Let's talk about silence
Thinking. Thinking is an action word, a verb. Have you ever watched someone think? It's actually pretty interesting! Way more interesting than listening to someone say "ummm" or umm in any of other language as seen in the clip art :-). When someone is thinking, what do you find yourself doing? Amazingly you will find that you are actively waiting and wondering. Your attention is still focused on the speaker thinking. However an 'umm' can be annoying, even disturbing, right? As hard as it might be, next time you have the chance, try just silently thinking. Leave the guilt behind because YOU thinking is not boring at all. Plus, it's much more focused than the word "umm", so you'll figure it out sooner! Win Win. Often times we find ourselves afraid of silence. "I'll bore my listeners, let me fill it with a sound....ummm...". This is not true. How to bore your listeners is to give in to that need to fill the silence. I challenge you to simply think.
Here's a question for you: when you have an opinion about something, do you find it hard not to share? Don't worry, I am not suggesting you 'not share', I am suggesting you listen first. Listen, listen, listen. Listen to what everyone else has to say, then at the end, share your opinion. You will be speaking from a place of knowledge. You will have the hindsight to acknowledge the opinions and ideas of others, even to comment on them. People love hearing comments on what they've said, especially if the comments are gracious and/or complementary. Your audience will be much more eager to listen to what YOU have to say. So give silence a chance. It's really a wonderful tool!