Are you tired of hearing Sorry, could you repeat that? or umm what did you say?
Are you familiar with the expression of a listener who has comprehended absolutely nothing of what you just said but still nods in hesitation to avoid coming off as rude?
Do you have a faint memory of your mom signaling you to slow down your motor-mouth while talking to guests?
If you answered yes, to any one of these questions, we understandwhereyouarecomingfrom – yes, that place without spaces between your words. If you were Greek, you’d probably be called tachylalia i.e. a swift chatter.
The reason behind fast talking can be anything from being nervous, thinking as you talk, or speaking at the rate of your native language. In order to slow down your talking speed, you can keep in mind things like articulation, vowel resonance, bulletproofing, feedback, breathing, pausing and choosing better words.
We’ve talked about these in detail in the sections to follow. But before we move on to that, we need to find out what might be causing your fast-paced speech.
Identifying What’s Causing Your Motor-mouth
Devising what causes or triggers you to be a fast talker will not only shed light on understanding why you speak the way you do, but also help in finding ways to work through that specific cause.
Preston Ni, a coach in the areas of professional communication and the author of “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People“ lists out the common reasons due to which people may speak too fast:
Keeping up with your Train of Thought
At times the reason why people tend to speak at a fast pace might have to do with matching their words with the same pace that their thoughts are going. In other words, they think as they speak instead of thinking before they speak.
In this situation, it is very likely to even say something that your mind hasn’t completely thought through yet, resulting in an unwanted exchange of words.
When your nerves get to you, you may feel like “getting it over with” and hence naturally increasing your pace to do so. Your adrenaline is at an all-time high, leading to an increase in your heart rate and putting your body in fight or flight mode.
When you feel conscious, the temptation to give in to your feelings is high and so you tend to find ways to finish the task at hand as quickly as possible. Thereby, speeding along with your words, compromising on intonation and clear speech.
Some people are conditioned to speak fast since they are young. For instance, it can stem from your experience as a child wanting attention.
Perhaps, you might have been in a situation where speaking up and making your point quickly rewarded you with your parent’s or an elder’s attention. And that habit has stayed on with you.
Birth Language Influence
I know of a person from Spain who had quite some trouble trying to make his listeners understand him when he talked in grammatically correct English. Why so?
It was because English wasn’t his primary language. It was Spanish (one of the fastest spoken languages in the world with a rate of 7.82 syllables per second) And so, whenever he spoke in English, it was almost as fast as lightning.
For people whose birth or native language is spoken at a faster rate than English, talking fast might occur unwittingly.
As a result, they may speak English(which is their second or third language) at the rate of their birth language.
How Can Fast-talkers Slow Down?
A lot has been said about slow and steady wins the race. But let’s be honest. Someone merely telling you to “Slow down” isn’t going to help. At least not for more than two minutes. It isn’t as easy as that.
There are several techniques and exercises that come into play when it comes to slowing down your talking rate and communicating effectively. Keep reading to know about these in-depth.
1. Opening your Mouth – Articulating
It is very easy to talk at a great speed when you are barely opening your mouth. But this makes your speech sound more inarticulate because you’re basically mumbling things.
Start by feeling your articulators when you speak. Articulators are basically your tongue, the upper lip, the lower lip, the teeth, jaw and facial muscles – all of which help you to produce certain sounds.
For example, try saying the word finish out loud. Notice your top teeth “biting” the lower lip to produce that distinct “F” sound. Now try saying the same word without moving your lips as much. Notice how the clarity and effect of the word reduces.
Moving your mouth around might seem strange at first, but remember that your audience will not be paying attention to the way your mouth moves but rather, the sound it creates. When you are conversing at a fast speed, you will not be able to feel these articulators as you talk.
Therefore, try being aware of the tactile sensation that these articulators give out and you will automatically find yourself slowing down the rate at which you talk.
2. Vowel Resonance
If you consider yourself a speed talker, there’s a high chance that you are cutting your vowel sounds too short.
When you de-emphasize vowel sounds, you are basically painting a sin, err, the scene in black and white. (see what happened there!) This will only lead to your speech sounding a lot choppy and disjointed.
A common trick is to imagine your vowels are italicized as you speak, and taking time to enunciate them with clarity. Stretching out your vowels will help you to slow down talking along with helping you to place extra weight on those particular words.
For example, if you have to say the following sentence – Flight 1549 made a water landing on the Hudson on a chilly winter morning. Then try imagining the important words (water landing) in italics and you will habitually emphasize more on them.
Elongating the vowel sounds helps in building resonance. Thereby giving your speech a better tone that results in increased authority and engagement.
3. Bullet Proofing
Consider a big slab of chocolate that you want to share with your friends. The first thing you will do is try and break the big chunk into several smaller chunks as per the ridges on the slab. This way, everyone gets the best of what you desired to share with them.
Apply this analogy when you want to share a bit of information with somebody. Take the following sentence for instance:
I am going to tell you the importance of creating inclusive content and the way it influences the image of a brand and the hacks to master this field – people have understood what you have said, but have you paused while saying it? And how has that impacted how long your audience will remember your points?
Instead, you could say it like so –
I am going to tell you three important things about content creation.
First, why is it crucial to make it inclusive?
Second, its influence on the image of a brand.
And Third, hacks to master this field.
When you utilize bullet points to divide chunks of content into smaller units, you also get the opportunity to pause after every bullet point you present.
This helps retain the information in the listener’s mind along with giving you the time to breathe and formulate the next point in your mind.
Doing this will cause you to slow down and successfully communicate your message.
Duh, we know you’ve heard this one before. “Whatever life throws at you, learn to pause, take a breath and then deal with it.” But do you really know how to use your breath to your benefit? Allow us to guide you.
It is always useful to take a few deep breaths before you begin speaking. This not only helps you to slow down your speaking rate, but also ensures that you feel comfortable while doing so.
When you talk at a faster pace, you tend to breathe quite shallowly. Shallow breathing allows you to speed up your talk as you take several small ‘sips’ of air to sustain you along. However, what it doesn’t help you with is the volume, strength and clarity in your sound – which becomes all the weaker with the limited amount of air that you hold in your lungs.
Try taking a good, deep, bellyful of breath before a phrase and exhale it all into that phrase.
There is another tip that proves to be helpful when you are talking to a group of people or presenting and want to avoid going too fast. It is called the “one phrase, one person, one breath” technique. In this, you have to take a breath for each phrase that you speak while looking at one person.
Try doing it with this sentence – I was young/ and I loved flying planes/ over the vast stretches of wheat field. You will observe how this decreases your speed, gives you time to breathe and to express your words well.
“Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech.”– Martin Fraquhar Tupper
Consider an art gallery. Why do you think there are consistent white spaces between the pictures displayed? Imagine how crowded and ordinary every painting would look had it not been for the few meters of space between two frames?
Apply this analogy to your speaking and you will realize the grave importance of pausing. It not only allows the listener some time to process what they’ve heard, but it also creates interest and impact.
Mark Twain was right when he said that
“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”
One way to start practicing pausing is by catching yourself whenever you find yourself giving in to a filler word. Eliminate the filler and voila! You’re left with a short spell of silence – the pause.
Pausing between words is helpful not just in slowing down your tempo, but it also enables you to think of better words while speaking. Moreover, you also experience the thrill of dying to speak the next sentence after having paused for a while.
It might feel like a lifetime has passed in the two-second pause you took between two paragraphs, but your audience won’t pay heed to it, God knows they needed it!
There are tons of advantages to pausing. If you want to know more, read this article we wrote on The Importance of pausing During Speeches.
6. Choosing Better Words
We talked about how pausing lends us the time to think of better words. Think how much time it takes for you to come up with three synonyms for the word – surprised.
That must’ve taken you at least 2 seconds, if not more. But now that you have come this far in our article, you have a pretty good idea as to how much of an impact a two-second pause can have.
I remember my English teacher in school and her attempts to get her students to increase their vocabulary while conversing. One way she did this was by usually conversing normally with the students but pausing after a word that could very well be replaced with another word that was usually a better fit or provided a greater intensity to that sentence.
For instance, she would say, “It has been three lectures of an hour each and the recess bell hasn’t rung yet. I am very hungry.” Then she would pause and ask the students which word she could’ve used instead of “hungry’. And we would come up with words like famished, starving, ravenous. Words we would never otherwise use in our daily conversations.
Soon enough, we started stopping each other or pausing ourselves to think of better words.
This exercise helped me improve my vocabulary. But that was only one part of it. I discovered that the mere act of pausing to think of a word that can do better justice to a given sentence, made you slow down your rate of speaking to a significant extent.
There is a huge difference between what you think you sound like and what you actually sound like. Yes, we all have experienced this shock for ourselves the first time we heard a recording of our voice.
But we aren’t talking about just the sound of your voice, but also the pace of it. What might sound like a decent speed to you might not be so decent for someone listening to you speak. This is something that you will understand only after receiving constructive feedback. Either from yourself or your colleagues and trusted friends.
You can record yourself giving a presentation to see how fast you are really talking. Ask your colleagues to give you a signal whenever you speed up during a presentation.
Look for non-verbal feedback while conversing and allow your listener to decide your pace. Communicating effectively entails listening to the person who you are talking to, while you are talking to them. Hence, it is crucial to make sure you involve yourself in a conversation and not a monologue.
For instance, when you are speaking to a crowd, making some eye contact with the spectators will give you enough time to slow down, think of your next point as well as help build a connection.
Slowing Down in Specific Situations
Oftentimes, fast talkers aren’t fast talkers 24×7. While talking to a friend, you might notice how your words roll out at a decent and comprehensible pace, but when you are a part of events that are a little pressure-inducing, your talking rate accelerates uncontrollably.
Hence, we have listed down a couple of these situations along with suitable exercises you can practice to Stop rushing, Drop your bad speaking habits and Roll into a world where you’re at the top of your speaking game!
This is one of the most common situations in which fast-talkers reign. While giving a presentation we are often in a hurry to complete whatever we have planned and stop moving our mouth only after the last bit of information has been spat out if it.
We thought of a couple of things you can do to avoid going past that decent speed limit.
Look at the Visuals
To keep yourself from racing, decide to pause and speak nothing whenever you change slides. You can pause your speech to look at the image as the audience is looking at it and then resume.
Ask a Question
Stopping to inquire if your audience has any doubts or asking them a particular question is a great way to place a deliberate break and slow down. It will also help build a connection with the audience.
Sippin’ on Water
Keeping a glass or a bottle of water will also prove to be useful in keeping you hydrated as well as giving you a reason to pause while you are speaking. You can even keep a set of notes around your bottle to get a quick glance at your ideas before you continue talking.
Move it, move it
You can channel the extra energy that you put in your speed talking in walking around as you talk. For presentations, a slow and steady walk around the stage helps set a rhythm that aids in slowing down your thinking and ultimately, guide the speed of your speech.
Most people have a lovely pace in everyday banter, but when it comes to something as nerve-wracking as an interview, they go haywire. Presenting yourself as a composed person is crucial because your fast-paced speech might come across as a sign of under-confidence or lack of knowledge to your employer.
The average person talks at about 150-160 words per minute. If you want to slow down your talking speed, try the following exercise.
In this exercise by Voice & Speech Coach, Patrick Muñoz, we try typing at the same rate with which we speak. Now for all of you speedy typists out there(who are also speedy talkers), try substituting typing with writing.
Now we don’t expect you to type or write it out when you are giving the interview, but before it when you are doing your preparation. You can try actually typing or writing, but you can also get an idea of how much to slow down if you simply imagine that you are typing or writing your words down as you say them.
Make a note of how you start elongating your vowels and slower your rate as you do this. You might feel that this is too slow a speed and it won’t harm to speed it up a bit. Even if you increase the speed, try to maintain the same level of control, confidence and authority that you had while you were speaking while typing.
After the interviewer has asked you a question, you can sense your mind already racing to find the perfect answer to it. But halt! Take a minute to properly structure the answer in your head and only then begin speaking. Answering right after they are done asking the question does not allow you to formulate your thoughts well and can result in over-speeding.
3. Story-telling or Reciting Poetry
The way you narrate a story and recite a poem determines how well the audience understands it. Be extra mindful when you have to read a piece of text. Since we tend to read faster than we speak.
One thing that has helped me is making use of the forward-slash / as a marker for pauses. For example, add one / when you have to pause for a short while and keep increasing the number of forwarding slashes like so /// wherever you feel the need to pause more. You can also underline or bold the words you want to place a greater emphasis on. Ashley Howard, a British voice and communication coach, suggests a way of doing this exercise with the following paragraph,
Take some writing / and underline words / that you think are important. / If you are unsure /, read aloud, / and underline words that you naturally emphasize. / Then, / create little sections, / each containing one underlined word, / by drawing forward slashes. / Read aloud, / emphasizing the underlined words / and pausing / appropriately / at each forward slash. / Try practicing / with this paragraph. /
Honor the Punctuation
I fondly recollect the scoldings I used to get from my teachers whenever I missed pausing after a comma or full stop while reading aloud in class.
Bruna Martinuzzi, who specializes in presentation skills training and leadership communication coaching, offers some more advice about using pauses. She suggests using a short pause at a comma, a medium one after a sentence ends and a longer one after concluding a point.
I came across this tongue twister while rehearsing my diction and articulation before going for an audition. It works especially well when you are narrating a text as full of descriptions and dialogues as a story or a poem.
Say it out loud, moving your mouth as dramatically as possible while taking care to fully enunciate each word.
It goes like this:
All I want is a proper cup of coffee. Made in a proper copper coffee pot. You can believe it or not. But I want a cup of coffee from a proper copper pot. Tin coffee pots or iron coffee pots, they’re not good to me. If I can’t have a proper cup of coffee from a proper copper coffee pot, I’ll just have tea.
Why is it Bad to Speak Too Fast?
Whatever your reason may be, talking fast is not worth it. If anything, it only leads to ineffective communication which gives rise to the following undesirable results:
Negative Impression on the Listener
When you are in a hurry to list out your thoughts, you come across as being ignorant towards the listener and showcase a lack of empathy.
With your fast-talking, your listener has to pay extra attention to grasp the meaning of what you are trying to convey. Making it hard for the listener will only add to their disinterest and cause inattentiveness.
Nervous or Lacking Confidence
Even if you aren’t visibly shaking, listeners can decipher your fast-rated speech as a sign of nervousness or anxiety.
When you are shooting one word after the other without pausing, the onlooker might feel like your words control you, rather than you having control over what you speak.
The Message gets Lost
More often than not, a great deal of the important points are lost due to the mumbling, stuttering or jumbling of words that you are prone to do while talking fast. Even if you manage to speak fast without having your diction suffer, the person listening to you will be too busy following your words.
For example, if you are presenting one point and move to the other point without pausing to help your listener register what you just said, you are not giving them time to understand and process the information in their head.
A loss of clarity while listening also means a lesser chance of your audience remembering what you said.
Increase in the use of Filler Words
The reason why some people can talk non-stop at a fast speed without pausing is generally due to their use of filler words. Words like uhhh, um, you know, like etc.
These are words that don’t add any extra meaning to what we are saying, but still we use them without being aware.
Usage of such words might suggest that the speaker is not well versed with their content or they’re nervous, among other things.
Check out this article we wrote that gives you 6 Techniques to Stop Saying Filler Words: Eliminate the Ahs & Ums!
Loss of Power
When speaking fast, people often tend to use their higher vocal pitch. You must have observed how your voice changes to a more sharp or airy version when you are nervous.
While there is nothing wrong with this, there is a downside. Talking at a higher pitch doesn’t seem to give a sense of gravitas to the voice. There occurs a loss of strength and power in the voice.
Why is speaking slowly good?
When you speak at a decent pace, you exude a sense of calm and control. Feeling relaxed will open you to pay attention not only to yourself but also to the others in the room.
This is even more important when you are presenting since the control you have over your words will leave a positive impact on your listeners.
Moreover, you also gain the ability to use your voice to its best capacity at its optimum pitch – referring to the pitch at which your voice is produced comfortably and has a rich vocal texture. To find out your optimum pitch, try saying uh-huh out loud. The pitch of your voice when you talk normally should ideally match the ‘uh’.
Danielle Duez, a phonetics specialist at the University of Provence in Aix-en-Provence, who analysed politicians’ speech patterns that led to the following observation.
“With power comes silence. The more powerful the politician, the more slowly they speak and the more pauses they make.”
Speaking slowly has been on the checklists of all top politicians. Talking slowly enables them to speak at their optimum pitch – with its powerful, resonant voice quality. It lets them switch their voice to a lower register which implies strength, assertiveness and dominance.
If you ever wondered why politicians with deeper voices got more votes, you now know the answer.
Easier time Comprehending
Your audience will also be relaxed and take in what you are saying with ease.
As you won’t be overwhelming them with a plethora of phrases and words per minute that they have to keep a constant track of.
Being mindful of your speed will give you more freedom to experiment with your words.
You will find it easier to slow down for drama, emphasize a certain word, or speed up again for a call to action or climax. Your pauses will give a greater scope for expression of emotions with passion.
According to Amy Cuddy,
“When we feel powerful, we speak more slowly and take more time.
We don’t rush. We’re not afraid to pause.
We feel entitled to the time we’re using.”
When you use the time given to you as though you are deserving and in full control of it, you will automatically be seen as a credible speaker.
Nervousness in the speaker excludes the listener. Whereas, confidence in the speaker gives him greater control over the listener. You are seen as a steady person who is well-versed with their content.
To Sum up
Now that you have a greater grip on this problem, you need to make sure you put in efforts to practice these hacks and make them into a habit.
Like most things in life, slowing down your speech will require you to step out of your comfort zone. It won’t come easily, but with enough practice, it will be well worth your while.