There’s a fine line between speaking confidently and revealing signs of nervousness.
These signs often come in the form of verbal tics – small, unintentional phrases or sounds that we make when we’re feeling anxious.
These tics are surprisingly common, yet they can inadvertently give off an impression of insecurity.
In this article, I’ll be unveiling 9 of these nervous verbal tics. And while you might not even realize you’re using them, once you’re aware, you can start to change your speech habits.
Get ready to learn how to present a more confident version of yourself in any situation. Welcome to “9 nervous verbal tics that are surprisingly common but make people come across as nervous and insecure”.
1) “Um” and “uh”
We all know these little interjections. They sneak into our speech when we’re unsure, nervous, or just trying to gather our thoughts.
“Um” and “uh” are among the most common verbal tics. They’re essentially filler noises that we use when we’re thinking of what to say next.
In some cases, they can even become a habit, peppering our sentences even when we’re not particularly nervous.
But here’s the thing – these little words can make us seem unsure and insecure. They subtly suggest that we don’t fully know what we’re talking about.
And while it’s not always easy to eliminate them from our speech, being aware of them is the first step towards speaking more confidently.
So next time you’re about to say something, take a moment. Breathe. And try to keep the “um”s and “uh”s to a minimum.
Apologies have their place, but when they become a constant part of your vocabulary, they can make you come across as insecure.
I remember a time when I was giving a presentation at work. I was a bit nervous and found myself repeatedly saying, “I’m sorry if this is confusing,” or “Sorry if I’m going too fast.”
In hindsight, these apologies didn’t serve any real purpose. They only communicated my lack of confidence in what I was presenting.
Over time, I’ve learned that it’s better to focus on clarity and pacing rather than preemptively apologizing. If someone is confused, they’ll ask. There’s no need to apologize for it ahead of time.
Remember: You have a right to speak and to take up space. Don’t diminish your presence with unnecessary apologies.
3) Fast talking
When we’re nervous, our heart rate increases and our breathing becomes faster. This physiological response can often translate into rapid, hurried speech.
A study from Princeton University even found that listeners tend to perceive fast talkers as less trustworthy. The research suggests that when we speak too quickly, it can be difficult for others to keep up, leading them to doubt the veracity of what we’re saying.
So, slowing down your speech not only helps you appear more confident, but it also makes your message more credible and clear. Taking a moment to pause between thoughts can make a world of difference in how you come across.
4) Vocal fry
Vocal fry is a low, creaky vibration in your voice that happens when your vocal cords are relaxed. It’s become a popular speech pattern, particularly among young women, and can sometimes be used to sound more casual or laid back.
But here’s the thing – research has shown that vocal fry may be perceived negatively, especially in professional settings. It can come across as if you’re unsure or unconfident, and it might even make people take you less seriously.
So, while it might feel natural or trendy to speak this way, be aware that it could potentially influence how others perceive you. Try to maintain a natural, clear tone when speaking, especially in important conversations or presentations.
While not a verbal tic per se, fidgeting can be a physical manifestation of the nervous energy we feel inside. You might find yourself tapping your foot, twirling your hair, or constantly adjusting your outfit.
This nervous energy can distract from what you’re saying, making you appear less confident and more anxious. And while it might seem like a hard habit to break, simply being aware of your body language can make a significant difference.
Next time you find yourself in a nerve-wracking situation, try to channel that energy into maintaining good posture or using hand gestures to emphasize your points. This can not only help you appear more confident but also reinforce what you’re saying.
6) Self-deprecating humor
We’ve all done it – made a joke at our own expense to lighten the mood or seem more relatable. And while a little self-deprecation can be endearing, too much of it can create an impression of insecurity.
It’s like constantly telling the world that you don’t take yourself seriously, so why should they? Over time, these jokes can unintentionally undermine your self-esteem and others’ perception of you.
Remember, there’s a big difference between being humble and constantly putting yourself down. You’re valuable, and your words should reflect that. Be kind to yourself in your speech – you deserve it.
7) Avoiding eye contact
Eye contact can be intimidating. I remember when I first started speaking at public events, I would find myself scanning the room rather than making direct eye contact with my audience.
It was as if I was trying to hide behind my words, avoiding the connection that eye contact can create. But over time, I’ve learned that eye contact is a powerful tool for communication. It not only signals confidence and sincerity but also helps create a connection with your audience.
While it’s not necessary to maintain constant eye contact (which can be unnerving for both you and the other person), try to make an effort to look people in the eye as you speak. It might feel uncomfortable at first, but with practice, it can become second nature.
8) Using filler words
Filler words like “like,” “you know,” and “so” can easily sneak into our speech, especially when we’re nervous or unsure of what to say next.
While they might seem harmless, overuse of these words can make us appear less confident. They can make our speech seem unfocused and cause our listeners to question our credibility.
The key to reducing filler words is awareness. Once you start noticing them, you can work on pausing and gathering your thoughts instead of filling the silence. It might take some practice, but it can significantly improve the way you communicate.
9) Negative self-talk
This is perhaps the most damaging verbal tic of all. Negative self-talk refers to the critical and often harsh inner dialogue that we have with ourselves.
This includes statements like “I’m not good at this,” or “I always mess up.” While you might think these are harmless, they can have a profound impact on your self-esteem and how others perceive you.
The thing about negative self-talk is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you tell yourself that you’re not good enough, the more likely you are to believe it.
So, be mindful of how you speak to and about yourself, both in your thoughts and out loud. Remember, you are capable, you are worthy, and you can do this.
The complex world of human communication is full of subtleties and nuances.
These nervous verbal tics are more than just habits – they are a mirror reflecting our inner emotions and insecurities.
But remember, being aware of these tics is the first step towards overcoming them. And each step you take in this journey brings you closer to presenting a more confident, authentic version of yourself.
These changes won’t happen overnight. It takes time, practice, and patience to rewire years of speech patterns.
But don’t be too hard on yourself. After all, we’re all human, and it’s okay to show some vulnerability.
In the words of Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
So let’s embrace our imperfections, work on our nervous tics, and let our light shine through.