Jul 8, 2009

TRULY SPEAKING: How to be a More Confident Speaker (by Slowing Your Speed)

This week, I've been entertaining my 12-year-old twin nephews—who speak almost as rapidly as their mother and I did at their age. (I remember once asking a passing stranger, "Excuse me, do you know what time it is?" so quickly that he replied with all sincerity, "I'm sorry, I don't speak French.")

"I don't speak French" has been a running joke in my family for over 20 years, and it's one my sister and I often say to each other over her twin sons' heads. Excitement can have a lot to do with rapid speech pacing. But so can adolescence—and the lack of confidence it necessitates.

Here's a story about adolescent confidence that I relate with no irony whatsoever ... almost:

When I was about 12 years old, some fellow classmates and I were assigned the task of teaching each other the days of the week, months of the year, and numbers 1 through 50 in Spanish and French. One group of us acted as teachers and the other as pupils. The pupils were graded on how well they had learned the content, while the 'teachers' were graded on what techniques we'd employed to convey the lessons. My teaching partner and I received the highest overall grade, because we made sure to connect with each of our pupil groups based on the way they learned; we employed a variety of memorization tactics and emphasized the ones the students connected to individually. My own teacher was stunned that every single pupil I addressed rated me as very easy to understand. The natural confidence I felt during the assignment slowed my speech speed considerably!

Here are a few tricks to slowing down your own speech when you notice your pace is quickening:

(1) Pay attention to your pulse (too fast means you'll naturally start to slur words and stumble over pronunciations) and your breathing (shallow breathing is a bad sign for being heard well).

(2) Breathe from your diaphragm as deeply as possible (this YouTube video demonstrates the basics); also count to 3 between every sentence to institute pauses.

(3) Know that you know what you know. What you are saying comes from your own mind and experience, and therefore is absolutely right. The more confident you feel, the more confident you will sound as your speech pace slackens to match your mindset.

(c) KiKi Productions, Inc. 2009

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