Native English listeners can follow what fast talkers say, but it’s not fun – or satisfying to listen to. Check out this amusing old Fed Ex commercial.
In a nutshell, speaking too fast makes your listeners work too hard.
People interpret speaking quickly as a sign of nervousness and a lack of self-confidence. Your fast talking can make it appear that you don’t think people want to listen to you, or that what you have to say is not important.
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The consequences of speaking too fast
Speaking too quickly can deliver an unclear message. Your audience can:
• Miss the meaning of your message.
• Become distracted, so they disconnect.
• Become confused by the message.
• Distrust your credibility as a speaker.
In general, it’s no big deal to speak fast, but when any of the above affects the message, then we need to think about where we can make improvements to ensure we’re understood.
So why do we speak too fast?
There could be several reasons for speaking too fast, a couple of them are listed below:
If nervousness is causing you to speak quickly, focus on thinking about how capable you are at work. Remind yourself that you’re knowledgeable about your topic. Learn to control your mind. Avoid thoughts like “This is going to end badly”. Don’t bring up past, negative, experiences. “I can handle anything that happens” should be your mantra for staying positive and self-assured.
2) English as a second or third language
If you speak English as a second or third language and the rate of your native tongue is inherently faster than English, you may find yourself also speaking English fast.
3) Poor enunciation
One of the biggest problems for people who speak too quickly is that they often blur words together in a way that can be difficult to understand. Enunciate each word as clearly as possible. Don’t skip over any words, not even the small ones. Enunciate each syllable of every word.
A few techniques to help pace how you speak
1) Use pauses
No pausing between phrases or at the ends of sentences means that you’re not taking in enough air to support your voice. Breathing badly makes our breathing become weak, resulting in a lack of volume and clarity in the words towards the end of our speech.
Here are some actions you can take to address the above:
• Add a short pause of about a second at the comma in a sentence.
• Add a pause of two or three seconds at the end of your sentences.
• Add a longer pause when you conclude a point before moving to your next point.
Many people who speak too fast skip over places where pauses would make sense in normal conversation. This includes between sentences, after a major piece of information, and when the topic changes.
2) Make eye contact with your listener
When you are giving a speech or talking to other people, it’s ideal to make eye contact with your listeners. By practising this trick, you’ll be waiting for verbal or body language cues from your listener(s) before you move on with your topic. This means that you’ll be forced to slow down to accommodate your audience.
3) Read texts aloud at varying speeds
Try reading a passage out loud at your normal speed, and then try reading it faster. This will make any other tempo seem slower. Next, re-read the text with a conscious effort to read it more slowly, then continue slowing down until it seems exaggeratedly slow.
4) Record yourself speaking
A lot of people have trouble hearing the problems that occur in their own speeches, especially during a presentation. Record yourself while you’re speaking – preferably during a live presentation, not just a practice session – so you can listen to yourself and critique your mistakes. Play the recording when you’re alone and take some time to analyse what you hear. Try practising the same speech again but make a conscious effort to focus on reducing the speed if necessary.
In conclusion, you’ll see that many programs, classes, links, websites and videos on this topic all advise you to “slow down your speaking” so your listeners can better understand your message. Be mindful of your speaking speed and take the time to communicate clearly and effectively, regardless of how quickly you naturally talk.
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