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Slow and steady wins the race: here’s how to get people to listen


by Colette Sexton
03rd Apr 2018
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Colette Sexton, news correspondent at The Sunday Business Post, on the art of speaking slowly.

It’s a habit of Irish people to speak quickly but if you find people look confused while you speed-explain a story it might be time to slow things down. Many people feel uncomfortable speaking and therefore rush through conversations but speaking too quickly causes several communication issues.

It can make you seem anxious, nervous and lacking in self-confidence. It can give the impression that you do not care what the other person is talking to you about. It can imply that you are not authoritative or afraid you will be cut off. If you don’t stop to take a breath you can end up with a weakening voice mid-sentence. Worst of all, it can stop you getting your message across at all because if the listener loses you mid-flow it will be impossible for them to pick up the conversation again.

You might think that this does not apply to you, but often people are too polite or do not want to appear to slow themselves by asking a fast-speaker to slow down their pace. This means your message can get lost, the listener feels annoyed and a lot of time gets wasted.

If you want to slow down your speech, there are a few tricks and tips.

  1. Pause.

When rehearsing a speech, take a one-second pause for commas in sentences and take a two to three-second pause at full stops. But also pause when you are asked a question. Really think about your answer, instead of rushing into it in a bid to fill empty space.

  1. Technology

There are a lot of apps out there that can help with pacing and timing and are particularly useful for presentations or interviews. Try Metronome Beats, which keeps you on tempo to stop speaking too quickly or too slowly. Also try recording your conversations and listening back. Most people hate the sound of their own voices but it is the only way to figure out how your message is coming across.

  1. Reduce the content

Often in presentations people try to cram in too much content to the allocated time and end up speed reading. It is uncomfortable to watch and means that instead of telling the audience everything, they actually end up learning nothing.

  1. Practice makes perfect

Every conversation you have whether it is with your local butcher or a CEO of a multinational corporation is an opportunity to improve on your speech. You will not see instant results. Changing habits when it comes to speech takes time but it is worth the commitment.