Learning How to Control Your Fast Rate of Speech

Talking too quickly is one of the most common behaviors that can discount professional speaking skills. Studies show that people who speak too quickly appear cluttered and unorganized and are not judged as competent or polished. An out-of-control rate of speech hinders the quality of your message as listeners are forced to work harder to understand. In addition, an error in pronunciation is more likely to occur because your speech articulators are tripping over one another as they attempt to produce sounds. Speech rate along with melody (i.e., intonation) are the two key factors that influence an individual’s spoken language. If your rate of speech is too fast, it must be addressed if you have the goal of smooth and clear speech.

Typical Communication Problems that Occur with a Fast Rate of Speech

You are perceived as nervous and less confident.

You appear unorganized and poorly prepared.

It is difficult to arrange your thoughts and ideas while speaking.

You are more likely to use “filler” words such as “umm, like, ya know” which discount the quality of the message.

Control over your speech melody is lost and replaced with a staccato, choppy or monotone rhythm. It is not possible to speak with melody and have pitch changes while speaking with a fast speech rate. The result will be monotone speech with articulation errors.

You are more likely to mispronounce words or delete specific sounds and syllables that compromise crisp articulation and diction.

You create unfortunate communication breakdowns because when speech is too fast and loud the listener’s brain tunes it out. It is exhausting being forced to listen to uncomfortable speech patterns. This creates the potential for miscommunication, lost opportunity or decreased credibility.

When your rate of speech is too fast, listeners have to struggle with processing the information and often have to fill in their own gaps when information is missed, increasing the likelihood of a communication breakdown. This is a detrimental speech habit when presenting valuable information, negotiating or trying to persuade in the business world. To be perceived as trustworthy, competent and well spoken, managing your rate of speech is critical.

You can learn how to control your fast speech rate with strategies. Once you have identified a strategy you like, practice it with your drill work, speech notebook and Speech Triggers to transform this important skill into habit. You must be effective with your selected strategies and set yourself up to internalize these skills to be successful at the conversational level. It simply is not enough to say, “Well, I’ll just slow down.” Haven’t you already tried that? To be successful with rate of speed and intonation you must remind yourself to use a strategy that will work best for you and practice it for at least three weeks for it to begin to feel natural.

Strategy Training for Controlled Speech Habits

1. Speak Using Intonation, Particularly the Staircase Approach

Mastering the skill of intonation and speech rhythm will also complement your speed because you will be speaking with controlled pitch patterns and phrases. Your speech articulators will also be in a better position to follow through and say all of your ending sounds. When you use the Staircase Approach for intonation while practicing with one of the strategies presented below for speed, your overall speaking rate and articulation will sound clear, professional and you will be perceived as well spoken.

2.Feel Your Articulators Touch

Control your rate of speech by feeling your articulators make contact with one another. Your articulators are your lips, teeth, tongue, jaw and facial muscles. When speaking, feel your lips and jaw move as they touch, as well as your tongue contacting your teeth and jaw. The purpose of this strategy is for you to feel and notice the tactile sensation from your mouth while speaking. If you cannot feel the tactile sensation in your mouth from your articulators while talking, then you are speaking too fast. Take a moment to feel the contact in your mouth from your different articulators. Using this strategy will significantly help you reduce your speed. To demonstrate the amount of sensation that can be noticed, count from one to four and feel what your articulators are doing.

One Your lips puckered and touched each other.

Two Your tongue touched the backside of your upper teeth.

Three Your tongue tip moved between your teeth.

Four Your top teeth touched your lower lip.

The objective is to notice the tactile feedback or sensation you feel from your articulators moving. If you can be aware of this sensation while speaking, your rate will automatically slow down . Feeling your articulators touch is a good internal strategy to slow your rate of speed. Give this strategy a chance.

3. Say Every Sound in Every Word as You Travel Down the Staricase

When speaking, concentrate on producing every sound in every word. Think of saying all of your sounds, particularly the ones at the ends of words. Be certain to say every sound in multi-syllable words. Give yourself the “mantra” of ” say every sound in every word ” as a way to prompt yourself to use this strategy. When this technique is used you are more aware of your articulators (i.e., lips, tongue and jaw) moving at a controlled rate so they do not trip over one another during connected speech. This strategy will assist you with slowing down your rate of speed while improving your overall articulation.

4.Hold your Vowel Sounds Longer

Many speakers who have a fast rate will often cut the duration of “long” vowel sounds too short. You want to get your message out fast so you chop the longer sounds. American and professional speech has both long and short vowel sounds that need to be said correctly to avoid sounding choppy to your listener. Be sure you hold your vowel sounds, especially the long ones, for the appropriate amount of time.

5. Match your Rate with Another Speaker

Be aware of other people’s speech habits and identify other fast talkers. Then, find people who speak at a controlled and pleasant rate. When you can identify fast talkers and people who have a pleasant rate your awareness of your own speech behavior will be significantly improved. Think of family members, co-workers and friends and identify those who are fast talkers and who are not. Write down the three fast talkers and controlled speech talkers in your speech notebook for improving your own awareness.

When you have an opportunity to speak with someone you feel is a good speech model, match your speaking rate with his or her speed during conversation. You may feel like you are speaking too slowly. You are not! Remember, you are the fast talker and need to slow down. If this new strategy feels funny or convoluted then you are probably doing it correctly!

A very important speech note : While practicing these speech strategies you may feel you are speaking too slowly and sound weird. Don’t worry, you’re not. Remember your style of talking is too fast. If this new speed and style feels odd, you are doing it correctly. It may feel strange at first because it is a new behavior. Your old behavior of speaking too fast interfered with the quality of your speech and professional image. Keep practicing and it will begin to feel natural. When you are practicing with your speech notebook and Speech Triggers, speech rate is another skill to rehearse for improving your communication skills.