Do you talk too fast? In our fast-paced, hectic, and often stressful society, many people tend to have this communication problem. While speaking quickly is not necessarily an issue in and of itself, some people do so at the expense of clarity, diction, and coherency, which may seriously inhibit effective communication.
Below are four common reasons why a person may speak too fast:
1. Some people talk fast because they’re thinking “a mile a minute” and are trying to keep up with their own thoughts. This is particularly true with many extroverts, who tend to “think as they speak” rather than “think before they speak.”
2. Some individuals speak quickly out of nervousness and anxiety—they increase their rate in order to get their communication “over with,” but at the expense of clarity and diction, resulting in mumbling or jumbled speech. This particular phenomenon may apply to introverts as well as extroverts.
3. Certain people naturally speak fast because they were socially conditioned to do so from a young age. For example, a child with rambunctious and highly vocal siblings may feel constant pressure to “speak quickly and speak right away” in order to get a word in and receive attention.
4. For those who speak English as a second or third language, if the rate of their native tongue is inherently faster than English, they may inadvertently speak English at the rate of their birth language, resulting in fast English articulation.
Regardless of the reason(s), many people who speak quickly may also be communicating ineffectively. Speaking fast without taking time to slow down or pause when appropriate may have the following, undesirable effects:
- Higher vocal pitch with less strength and power
- Lower clarity and articulation
- More “umm…s” and “ahh...s” (fillers)
- Reduced comprehension by the listener
- Reduced communication impact on the listener
- Important points in the message may be lost or de-emphasized.
- The speaker may seem less poised and less grounded, lacking gravitas.
- The speaker may be perceived as having lower credibility.
How can you slow your speaking rate and sound more composed? Below are four helpful tips, with references from my books: How to Improve the Sound of Your Speaking Voice and Ten Tips for Presentation Confidence and Reducing Nervousness:
1. Monitor your own speaking rate. When you notice yourself speaking “a mile a minute,” simply pause or slow down. Say to yourself or to the listener: “I’m speaking too fast. Let me slow down.”
2. Ask for reminders. If you know speaking fast is a habit of yours, it’s perfectly okay to let people around you know so, and give them permission to tell you when you’re speaking too quickly. Say something to the effect of: “I am a fast talker. Feel free to let me know, and I’ll slow down.”
3. Use bottled water as a prop. A simple “trick” to help get around speaking too fast is to have a bottled water next to you as you speak and drink from it regularly to create natural pauses. This works in social conversations, professional meetings, as well as public speaking situations.
4. Build pauses into formal communication. If you’re delivering a stand-up presentation or speaking at a group meeting, create cues on presentation slides or in meeting notes to remind yourself to pause. One easy way to do so is simply to stop between key points and ask the listeners if they have any questions.
For more tips on how to improve voice, speech, and communication, see references below.
© 2019 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violations may subject the violator to legal prosecution.
Ni, Preston. How to Improve the Sound of Your Speaking Voice. PNCC. (2016)
Ni, Preston. Ten Tips for Presentation Confidence and Reducing Nervousness. PNCC. (2007)
Ni, Preston. Relationship Communication Success for Introverts. PNCC. (2017)
Ni, Preston. Confident Communication Skills at the Workplace. PNCC. (2014)