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What to do when you get stuck while speaking

Getting stuck in a conversation happens to all of us at some point (even in our native language!). But it can be especially frustrating when we know what we want to say, but we can’t find the right word in the moment.

So…why exactly do we get stuck, and how can we prevent it from happening? Today we’re going to talk about exactly that. And I’ll give you three tips at the end for what to do when you get stuck, so you can flow through the conversation with ease. 😎


Podcast transcript:

Welcome to the InFluency Podcast. I’m Hadar, and this is episode number 362. And today we are going to talk about what to do when you get stuck in English.

Hey, hey, everyone. Thank you so much for tuning in for another episode of the InFluency Podcast, because we are always in fluency. And actually, this idea, in fluency, is a perfect representation of what we’re going to talk about today, because we are going to talk about what to do when you’re not in fluency.

And we all know this, this feeling where we want to say something and then we get stuck, or we can’t come up with the words, or even just the crippling fear of getting stuck or not understanding someone and not knowing what to say, that probably prevents you from speaking confidently or speaking at all.

So in this episode, I want to give you some tips and strategies on staying in fluency and dealing with those moments where you get stuck, because I think it’s so important to have that understanding that you are capable of handling any situation.

Just a small anecdote that I want to share. Whenever I’m afraid of doing something, I always imagine the worst case scenario. I really imagine a situation where everything gets messed up or when things go completely wrong, and then I create a strategy for dealing with it. And I’m imagining myself handling the situation or figuring things out, and then I feel more confident.

Now it does induce my anxiety a little bit when I’m thinking about all these things that could go wrong. But I also train my brain to remember that I can handle it so that even if there is this ambiguous fear about something, I know what to do about it.

So I hope this episode is going to be helpful for you in managing this fear of getting stuck because you’ll know what to do, or at least you’ll have a strategy of dealing with it. And that alone can help you feel more confident. Okay? So let’s go ahead and listen to today’s episode.

Video transcript:

Are you afraid of getting stuck in English? Would you like to learn some strategies and tips on how to overcome situations where you get stuck or feel frustrated because you can’t express yourself? If the answer is yes, then this video is for you.

Hi, my name is Hadar. I’m a non native speaker of English, and I am here to help you speak English with clarity, confidence, and freedom.

The idea for this video came about after I went live on Instagram and I asked my followers, what was their biggest fear when it comes to communicating in English. And 80 percent of the people responded ‘getting stuck when speaking’. For some people, they actually use the words ‘getting stuck’, others just said ‘not finding the right words’. And ultimately that fear of not being able to say what you want to say, and that crippling feeling of silence that triggers a lot of people and makes them feel so afraid to communicate.

So, in this video, I’m going to talk about why this is so scary, so we can understand the way we think and maybe overcome this fear, not by improving our English, but simply by improving the way we think about it. But then I’m going to give you some strategies on how to come out of a situation where you get stuck: what words to use, what phrases to say, and some strategies on how to start over so you can actually say what you want to say confidently.

Now, I know that when you want to say something and your brain goes blank, it is really scary. I remember once when I was in acting school, I had a show and I was singing in front of everyone. And this was a song from a musical that I absolutely loved. And I practiced it a lot, and of course I knew all the words by heart. But then when I stood in front of everyone, I sang the first verse and then I got to the verse that I loved the most, like it was so profound to me, and I forgot all the words.

And the music kept playing. And my teacher, who was accompanying me, and she was playing the piano, she started singing for me, but I was already so stressed out that it didn’t help. I don’t even remember how I came out of this entire situation, I just remember staring at people, singing a few more words, and then leaving the stage without looking at anyone. And I was so upset.

And that’s not the only time it actually happened to me. And it also happened to me in lives and in conversations. So I know how it feels. But, I also want you to know that it’s a natural part of speaking a second language. It’s a natural part of speaking any language, your first language as well. You might black out at any given moment if you lose your train of thought, or if you’re overwhelmed, or if you’re not focused, especially when it’s not your first language. So don’t feel bad when it happens. Understand that it’s a natural part of the language, and the more you practice, the more you speak, the less it will happen.

But let’s talk about why it triggers you so much, why it is so frightening. First, because it’s really frustrating to want to say something and not being able to say it, right? It’s like, we are creatures who like to communicate, and if we want to say something and we can’t, we feel limited, we feel like we don’t have the tools that we have in our first language, and it’s really, really frustrating. And sometimes it can create anger and sadness even. So, wanting to say something and not having the tools to say it could be really, really frustrating. So that’s the first thing.

The second thing is that sometimes if we get stuck, we start thinking about what people think about us, right? What is their opinion about us and our English? And we get into the loop of not feeling good enough: “Oh, they’re thinking that I don’t know English. They’re thinking that I can’t communicate.” And that creates more stress and anxiety because it really focuses on this fear that most of us experience of not being good enough, right, or being judged.

And we don’t want to experience that because that triggers shame and humiliation, which are two emotions that us humans try to avoid as much as humanly possible. We don’t want to experience that. Therefore, we don’t want to get stuck because we know that it might trigger these feelings. Even though again, it is perfectly okay to get stuck. And usually people won’t even think bad things about you because you get stuck, they might not even notice it.

Now, the third fear, and this is not a common fear, and I want you to think about it and to see maybe it actually hits home, is we don’t wanna waste people’s time. Especially when we speak to people whom we need something from, if we get stuck, we feel like we’re wasting their time. We say to ourselves things like, “Oh, they’re going to get impatient. They’re not going to want to talk to me. You know, it’s not fair for them that they need to wait for me.”

And I understand that it’s coming from a place of wanting the other person to feel good, but it’s not helping you, right? So feeling like you’re wasting someone’s time can immediately impact how you perform in English, and that fear could create a bigger fear around getting stuck. And I want to tell you that if this is a thought that you’re thinking, a hundred percent that it’s compromising your ability to communicate freely and confidently.

All the things I talked about right now are limiting beliefs – beliefs that limit your full potential, limit your ability to communicate confidently and fluently. And the good thing about a limiting belief is that it’s a thought, and you can change thoughts, it’s not a fact, it’s not a reality. The tricky thing about limiting beliefs is that you think it’s just you just interpreting the world around you. This is your reality. “Oh, I’m wasting someone’s time.” But it’s not a fact, it’s a belief. And as such, you can decide not to think it anymore.

You can change it to “People want to hear what I have to say. They are patient with me. They appreciate my attempt to communicate with them” – instead of, “I’m wasting their time, they’re going to think I’m stupid, they’re going to think I don’t know how to speak in English.” Okay? So, try to understand which one of the three things that I’ve listed are things that you are thinking that make this fear of getting stuck a lot bigger than it should be. And of course, if you can come up with other limiting thoughts, then write them in the comments below and share them with us.

Okay. So now that we talked about the reasons why this is such a big fear, let’s talk about what to do when you get stuck. When you get stuck, the first thing that you need to do is remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. The more you get stressed out in a situation, the less likely you are to come out smoothly from this situation.

Remind yourself that this is not your speech at the Oscars, or this is not your biggest interview, and it’s okay to get stuck. Give yourself permission to get stuck, because when you are not stressed, when your blood pressure is lower, you’re more likely to come up with a next word. You’re more likely to continue, as if nothing happened.

But when you get stressed out, you start thinking about it: “Oh, I’m stuck. Oh, they’re going to think this, they’re going to think that.” And then your brain is so busy with the event of being stuck, then with what you actually want to say, right? What is the word that I’m looking for? So, take a deep breath, remind yourself it’s okay to get stuck, and continue.

And then, what I recommend for you to do is this: first, you can just acknowledge it by saying, “Oh, I lost my train of thought”, or “I think I’m confusing this, let me start over”, or “Let me rephrase it”. And then you want to start over from the beginning of the idea or the beginning of the sentence.

Your brain will find a way to bypass the part where you got stuck and get to the end of the idea. Remember that you have a lot of words to use. Don’t focus on that one word you can’t remember and feel like, “Oh, now I won’t be able to say this”. You can find a word that is similar, you can find an entire sentence that explains it differently.

You know how many times in the middle of a live or a video that I’m recording, I can’t find a certain word that I’m thinking about or that I want to say, and then I end up saying something slightly differently. Sometimes it’s not as good as it could be. Sometimes it actually takes me to a better place. So you never know, you just have to go with the flow. Just like you’re going on a tour and sometimes you want to make a right, and sometimes you will make a left, you’ll end up getting to the same destination.

But if you find yourself on this path where you have two roads and you don’t know what to do, if you just stay there and get stuck, nothing good is going to come out of it, you’re not going to get to your destination. So just find another way. And one of the best ways to do that is to start over. If you can’t think of a specific word, let go. Practice letting go of a thought or an idea or an entire sentence, and either start over, use a different word, or just say something completely different.

It’s going to make things a lot lighter and also make you feel a lot more confident when speaking. And the most important thing, don’t try to hide it. You speak English as a second language. You are entitled to make mistakes and to get stuck. So, sometimes just saying, “Oh, I’m totally stuck right now”. And even asking for help is the best strategy ever, and also an opportunity to learn. So, don’t make a big deal out of it, don’t make it more than what it is, and just understand that it’s a natural part of the learning process.

All right. So now I have a question for you. What do you do when you get stuck? Let us know in the comments and let’s start a conversation and share our knowledge with everyone, with the entire community, because that’s when the best ideas appear.

All right. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, consider subscribing to my channel and sharing it with people you think might need it. You can also check out my website at where I have a ton of free resources for you to be able to speak English, practice English, and feel confident, clear and free when speaking.

Have a beautiful, beautiful rest of the day. And I will see you next week in the next video. Bye.

The InFluency Podcast
The InFluency Podcast
362. What to do when you get stuck while speaking

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7 Responses

  1. Hi Hadar ! Thank you so much for your superb video. Of course, over the decades I had been using my English I experienced This unpleasant psychological phenomenon. It also happened when I spoke German. (In my student ages I used to speak a fluent German. (Later I gradually has lost my German because it disturbed my English .) In the seminal work of D. Schacter: “The seven most relevant crime of the human memory.” we may find amazing stories about great people who stuck even for minutes in fluent English speaking. In all cases of my stuck in English I was in an unbalanced psychological state. Mostly I was unconsciously apprehensive – better to say I was feeling that I am unable to fulfill some expectations. The remedy used to be in all cases just to do what you presented in your video.

  2. Thanks for the volunteering yourself to make others learn influential English.

    My problem is how to express myself in good ways continuously in front of audience.

    Thanks once again

  3. Considering me, when I come in this situation of getting stuck, and it happens to me frequently even for very basic words I thought to know; how is it possible I don’t know this word, so frequently used and so usual? But the fact is that coming to the moment I need it I can’t retrieve it. So I adress the people I’m speaking to : How do you say that.?..blablabla; how do you call this thing in english? Finally I involve other people in my trouble asking help from them. thus doing that I rettrieve a kinda balance and let me time to recover either my word or a way to express my idea differently.

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