“Your Um Is The Killer Of Your Opportunities” – Negotiation Insight

“The quickest killer of your opportunities is not representing who you are in the moment.” -Greg Williams, The Master Negotiator & Body Language expert (Click to Tweet)

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“Your Um Is The Killer Of Your Opportunities”

His ums were the killer of his present and future opportunities. Are you doing that to yours?

He passed out his presentation to the 12 participants in the room. He thought this is going to be a make or break opportunity for me. If I do well, my career could take off like a rocket! And then he started.

Um, good morning. Um, thank you for allowing me to present this morning. I know, um, you’re going to find what I have to say to be, um, very interesting. And in a moment, um, I’ll begin. But first, um, I’d like to ask you a question. One attendee leaned towards another and said, when is he going to talk about what we came to hear? And if he says, um, one more time, I’m going to scream!

Not only had the presenter alienated his audience, but he’d also decreased his chances for a successful outcome. His ums, and his delay in getting to the point was a turnoff.

Are your ums and dullness killing your opportunities?

People make snap judgments about you based on how quickly you captivate them, which compresses the way you speak, the words you use, and the pace at which you deliver your words. Thus, the reception of your message, in part, depends on those variables.

So, before you attempt to implement any activity that you want others to embrace, consider the variables that will move them to adopt your position faster, versus what might cause them to hesitate. Your outcome potential will hang in the balance.

The pace of speaking:

Be it in a negotiation (you’re always negotiating), a personal conversation with friends or a loved one, the speed at which you speak influences the perception of the listener. Thus, if you talk too fast, and the receiver of your message can’t keep up, they may become frustrated inwardly and stop listening to your message. Worse, they may stop listening to you but continue issuing body language and nonverbal signals (i.e., head nodding, grunting, etc.). In that case, they’d give the appearance that they’re attuned to what you’re saying when in reality, they will have tuned you out.

When it comes to delivering your message at some point, stop and ask the other person a question about what they’ve heard and what they understand the intent to be of your message. Do that to discern their understanding and reception of your message. But even more, monitor their emotional displays (i.e., mouth agape, widen eyes, foot movement, etc.) to assess the impact your message is having on them. And you can take note of the expressions of different people in a larger audience to make the same assessment.

The point is, to deliver a concise message, you should consider matching the pace of its delivery to the speed the receiver needs to hear it. That means you should provide it at a pace that allows them to understand and sense it at an emotional level as the result of having received and perceived it. Sometimes that’ll mean talking quickly to induce excitement, or slowing down the tempo to produce a more solemn mode.  

Filler Words:

When you use filler words (i.e., ums, you know, etc.), those words can distract the listener from the message you’re delivering. And that distraction decreases the perception of you as someone knowledgeable about what you’re saying. Note: In a negotiation, if you wish to cast yourself as someone unsure of his position as a ploy, you might use filler words and stammer to enhance the effect of the role you’re playing. If you don’t wish to project that image, eliminate the fillers.


Another point to consider when you’re attempting to sway someone to adopt your position is how you’ll position the result of them doing so. By painting a picture of what the outcome might be if someone does or does not embrace your perspective, you cast their thoughts into the future. That’s a distinction to be made from having them reflect on their past, which is not bad in all cases.

By having someone focus on their future, you set the expectation for things to come, while allowing them to influence that occurrence. Thus, if you wanted them to see themselves in a better position in the future, depending on the individual, you might consider painting a future scene that’s bright with happiness, excitement, and worry-free. If you wanted them to see what they might forgo as the result of not adopting your suggestion, you might consider painting a dome and gloom picture. Just be aware that people tend to move away from something quicker than they’ll move towards something. That means they’re more likely to avoid pain before they seek pleasure.


Once you’ve addressed the variables mentioned, give severe and prolonged consideration to how you’ll implement your plan, strategy, request, etc. In particular, think about the timing of your implementation. Ask yourself, how might it impact or be impacted by other occurrences? Who might be most upset or pleased by your application, and what might key people do to assist or challenge it?

To have the most significant opportunity of a successful implementation, you must consider the variables that will impact its chance to achieve the outcome you’re seeking. Then, you should address the potential negative influencers that might challenge it and addressing the concerns they have in opposition. That will require modifications to your plans. But that’ll still allow you to implement them with less resistance had you not addressed those that were in opposition. And that will enhance your chance of greater success.


There will always be variables to address to overcome obstacles that’ll stand between what you want and what you have to do to obtain what you want. The better you are at addressing those variables and aligning the forces you’ll need to aid your efforts, the faster you’ll be at implementing more of your plans, with fewer obstacles, and more allies. And everything will be right with the world.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Listen to Greg’s podcast at https://anchor.fm/themasternegotiator

After reading this article, what are you thinking? I’d like to know. Reach me at Greg@TheMasterNegotiator.com

To receive Greg’s free “Negotiation Tip of the Week” and the “Sunday Negotiation Insight” click here https://www.themasternegotiator.com/greg-williams/

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