by Brandon Eckerd
I have recently become aware of a rather large problem. When I am talking to people, typically one-on-one or in a casual conversation, I tend to speak so quickly it comes out unclear what I am saying. I am not sure if this issue is a mechanical or mental issue, since I can hear myself perfectly. I understand what I am saying, but am ignorant to when other people don’t understand. It suddenly all made sense when people give me confused look or just nod along when I am saying something; it’s not as much as they don’t agree (although that is certainly true in some instances,) but rather they can’t understand what exactly I am saying.
Now that I am aware of the problem, I can work to improve. What bothers me is that I was never really called out on it. People always tell me to repeat things, but they never said that I wasn’t speaking clearly. Maybe they assumed it was a speech impediment (which I guess it technically is) and didn’t want to make me feel uncomfortable. Instead, I have been doing this for years without ever really catching on. I can only imagine how many networking attempts and conversations with the public went poorly because of how I was speaking.
I shouldn’t dwell on the past, but I suddenly feel incredibly embarrassed about how I speak and pronounce certain words. I wonder if I lost opportunities because I speak too fast and don’t articulate properly. I wonder even more how I sound in interviews when my words come out in a jumbled mess. It’s all very distressing.
Awareness and necessity are the impetus of change, and I know that to develop myself professionally I have to improve my speech. I imagine that it will be a rather long and difficult transition; I must now think about not only what I am saying, but also how I am saying it. It means I am going to have to slow down (a good thing) as well as choose my words more carefully (a better thing.)
I suppose that this was never really an issue with public speaking, since I have been complimented on my presentations. What I can take from this is that when I have to speak loudly, I sound clear enough for people to understand. It’s when I am trying to have a quiet conversation that things go wrong.
I only wish I knew about it sooner. It leaves me thinking about other things wrong with me I am unaware of, or even things other people aren’t aware of with themselves. It is a fine line between pointing something out and being insensitive. In the case of something that can potentially be changed, such as articulation, then pointing it out may be in the person’s best interest. I know it was certainly in my own.