Too Fast or Too Slow? Speaking to Get Your Idea Across | TechWell

Too Fast or Too Slow? Speaking to Get Your Idea Across


Have you ever listened to someone who talks so fast your brain can't keep up? I remember an IT director who talked so fast I could barely tell where one word ended and the next began. Somehow, he never needed to breathe. I thought maybe he was just eager to be done with me so he could move on to more pressing priorities. But no, he spoke just as fast to his peers and department members.

The other extreme is the fellow I met who spoke so slowly it was as if he were mentally rehearsing each word before revealing it to his listeners. Of course, some people speak slowly because English is not their native language and they're feeling their way. That's understandable. But people who speak like they've got all the time in the world can drive you crazy.

Fortunately, most of us are well between these extremes. Still, it's interesting how people speak at different rates, and there are lots of reasons for these differences, such as culture, upbringing, preference, and simply the way we're wired.

Of course, your speaking rate at any given moment can be influenced by numerous things, such as the topic, your level of mental fatigue, the complexity of your content, the pauses you insert and the pauses caused by listener reactions, and the emotional nature of the context. And when you give a presentation, you might speak slower or faster than you typically do. So, while an average speaking rate is somewhere around 130 words per minute, there's lots of room for variation.

At work, what's important is that if you speak too fast or too slow relative to what's normal in your environment, you may be annoying people and not even know it. Furthermore, you may be less effective at getting people to be open to your ideas, because people who talk fast may be seen as untrustworthy and people who speak slowly may be seen as slow-witted or boring.

Therefore, notice your speaking rate as it compares with that of your coworkers. If you're not sure how slow or fast you speak (or even if you are sure), you might record yourself reading a few minutes of material from a newspaper or magazine and play it back to gauge how you sound. You can easily calculate your words per minute if you want to.

If you determine that you speak too fast or slow, you can practice adjusting your speaking rate so that you no longer sound like you're off to the races or about to fall asleep midsentence.

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