It’s a given that many people talk so fast that others can’t understand them. Maybe you are one of those people. I’m one of those people. So what can we do to improve our speech so everyone understands us?
The first step is to realize that it’s not just the speed you are speaking at. It’s the perception in the “ears” of the listener that you are talking faster than the time it takes for them to process what you say. That’s important because it’s less about you slowing down than it is changing their perception.
How do you change their perception?
- Self Awareness: Notice how you are breathing when you speak and become aware when you are holding your breath. Notice your patterns when you start to speed up, and consciously begin inhaling and exhaling. Slow down on the words that you are really critical. Instead of saying them louder or more emphatically, try just saying them more s-l-o-w-l-y for emphasis. Be aware of your gait and notice if you pause or speak continuously. When you notice, just breathe.
- Strategic Pausing: We all know it’s important to pause when we are speaking, but do you ever notice how hard it is to take this advice in real time when your focus is on the content and your audience and not your speech? To start pausing strategically, it has to become a habit. To change a habit once you are awareness of it, you have to do be consistent in your intervention. Next time you notice you are speaking fast without pausing, come to a logical “pause point” between thought, and close your mouth. JUST CLOSE YOUR MOUTH and breathe. That’s your pause. Now open as you exhale and continue … repeat this process of fully closing and inhaling and then open and exhale as you speech. Make it methodical. Make it consistent until it become a new habit.
- Timing: Timing may be “everything”, but how do you change yours? Again, habit is the key. If your timing is lightning fast, you will speak that fast. Meditation is great, but it also has to become a habit. As with meditation, start slowing your breath periodically throughout the day. Inhale and exhale and sync your thoughts with your breath. When you feel emotions that speed you (nervousness, excitement, passion, anger, frustration, pressure/stress), practice returning to the breath and calming yourself as a daily, regular, consistent process. The goal is to connect to self and stay in control until your natural timing changes. Then speaking at a controlled pace will no longer be a challenge.
- Audio Record yourself: But rather than listening only for your own perception of how you sound, listen for your breathing patterns. Can you hear your inhaling and exhaling or are you holding? What does holding sound like? When you are breathing, how does your speech sound differently from when you are holding your breath? Now sync your habits with your breathing as you practice speaking aloud and processing cognitively at the same time.
No one wants to squelch your passion or slow down your thought process. If you can find a way to continue to think quickly and freely and still give the listener the perception that you are speaking at a comprehensible pace, you will create a win/win … still thinking fast and speaking in a freely-flowing way that sounds intelligible, clear and cognitively manageable!