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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Put a Speed Limit on Your Rate of Speech

     Haveyoueverheardsomeonetalksoquicklythatitseemedeverythingtheysaidranalltogetherinonesentence?  Much like that statement, it was hard to listen to what was said.  You could barely follow the path of their conversation because much of what was spoken seemed jumbled and unclear.  For those of us who are fast talkers, having to slow down is as exciting as driving behind someone who's going slow in the fast lane.  We're a a bit annoyed that not everyone can appreciate the speed we do, and we feel that having to put on brakes frequently is like having to drive behind a postal truck.  We're doing a lot of starting and stopping, but we're not necessarily getting anywhere.  Nonetheless, fast talkers must be cognizant that our rate of speech can get in the way of our clarity of speech.  We have to remember that even though the thoughts are coming rapid-fire, we don't have to get them all out in 0-60 seconds.  We have to give the other person an opportunity to process what we just said.  Some people take longer than others so we have to take people's listening habits into consideration.
     Fast talkers falsely believe that we can "listen fast" too.  We need to think about that again.  Just like we tend to fumble over our words when we speak too quickly, we fumble when we listen too quickly.  We think we heard something one way, but it was actually meant another.  That's because the way it was presented was so rushed that we sped up our hearing to catch up with all that was being said.  But even though we were "hearing faster", that didn't mean our brains had caught up with our ears.  We heard words, but their meaning was lost on us.  We jumped to conclusions and judgment believing we knew what the other person was talking about even though they hadn't finished explaining.  Now...if you have a fast talker listening to a fast talker, there's so much speed flowing between the two that there's nobody slowing down enough to process any of this instant exchange.  Fast talkers sound breathless, rushed, frazzled, and a teeny bit out of control.  Almost as if they can't stop themselves.  Well, pump your brakes because here's some help for those of us who feel like we're on the Lowe's Motor Speedway of communication.
     I was a fast talker for a long time until I joined my local Toastmasters club.  If you're unfamiliar with Toastmasters International, it's a wonderful speaking organization that helps anyone who wants to be a better presenter.  I had been speaking publicly for years before I joined Toastmasters, but I hadn't realized all of the bad habits I'd picked up along the way.  Being a member of Toastmasters helped me to get the much needed feedback I desired so I could become a sharper presenter.  I was evaluated on numerous speeches throughout the years when I was a dedicated member, and I received constructive and valuable coaching from my fellow Toastmasters.  One of the most useful pieces of advice was "slow down when you speak".  I hadn't realized that I was a fast talker until it was brought to my attention.  Now that I'm aware, I make adjustments when I'm giving speeches, leading meetings, conducting small group coaching or in any situation where I have to share information that others need to hear.
     If you've been told you talk too fast, keep that information top of mind.  Then put a speed limit on your rapid pace.  Check out a local Toastmasters club to create new speaking habits.  And practice communicating with the same caution to speed that you use on the highway.  The slow listeners will thank you for it.