I recently received a comment from a fast talking viewer who took issue with my position that a fast rate of speech is not beneficial for clear communication. The viewer’s opinion was that the ability to talk fast demonstrates an impressive command of the English language and is therefore desirable.
The assumption that talking fast is a sign of fluency does make sense at first glance, but in my experience it’s rarely beneficial, especially for foreign speakers of English. For one thing, fast talking makes you prone to mumbling, so you actually end up being less precise and less accurate than you could be, and the clarity of your communication suffers unnecessarily.
Also, when you talk fast, you tend to use a more narrow pitch range, so your speech becomes more flat and less expressive and therefore less engaging, Fast talk will make your voice seem thinner and weaker because a fast talker isn’t using much breath, isn’t opening their mouth very far, and vowel sounds are getting clipped, and all of those things tend to diminish the strength of your voice.
Finally, when you talk fast you put more pressure on yourself, so talking fast can actually increase nervousness. So, the overall effect of a fast rate of speech is that you have less impact on your listeners. When you talk fast people have trouble understanding what you say, you’re not as engaging as you could be, and your message doesn’t sink in and make a deep impression
But who’s to say what constitutes fast-talking? Everyone thinks their own rate of speech is natural and normal. Speech rate can vary greatly from one individual to the next, but there is some agreement that the average conversational rate of speech for American English ranges from 110-150 words-per-minute, though I’ve seen numbers as low as 80 words-per-minute, and as high as 300 words-per-minute. In this video I am speaking at about 130 words-per-minute.
My clients are always surprised at the difference between how they perceive their own rate of speech and how it actually comes across. Invariably they discover that what feels slow when they are speaking is not actually slow when they listen to the playback. They fear it sounds slow and boring then realize it’s just right, more Interesting and engaging. They worry about speaking too slowly when the more likely problem is talking too fast.
Here are some suggestions to cure fast-talking. Take more time to breathe in between phrases. The pauses will naturally slow your speech rate. Practice jaw relaxation and learn to open your mouth more when you speak. The time it takes for your jaw to travel that extra distance will slow your rate of speech. Make sure you’re fully enunciating vowel sounds. You won’t talk fast because your vowels create more space between the consonants. Financially, focus on your audience. You’ll naturally relax your speech rate when you’re caring for your listeners and not just spitting out the words.
Fast-talking is a significant barrier to communication so it deserves your attention as an area of personal and profession development. If you can change the behaviors that cause you talk to fast you’ll speak with more clarity, your voice will be stronger, your delivery will be more expressive, and you’ll feel more calm and controlled. You’ll naturally become a more powerful, engaging communicator and have more impact on those around you.
For more information about effective communication and strategies to address fast talking, click the link below and download the free booklet and video series, The Sound of Success.