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Recently my employer (staff and supervisors) has given me feedback that I speak really fast -- and they gave their best impressions of what I'm doing and how it sounds to them.

I know I can speak really fast, due to high levels of anxiety.

Is there an effective way to slow down my speech, so that I can be heard and understood better by my colleagues and supervisors?

A bit of context to add: My doctor has discouraged the idea of adding anti-depressants to my daily meds which I already take for epilepsy / seizures. He's aware of my high levels of anxiety.

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    The only thing that comes to mind is just practicing. Talk to yourself in a mirror, record yourself, listen to yourself, practice talking to a friend or family member and explain you're trying to become a more effective communicator. Anxiety happens because you're thinking too much about the listener and worrying too much about the negative responses they could give you (I've had anxiety too). This is far from reality of normal conversations. – user82352 Feb 6 '20 at 5:24
  • @Upper_Case I've removed that paragraph in order to keep the question more focused - thanks. – user114306 Feb 6 '20 at 17:42
  • The issue isn't so much about fast speaking but more so that you need to practice your active listening skills. One other important thing is to be confident in yourself which will take time; I know, easier said than done. Once you become confident then your speech will auto-tune. – MonkeyZeus Feb 10 '20 at 19:37
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You don't have to consciously try to slow down. What you have to do is interact with the people you are talking to, instead of just talking.

As you make points in your talk, look at the listeners. Look at their reactions. If they aren't reacting, pause and wait for some response: a nod, a question, etc. By doing this you'll learn to deliver information at a rate that the listeners can absorb.

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I know what it feels like if someone speaks way too fast. It is hard to follow because a lot of information comes to you in a short time and words are likely spoken unclear if someone speaks really fast.
In these cases I thought at least they could make a short break every now and then, it would give me some time to sort out the many words a little better. That could be a first step for you. The breaks might help you as well.

Is there an effective way to slow down my speech

Turn on the TV or radio, find a show with people talking in a speed that you find suitable and repeat sentences in the same speed as they do.
You can also look for speeches to which you have found or noted the exact text, then you can practice to repeat sentences synchroneously to the person.
Or you find a song in an appropriate speed.
You can listen to other people in real life and repeat what they say in your mind, but you should be careful to not speak loud or make them notice you listen to them ;-)

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    This was essentially what I was going to write, but with an extra suggestion to record yourself speaking. Comparing that recording to TV or radio speech might be easier than trying to remember your normal speaking pace and compare it to someone else's. – Upper_Case Feb 6 '20 at 16:46
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I would take the following steps:

Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, you may need to just buckle down and practice talking slowly. When you've got a whole lot of information in your brain and you feel the need to get it out, human speech can seem like a frustrating bottleneck. But you have to keep in mind that even if you talk fast, that doesn't mean people are able to process as fast as you can talk. And talking (in the workplace at least) serves no real purpose unless it's heard, and understood.

Secondly, Ask your coworkers for feedback. When they tell you you're talking too fast, stop and have a conversation, versus just letting them talk. Ask them what, specifically, would be helpful. They may simply say "talk slower" but if they're going as far as mimicking how you talk, they may be willing to think up some specific suggestions. Maybe they will suggest you put your thoughts in writing in an email, or something else. Whenever you get corrective feedback, it's always a good idea to ask for clarification if you feel the feedback is not easily actionable.

Thirdly, consider pausing before you speak and allowing yourself a second to collect your thoughts:

  • What do I feel like I need to say?
  • Why is this message important for my audience?
  • How can I streamline my message to make it easy to understand?

I find this useful, personally, because I am sometimes accused of not just being a fast talker, but also of giving so much context and backstory that I lose my audience before I've even gotten to the point. Sometimes when I pause and think, I realize I can get my message across with a sentence instead of a paragraph. And, often, I've found that when people accuse someone of talking fast, they also mean that the person delivers too much info at once and it can't be processed. So, shortening what you say can be one way of addressing complaints of talking too fast.

Finally, consider interacting with your audience, instead of just talking to them. Watch their facial expressions and non-verbal cues. But, importantly, make your message interactive. If you feel like you need to blurt out several paragraphs about an issue with the Jones project, compare these two approaches:

Hey Boss, I was working on that deployment issue with the Jones project and while it was compiling I looked at our issue tracker for some input on the bug and I saw that the ... (and so on, for two paragraphs, without pausing)

versus,

Hey Boss, are you up to speed with the Jones Project?

(pause, and let your boss respond).

I wanted to talk about the deployment issue, because I'm having a problem with X.

(pause again, and wait for acknowledgement).

When I tried X, it failed like this. Have you seen that failure before?

The key to this approach is breaking up your message into short sound bytes and actively soliciting at least an acknowledgement that the listener is following you. Or, even better, ask them something and wait for their response. This way, you can have more of a back-and-forth versus just hitting someone with a giant wall of text.

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This is exactly my problem! Being average by whatever criteria you choose the only thing that falls out standard distribution is how fast I'm talking. And in the past I also was approached and asked to talk slower.

What helped me is not talking slower but saying fewer things. I've just realized that if I'm analyzing a bit what I'm going to say and what's worth saying - I just being both more effective (that is, expressing what I wanted to express and being hear with less effort) and less annoying.

So, be succinct, not necessarily slower. And don't take any drugs to solve this issue only. Like never do this )

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I can share from my experience. I managed to slow down to the point that occasionally I am told to speed up.

Unlike what others have said, you need to practice. The most important thing for the beginning is to be able to listen to yourself and "measure" the speed of your speech. You will need to train about it, it will not come easily at the first attempt.

While "measuring" the speed of your speech, you might become aware of the movement of your tongue and of your lips. Even though it will feel unusual at the beginning, you can use it to your advantage, to learn to pronounce more clear, while slowing down.

You will be able to adjust properly only after you are able to do that.

In the meanwhile, try to talk slower to the people, even if you do not know if the speed of the speech is appropriate.

You need to be patient. And keep practicing. Also, speaking faster sometimes is not a bad thing. Or, if it is not good, you need to remember that it can happen to anyone.


Also, you need to assess your listeners, if they can take higher talking speeds. Some people can cope with any talking speed, others need you to slow down.

It is especially important to slow down speaking when the listeners do not use natively the language you use - because they might need to translate before they can understand.


high levels of anxiety

Well, that is a good topic. It might be the real cause of your fast-talking issue.

My best idea is for you to find a good coach / specialist / psychologist / trainer to work out the cause of the issue and improve your life. I did such things some years ago (with a different topic) and in a few weeks it worked some small miracles.


My doctor has discouraged the idea of adding anti-depressants

I incline to agree to your doctor. Such medicine should be used as a last resort, when nothing else works, and when the person's life (tends to) become more or less a disaster.

Also, you might want to discuss with your doctor about some more tests, which can affect (induce) your anxiety. It might be related to lifestyle (e.g. the colors in your home, the music that you listen to...), to the food you eat (maybe you need extra vitamins, minerals...), or a large variety of (other) factors.

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