Why You Talk So Fast (And How To Speak Slower)

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Do you find that you talk too fast? Maybe you speak a mile a minute, or your mouth can’t keep up with your thoughts.

Being a conversational speed demon and leaving your listeners in the dust with your rapid-fire speech is a more common problem than you may think.

Often, speaking too fast is a learned behavior from childhood. Some people grow up in families where the only way to get a word in and be heard is to talk loudly, quickly, and often over each other.

Others speak too fast because they tend to speak as they think rather than think before they speak.

Sometimes, speaking too fast or excessively may point to a mental health issue that needs to be addressed. For example, impulsive or pressured speaking can be a symptom of ADD or anxiety. Pressured speech is also a common symptom of mania in Bipolar Disorder.

Rapid speech may also be a product of anxiety or nervousness when you’re expected to speak to a group or talk to strangers. In that case, you may speak perfectly fine most of the time, but you struggle to get your words out correctly when you’re in that different setting. As a result, you may stumble over your words, backtrack, or correct yourself.

Whatever the reason why you talk so fast, there are ways to combat it and slow your speech down so that what you say is clear and easy to follow.

Faster Isn’t Better

One may think that speaking faster is better than speaking slowly. Unfortunately, fast speaking is often just as confusing to the speaker as it is to the listener. You may not be taking adequate time to consider how to articulate yourself if you’re a person who feels pressured to get your words out of your mouth and into the world. That makes it confusing to listen to you, complicating communication as the speaker and listener diverge from the subject.

Some people consider fast speaking more efficient, which isn’t accurate either. There’s a common saying in the First Responder field that “Slow is fast.” In that field, rushing too fast means you make mistakes that may cause much worse problems. On the other hand, if you watch EMTs or other emergency personnel work, you will see that they work quickly but pace themselves. Granted, speaking too fast will likely be far less serious than the work of First Responders, but the general sentiment is the same.

Other issues fast speakers may face include perceptions of their audience. People who speak fast may complicate their speaking by…

– Using too many filler words such as “like,” “um,” and “uh” while they speak. Filler words cause the listener to perceive a speaker as unsure or untrustworthy.

– Reducing the impact of speaking to the listener. For example, suppose you’re trying to inspire passion or generate an emotion. In that case, fast speaking can dilute those feelings because the listener doesn’t have time to process what they’re hearing.

– The speaker may come off as unprofessional, reducing their impact on the audience. This may also affect the perception of the speaker’s credibility. Many people associate pressured speaking with dishonesty. After all, we refer to that spoken hustle when someone is working an angle as “fast talk” because the hustler usually tries to keep their mark from thinking too much about it.

– The speaker’s tone may seem weak or inconsistent. People who speak fast often don’t have the time to consider the tone or delivery of what they have to say. This may affect the audience’s perception of the speaker.

As you can see, there are many reasons why you would want to improve your speaking skills. The good news is that there are ways you can change the habit and find ways to work around it.

How To Talk Slower

Different approaches may work to help you slow down your speaking. What works for you will largely depend on why you’re speaking fast in the first place. You may want to try some of the following strategies.

1. Ask your friends and family to interject if you are speaking too fast.

It’s often hard to tell when we are doing something unfavorable ourselves. Speaking fast is often a habit, and habits are too easy to fall back into since they are comfortable. Therefore, you may need extra help to get out of the habit and onto the right path. Ask friends, family, or other people you trust to interject and say, “Hey, you’re going too fast. Slow it down a bit.”

2. Pause to consider your pace before responding.

Many people feel pressured to respond immediately to a question or a comment. But guess what? You don’t have to! In fact, it’s helpful to take a few seconds to pause, consider the question or comment, articulate a response, and then deliver it. That lets you think about what is being said and how you will deliver the words.

3. Consider how fast you are speaking, then slow it down.

You may have the presence of mind or ability to consider how fast you’re speaking when you are. If you can do that, you can choose to slow yourself down if you feel like you are speaking too fast. Try to take a few seconds to consider how you’re speaking when in the flow of your conversation or presentation. Then, regularly remind yourself that if you want to speak clearly, slower is better.

4. Use a bottle of water.

A bottle of water helps you stay hydrated and keeps your throat fresh, but it can also be a great way to create natural breaks in your speaking patterns. If you watch public speakers, note how many bring a bottle of water to the podium with them. They will pause at certain points in their talk to take a drink, often allowing the audience to consider what they just said. You can use a similar strategy to slow down your speaking. Create a pause by taking a drink of water.

5. Create pauses in your communication.

People who speak professionally know that speaking is often a performative role. And like any performance, there are times when you need to do certain things. For example, you’re presenting your information in a specific order to be accepted and digested.

However, many don’t realize that pauses and breaks are often scripted into the performance. If you know you have a presentation coming up, you can schedule appropriate breaks at times when you want the audience to pause and think about what you said. You can take that brief time to check your notes or drink water to make it seem like the pause is natural and unplanned.

6. Focus on your breathing.

The rhythm of your breathing may help you meter out your speaking cadence. If they aren’t already anxious, people who talk fast may create an anxious state in themselves. One way to combat those feelings is by paying attention to your breathing so you can keep it slow and steady. In addition, considering your breathing when you pause in the conversation or presentation can allow you to refocus before you continue.

7. Address a mental health condition.

Sometimes, pressured speech may come from stress, anxiety, or a mental health condition. If so, then this problem may be something you need specialized, professional help with. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist if you feel like you aren’t making meaningful progress with self-help approaches like these. You may not be able to make too much progress without that additional help.

BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.

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About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.