Do you speak a mile a minute? Do people tell you you talk too fast? Are people advising you to slow down your speech? Do you ever get the glaze over?
There are people out there who speak so beautifully. Their pace seems perfect. They’re engaging and charismatic. But here you are, Speedy Gonzales, confusing people left & right.
As I am sure you are aware, people listen to one thing at a time, and their attention drifts if they can’t understand what you’re saying. If you speak too quickly or talk over them, they will get confused and give up on you.
But don’t worry! You can learn how to speak slower. 🙂
When you learn to slow down your speech the right way, you’ll find people are very engaged when you’re delivering your message. So let’s learn the right way, shall we?
Dive right in!
Slowing Down Your Speech Isn't Slowing Down Per Se.
Bear with me here. You can’t just slow down the tempo of your speech and be an amazing communicator. You want to think about speaking at a normal rate.
So, yes, you’re talking too fast so people aren’t understanding your message or following your call-to-action.
But merely slowing down the record (Remember records? They came in different speeds?) isn’t going to help your listeners’ to process your message and find you credible.
Learning how to slow down your speech the wrong way.
In grad school for Speech-Language Pathology, we learned that using a metronome with our fast-talking clients was the solution for them. That never sat well with me.
I’m here to tell you that you most likely don’t have to slow down per se. When people slow down, they end…up…sounding…like…this. That’s crazy boring and ultimately ineffectual, and you’ll lose people’s attention quickly. So don’t listen to people who tell you to use a metronome.
Slowing down is not a solution,” says Rick Dale, executive director of the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, D.C. “People who say that don’t understand what’s happening.”
A typical listener has a conversational mode that allows speech to flow at about 150 words per minute. Listeners can handle that speed without being overwhelmed if you use pauses between ideas–pausing not only creates time for them to process but also gives listeners the impression that you’re relaxed and confident.
Speaking slower gets folks to process your messages easily
So how do we get people to process our information without sounding like we’re talking too fast? How can we get them to easily comprehend our message and follow our call to action?
Slowing down your speech involves the use of pauses–breaks in between phrases.
You know those people who convey their message clearly and effectively? They seem to have an executive presence about them. Somehow all their thoughts come out easily as words.
This didn’t happen by magic. Those incredible communicators learned and practice the techniques necessary to speak clearly and at the right pace–Not too fast, not too slow. The Goldilocks zone!
There are three things you need to do.
How to Slow Down Your Speech
Get What You Want With More Persuasive Speaking
I describe it in more detail below but here are the three things you’ll want to do to speak at a normal pace:
- Speak in bullets. Chunk up your information and separate those chunks with pauses. Doing so allows you to take a breath in & formulate your next bullet in your mind. This is a really great helper for eliminating filler words.
- Use a count of two or three on essential words and a count of 1 on non-content words.
- Vary your intonation. If you were to record yourself speaking on a conference call or during a meeting, you might be surprised to hear that you use the same length of time + volume on each syllable.
If you want to slow down, record yourself first.
You know I want you to record yourself! And I know you hate it! Everyone I talk to hates it.
You’ll record your tennis game and your piano playing to see where improvements are needed, but God-forbid you actually wanted to assess your communication skills! The only way to improve something is to find out what’s wrong!
What’s happening here that people are so sensitive about their communication skills they’d rather avoid dealing with them or even thinking about them? But I digress. Let’s proceed with the fast-talking.
How to Stop Being Interrupted and Micromanaged.
Speak slower using intonation
If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to record yourself, listen to the others in
the meeting with you. You could make it into a fun game. Are they fairly monotone? Is each syllable the same length & volume? Are they making their “and”s louder & more prolonged than the rest of the words in the sentence?
Here’s the deal: If you have one long run-on sentence and you’re talking pretty fast, people will have trouble processing, and after time check out. When you ask your best colleagues what they thought, they may say that you have to slow down. They’d be well-intentioned but misinformed.
You can slow down your speech when you hear the music.
You’ll want to think about the time you spend on each syllable. Just like when you’re playing music. You have whole notes and half notes and quarter notes.
Speech is music.
So do yourself a favor and don’t
Don’t put the emPHAsis on the wrong sylAble.
And let me tell you that this staccato intonation thing is so prevalent! People talk normally when they’re comfortable but as soon as they’re asked to speak in a formal setting they start talking fast and using an even-steven emphasis.
Here are the steps to using a varied intonation pattern. And another article on how to use intonation.
Slow down your speech using chunking
We’ve known about chunking information to help people’s memory and process data. When you use it in your speech you make it easier for people to process what you’re putting out there 🙂
So you most likely don’t need to say to yourself, “I have to slow down.” but would benefit from saying, “I need to speak in bullets and vary my intonation.
So yes, there’s a lot of misinformation about how to slow down your speech. Be sure not to use a metronome and do use chunking with a varied intonation pattern. Ensure the critical terms have a count of at least two and the “grammar glue” only have a count of 1/2 or 1.
Using chunking also helps eliminate filler words.
Learn to speak slower in your high-stakes situations.
It’s funny, the times we need our speech to be most clear and effective is during the situations that matter most. In order to slow down your speech during those times, you’ll have to work on the easier speaking situations first.
But another way to do it is to rehearse using your pauses & chunking before your important meeting or presenation.
Want to speak slower & at the perfect rate? The Voice Spa will train you.
The Voice Spa teaches you to be habitually relaxed in all high-stakes situations.
You’ll be ultra-confident and cool as a cucumber being interviewed on Bloomberg or GMA. You’ll be smooth as silk during a job interview or on shark tank 🙂
Next, you learn to use a concise speaking style. Then I teach you the techniques to being persuasive. I give you lots of practice.
You’ll learn to use a back resonance which gives you a very professional sound. Your voice will be so magnetic people will just do precisely what you tell them to do.
if you do your homework (it’s not brain surgery but requires some diligence), you’ll end up being an incredibly well-spoken persuasive person. You’ll still be you only more compelling and influential.
Natural Pace with Pauses
No matter if you are speaking to a friend or your boss, people prefer to keep the conversation flowing naturally. Don’t just blurt out what you want—naturally pause, wait for an interjection or the other person’s response. Only then, proceed to tell the next part of your story or message.
Watch this video of Ita Olsen: Why am I Not Automatically an Incredible Speaker
Do you speak too fast? In what situations does it happen most?
10 thoughts on “How to Slow Down Your Speech”
I have to remember this! Being a New Yorker this is tough for me, but I’m working on it!
I’m a New Yorker too!
Everything I’ve written in all of these articles I’ve done to myself! I used to be a crazy fast-talker, I used to use upspeak, the list goes on!
Everything you write is completely the opposite of what I’ve been taught. I’ve always tried to slow down and I thought I had to slow the beat. But actually all I have to do is pause! I’ll try it and let you know how it goes!
All helpful tips that I can incorporate into my own daily life. Chunking information is something I already practice when teacher but I had never known before to use a count of two or three on essential words and a count of one on non-content words.
Excellent advice! It sounds like chunking and intonation are key.
I took a speech class because I talk to fast and my coach had me sit there with a metronome and counted how many words I said per second. Ugh! Did not help me at all. Judging from this article if I had taken more than 1 session it would’ve done me more harm than good. I this makes more sense. ‘m going to try to speak in bullets. Thank you!
Yes, yes! That’s what I learned to do in Speech Pathology school–To use a metronome and that there should be a certain number of words per minute. It didn’t sit well with me even then. But if you figure out which words don’t give your listener too much information and make those words smaller and of course, make the important words bigger–that’s what saves you all that time!
Using the breath groups and pausing in between makes it so your listener can process what you’ve just said and you can formulate the next part of your message 🙂
Let me know if you need help!
I have finally acquired the intestinal fortitude to record myself. I’m getting into your schedule right away!
I see you there! Looking forward to meeting you! We’ll get you crystal clear & highly influential in no time!
People always tell me to slow down! I’ve even gotten people telling me to have my words go to a really slow beat. I tried it for a while but now people don’t even want to listen to me! They were like: you are not going properly. I was very confused but I now know what slowing down exactly means. It means leaving space for people to process! Thanks, mam!