I Mean, Just, Really

It’s been a while since I mentioned verbal pauses, so why not?  A verbal pause is a space filler.  It isn’t a productive and healthy pause – that requires space and silence.  It is a filler.  It keeps anyone from hearing the silence that scares some public speakers and threatens some domineering monological conversationalists (i.e. the type that don’t want to give you the chance to participate, lest they have to be quiet).  In preaching the verbal pause is typically prompted by nervousness or habit.  It can be controlled, or even eliminated.

The Noise Verbal Pause. This may feel less common, but equally it may be that we are tuning out the disfluencies more.  Gaps are filled with an elongated letter, sometimes determined by the national origin or local accent of the speaker.  Most speakers have moved beyond the child-like “ummmm” but may still deploy the odd “uhhhhhh” or extended “eyyyyy.”

The Out of Context Word Verbal Pause. The big one in recent years has been the “like” used in place of emphasis, introduction of quoted speech, description of emotional reaction, etc.  Some people string together “and” after “and.”  “So” can easily become a bridge word overcoming all full stops in spoken English.  “I mean” can punctuate many a spoken paragraph.  And you don’t have to choose a common one, you may have a unique one that is just you (ask someone honest and you’ll soon find out which word has a disproportionate usage in your vocabulary).

The Under-Vocab’ed Over-Emphasis Verbal Pause. This is where no adjective quite manages to describe and emphasise what is about to be said enough, so the speaker (or pray-er) resorts to repeating with emphasis such bland words as “Just” and “Really” and sometimes, again in prayer, “just really” or even sometimes “just really just” . . . focus and intensity.  Oh, and verbal pausing in a certain respect.

The Connecting With Listener Annoyingly Verbal Pause. In full this might look like a “you know what I mean?” but often will get shortened to a “y’know” punctuating the presentation of propositional statements.  Other variations include “you with me?” or “got it?” or “does that make sense?”

Verbal pauses are distracting in spoken communication. They often make you sound less intelligent or clear. They typically will muddle the message you’re trying to convey. Verbal pauses are really noise, not communication. As speakers committed to handling a very important message well, we must seek to reduce them and be as effective as possible.

2 thoughts on “I Mean, Just, Really

  1. Thanks for the Post.

    Pauses can be very helpful.

    Pausing at the lectern, before starting your talk, makes the audience focus.

    A pause let the audience absorb the message you have just delivered.

    A pause gives the audience time to laugh at a joke.

    A pause, then lowering your voice, emphasizes a particular paint.

  2. Good post. I’m guilty of most of these.

    Not sure if it counts as a “verbal pause”, but I have noticed a lot of preachers saying “what I would say is…”, which seems a little superfluous.

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