strategy to avoid losing your words is to keep your hands out of your pockets. Hand gestures often help a person to convey a point, and even if it’s random flipping and turning, it can still help the speaker focus on what they’re going to say. Telling a story helps a lot, since you remember what to say next very easily and can keep your thoughts, turning them into words easily. A less common way to stop using filler words is to practice beforehand. While it may not be necessary for most scenarios, for big moments like speeches or presentations, practicing comes in handy to help solidify the idea in your head. This makes it easier to remember what you have to say.

16 different West students were surveyed. About 44% said that they often lose track of their words when speaking, and 100% of those students said they stumble or use filler words when they talk. Hopefully you can be one of the people who don’t stumble, and learn how to fluently speak to your audience!