People speak fast for a variety of reasons. It could be geographic.
People from the New York metro area tend to speak faster than people from the South. Another reason is nervousness or stress. Increased stress could be the reason for a more rapid rate.
Are people not understanding you because your rate is too fast or because the words are not clear?
Either way, slowing down will increase your clarity.
The first step is self awareness.
Begin by taping yourself during a normal conversation and be sure to get the other person's permission. Listen for speed and clarity. Most people speak at a rate of 125 words per minute. The brain can process twice as fast.
Develop an awareness of those situations when you speed up. Is it during oral exams? On the telephone? When you're rushing to class? At a sales call?
The second step is behavior change
- Practice deep breathing exercises to slow you down in the morning. Meditation and breathing are a healthy way to start your day and will help to calm you down. You can find exercises in Knockout Presentations in chapters 2 and 3.
- Practice the pause. Use the beat method. Count two beats at the end of every sentence. For example, Today is Monday (1,2) Tomorrow will be Tuesday (1,2) The problem is usually not saying the words too fast but not putting stops at the end of a sentence. People need a few seconds to process what was just said. (And you need to come up for air)
- Read with rhythm. Practice reading poetry. It has a natural rhythm with built in pauses. Pause for a comma, and use a longer pause at the end of a verse. A few good practice poems are Psalm 23 from the Bible, The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred Lord Tennyson or the opening passage from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickins.
- Listen more. Instead of rattling on, make a statement and ask for a response. "Does that make sense?", " How does that sound?" are a few ways you can dialogue instead of talking at people.
The third step is self-monitoring
- Use the buddy system. Have a friend give you feedback when you start to speed up.
- Let others in on your secret. Tell them you're working on slowing your speech and would like to know if you spoke slowly enough.
- Create job aids. Write the word PAUSE on a post-it. Place the paper on your computer, the telephone, and your date book to serve as a reminder.
To increase credibility, confidence, and clarity, slow down your speed talking!
Copyright © Diane DiResta 2006. All rights reserved.
Diane DiResta is president of DiResta Communications, Inc., a New York City consultancy serving business leaders who want to communicate with greater impact — whether face-to-face, in front of a crowd or from an electronic platform. DiResta is the author of Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz, an Amazon.com category best-seller and widely-used text in college business communication courses. Visit her site at: http://www.DiResta.com/.
Some Related Articles:
Voice Too High? How to Safely Lower Your Pitch
Word Stress: Does It Really Matter?
For Better Body Language: Put First Things First
Six Sloppy Speech Habits
Does Uptalk Make You Upchuck?
Voice Power: The Care and Feeding of the Professional Voice
Vocal Cosmetics: A New Trend in Voice Improvement
Don't Call Us. We'll Call You: How to Lose a Job Over the Phone