Here’s a simple technique I learned in public relations training. I’ve had coaching from several PR firms over the years in order to represent the brands I was working for when speaking to the media. In stressful situations, such as talking to a journalist on camera, or in the pressure of a job interview, people tend to speak very fast.

This is especially true for those of us who are rather shy. We feel threatened by the silence and pressured to fill it immediately – whether or not we have yet formulated something intelligent (or intelligible) to say.

When asked a question, we rush to begin talking immediately, filling in the silence that can sound thunderous to our own ears. This causes people to fall into verbal traps, such as starting sentences that they don’t know how to finish, becoming overly repetitive, or using filler bridge words such as ‘like’ or ‘um.’ All of these make you sound less articulate than you really are.

The first time I received media training from a professional PR firm, I watched myself doing this on video after a mock TV interview. I had the inevitable, “Is that how I look to other people?” moment.

The coach told me we were going to do it again, with tougher questions. However, this time, I was to breathe in and out, and wait for three full seconds before answering any question.

The results were striking. Three seconds of silence always seems much longer in your own head than it does to the people you’re talking to. On tape it looked and sounded perfectly natural. It also forced me to take those few seconds to think about the question and formulate an articulate answer before speaking.

Try it next time. When you are asked a question, look your interviewer in the eye and nod to show that you’re listening and engaged. Then glance away for a few seconds to formulate your answer before speaking. You will be able to craft a more eloquent and intelligent sounding response, and won’t end up tripping over your words as much.

And trust me: that three seconds only seems like a long time to you when you’re nervous.