The first time I really became aware of verbal pauses was in my ninth grade public speaking class. After my teacher pointed them out, I couldn’t help but notice them everywhere.
A verbal pause occurs when you use an audible filler to occupy the space between real words. Examples of verbal pauses include, but are not limited to: Like, um, ah, you know, etc. If you’re not paying attention, it is easy to ignore their presence in normal conversation. I once sat through an entire semester listening to a professor lecture without realizing that he said “Alright” at the end of almost every sentence. After another student pointed it out, I spent the final lecture struggling not to break out into laughter. There was no way I could pay any attention to the content of his speech.
It’s as if we are terrified of silence. Some people talk incessantly, and others turn to the ever reliable verbal pause. There is another thing called a pregnant pause. This is when you pause without speaking between words. This is a better practice than cramming your speech with meaningless filler. Better to say nothing silently than nothing loudly.
Imagine if we used verbal pauses in writing. They might be called written pauses. Like, if I like, I don’t know, used all these, um, words to say that I think it’s like a huge waste of, you know, time and energy to use all of these, like, um, ah, extraneous words.
But who am I to judge everyone? I do the same thing. I try not to. Knowing is half the battle. Start paying attention to this in your own conversations. It just might drive you insane.