Thursday, 5 November 2015

Speaking Speedily - Bad For Business

Does your work involve speaking to very young or senior listeners? Do they sometimes seem confused or do not follow instructions well? Whether you sell, teach, tend or manage them, these listeners are sometimes unable to understand your messages.
First, be aware of the noise level in the background. Close doors, turn off televisions, say the person's name and wait until you have his full attention.
Second, learn to talk more slowly. People speak quickly often for one of three reasons. First, others around them speak quickly, so they think this is normal. Sometimes ethnic or corporate culture rewards fast talkers. In some companies, employees say they must speak fast to get colleagues or supervisors to listen. Third, sometimes fast talking is a sign of a speech impairment, Speech impairments that include fast speech include cluttering, certain types of dysarthria, and tachylalia.
In a elegant study entitled Speech Comprehension Difficulties in Older Adults: Cognitive Slowing or Age-Related Changes in Hearing by Schneider, Daneman and Murphy, published in the Psychology of Aging, the authors concluded that that our sensory system may be causing cognitive declines. In other words, our hearing system works less efficiently as we grow older. Young children also need to learn to understand fast speech.
In order to learn to speak slower, you need to understand why you speak fast. For example, if you speak fast because everyone in your company does, try speaking slightly slower and see what happens. Is the assumption that the others will not listen really accurate? Is it more important to speak faster - or to be understood clearly? A client who talks to people who are under stress recently reported that "People understand me better when I speak slower. They don't have to ask me to repeat."
Learning to speak slower is hard work. It involves constantly monitoring your speech while talking, to determine if it is slow or fast. Specialized equipment and new training procedures can be effective in many cases. Intensive training in an "immersion" type approach has been effective in a small pilot project. The exact type of training needed depends on a learner's situation.
There are several types of speech impairments that result in faster rates of speech. Examples include Parkinson's Disease and cluttering (a type of fluency disorder). A qualified speech pathologist should be consulted for an assessment in those situations. Many physicians are also aware of the significance of various speech patterns.
One self-help approach that can be taken is posting a measurable goal for speech rate where the learner can see it. For example, "I will speak at a relaxed rate during the staff meeting today".
Speaking at a slow rate of speech helps to calm upset listeners. Sales people may be more successful if they match their customer's rate of speech, which gives the impression that the two have something in common. If the material is technical, though, or the audience is either more mature or very young, it is better to speak slower, with many pauses, to allow the listener to think about the information.
An unknown sage once said, "It doesn't matter how much you say. What matters if how much the listener understands." Speaking slowly makes sense today!
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