Eliminate ‘Um’ from Your Speech with a New App

iStock
iStock

Does the idea of asking for a raise or meeting your significant other's parents fill you with tongue-tying fear? We can't make you braver, but we can help you fake it: Developers have created an app called Orai (as in “orate”) that’ll train you to speak more clearly, confidently, and with fewer filler words.

Even in our rapidly digitizing world, there’s still a lot riding on the way we present ourselves in person. Job interviews, first dates, presentations at work, and the success of loan applications can hinge on strong communication skills. It’s a lot of pressure; no wonder more than 25 percent of Americans report being afraid of public speaking.

There’s no shortage of bad advice for people trying to overcome this anxiety (“Just picture the audience naked!”). But useful information is harder to come by, as engineers Danish Dhamani and Paritosh Gupta learned when they set out to become better speakers themselves.

“Paritosh grew up in India,” Dhamani told Fast Company. “I was born in Pakistan, but my family moved to Tanzania when I was very young, so I was raised in Africa. When we came to the U.S., it was hard—from job interviews to networking events—talking in front of groups of people.”

The two started by enrolling in the speakers club Toastmasters International, but found the cost and time commitment required to be impractical for many people.

“There had to be a better way,” Gupta said. So he and Dhamani rounded up a seminar’s worth of tips, techniques, and exercises, and built them into an easy-to-use app.

The app works with the iPhone’s built-in–microphone (there’s no Android version yet, but you can sign up on the Orai website to find out when it’s available) to assess and workshop a user’s speaking patterns and behaviors. Exercises like tongue twisters; lightning-fast, elevator-pitch-style presentations; and the “Um Challenge” offer coaching for specific trouble spots. Users can also upload their own text to practice speeches, presentations, and difficult conversations ahead of time.

“Public speaking is like going to the gym,” Dhamani says. "You can’t go once and get bigger biceps—you have to train on a consistent basis,” Dhamani says.

We’re not saying you have to cut “um” and “like” from your vocabulary; in fact, you may not want to. As linguist (and Mental Floss senior editor) Arika Okrent noted in a previous Mental Floss article, every language has its own version of um, which suggests it serves some linguistic purpose.

“The use of um does not correlate with anxiousness or any particular personality traits,” Okrent says. “Rather, um is used to signal an upcoming pause—usually uh for a short pause and um for a longer pause. The pause may be needed in order to find the right word, remember something temporarily forgotten, or repair a mistake. Um holds the floor for us while we do our mental work. It buys some time for thinking.”

So, uh, even if your conversations are sprinkled with filler words, don’t, like, beat yourself up about it.

[h/t Fast Company]

Save Up to 80 Percent on Furniture, Home Decor, and Appliances During Wayfair's Way Day 2020 Sale

Wayfair
Wayfair

From September 23 to September 24, customers can get as much as 80 percent off home decor, furniture, WFH essentials, kitchen appliances, and more during the Wayfair's Way Day 2020 sale. Additionally, when you buy a select Samsung appliance during the sale, you'll also get a $200 Wayfair gift card once the product ships. Make sure to see all that the Way Day 2020 sale has to offer. These prices won’t last long, so we've also compiled a list of the best deals for your home below.

Rugs

AllModern/Wayfair

- Mistana Hillsby Power Loom Beige Saffron/Teal Rug $49 (save $97)

- Wrought Studios Shuff Abstract Blue Area Rug $100 (save $105)

- All Modern Lydia Southwestern Cream/Charcoal Area Rug $49 (save $100)

- Union Rustic Gunter Power Loom Blue/Khaki Rug $22 (save $38)

- Willa Arlo Interiors Omri Oriental Light Gray/Ivory Area Rug $49 (save $149)

Furniture

Langley Street/Wayfair

- Alwyn Home 14-inch Medium Gel Memory Foam King Mattress $580 (save $1420)

- Andover Mills Pascal Upholstered King Bed Frame $318 (save $832)

- Sol 72 Outdoor 8-Piece Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $650 (save $1180)

- Langley Street Darren 68-Inch Tuxedo Arm Sofa $340 (save $1410)

- Three Posts Tyronza Coffee Table $147 (save $193)

Kitchen

NutriBullet/Wayfair

- Cuisinart 11-Piece Aluminum Non Stick Cookware Set $100 (save $200)

- Rachael Ray Cucina 10-Piece Non-Stick Bakeware Set $92 (save $108)

- NutriBullet Rx Smart 45-Ounce Personal Countertop Blender $124 (save $56)

- Henckels Graphite 13-Piece Knife Block Set $160 (save $340)

- DeLonghi ECP3220 15-Bar Pump Espresso Machine $120 (save $90)

Electronics

Samsung/Wayfair

- Samsung 36-Inch French Door Energy Smart Refrigerator $3600 (save $400)

- Cosmo 30-Inch Freestanding Electric Range Oven $1420 (save $1580)

- Whynter 19-Bottle Single Zone Built-In Wine Refrigerator $380 (save $232)

- bObsweep PetHair Robotic Vacuum Cleaner with Mop Attachment $226 (save $443)

- Rowenta Focus 1700 Iron with Burst of Steam $68 (save $47)

Work From Home Essentials

Foundery Select/Wayfair

- Techi Mobili Adjustable Laptop Cart $50 (save $20)

- Foundry Select Arsenault Farmhouse Desk $210 (save $190)

- Symple Stuff Clay Mesh Task Chair $128 (save $121)

- Three Posts Salina Standard Bookcase $183 (save $617)

- Lorell Hard Floor Chairmat $52 (save $39)

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

These Are America's 20 Happiest States

Natalya Zaritskaya, Unsplash
Natalya Zaritskaya, Unsplash

Personal happiness is subjective, but there are many factors that contribute to someone's well-being. Income, sleep habits, and work-life balance are a few examples. By gauging how these factors affect people across the country, WalletHub was able to put together a map ranking the happiest states in the U.S. in 2020.

To compile the list below, the personal finance website determined how all 50 states performed in three categories: emotional and physical well-being, work environment, and community and environment. These three labels cover more than 30 specific criteria, including divorce rates, unemployment rates, adequate sleep levels, and average work hours.

Hawaii tops the list, earning a total score of 69.58 out of a possible 100. It ranks second in emotional and physical well-being and third in community and environment. Just behind The Aloha State is Utah, which beats out all other states when it comes to work environment. Minnesota, New Jersey, and Maryland round out the top five. You can read the full list of America's 20 happiest states below.

Judging happiness levels by state is just one way to view the country's mental health. For an even more localized snapshot of happiness across the U.S., check out the country's happiest cities.

  1. Hawaii
  2. Utah
  3. Minnesota
  4. New Jersey
  5. Maryland
  6. California
  7. North Dakota
  8. Iowa
  9. Idaho
  10. Connecticut
  11. Nebraska
  12. South Dakota
  13. Massachusetts
  14. Virginia
  15. Washington
  16. Vermont
  17. New York
  18. Wisconsin
  19. Nevada
  20. Arizona