Main menu: Home Tube Challenge Underground : USA Living in America 50p iPod Music

Mind the pace

A few months back, I lectured at a training session at work, where afterwards a woman came up to me to complain that she didn’t have any problem with the subject that I’d talked about, or the changes that had been presented to her, her main gripe was the fact that she had trouble keeping up with me – because I talked too fast.

Welcome to the deep south, where the tomatoes are green, confederate flag bumper stickers can still be seen, and you’re breaking a verbal speed limit if you dare to go faster than ten words per minute.

I didn’t really think much of it, until yesterday where in the space of one day I had three separate people in different situations tell me that ‘I spoke too fast’. This could be tricky as I’m taking a class at the moment which ends up in a few weeks with a recital – and one where verbal communication is quite important.

But then I thought about it a bit and realised that I’d always been this way. Some motherlanders also had trouble keeping up with my lexical stream of noises, but now I’m realising that it probably happens a lot more here, and people (nice as they are) don’t always tell you. Maybe that’s where a lot of my communication issues stem from (but that’s another story).

And I’m pretty sure that it’s all because of my stutter. The stutter that developed – if I recall – when I was about eight years old. It’s still sometimes evident today over twenty years later, and so if I can’t get out the the sentence “Would you like a cup of tea?” then I’ll say “I’m making some tea, would you like one?” instead because it’s so much easier to say.

One of my more personal and embarrassing memories (and thus perfect blog fodder) is when I went on cub scout camp one year. I was about 10 or 11 years old. And all the parents had come to see off their kids onto the bus before we got shipped away for a week. I was standing there in my little grey shorts (feeling like an idiot to begin with), when I turned to one of my friends and stuttered something out.

My dad who was close by, did what you’d hope any father would do – help his child out, but with unfortunate consequences. “Slow down Geoffrey, slow down” he said in an attempt to make me track back and help me get my words out more slowly. But the damage had already been done. Camp turned into a week of hell where I was routinely mocked with the phrase ‘Slow down Geoffrey’ by everyone else – including one of the group leaders at one point, and so I’d buried that memory away until last night when after the third speedy accusation it popped back into my head and brought it all back again.

So I got over my stutter in the end by talking faster. I discovered that if you get the words out quickly, you have less chance to stumble over them. If I’m then additionally enthusiastic, excited or wound up about something, then it adds a percentage of speed to making it even harder to translate my garbled noises.

There’s only one other person in the whole of Charleston that I’ve met who’s had a stutter. It makes me wonder if in the land-of-the-slow-speaking, if it does actually help with issues like that, even though that’s inverse logic to my fast-speaking mantra. Who knows?

I’m making a concerted effort to speak more slowly today. I hope you all appreciate it.

12 responses to “Mind the pace”

  1. Wayne says:

    As a Brit in a non-English speaking country, it bugs me when people don’t bother adjusting their speech when they
    speak to a non-native speaker. It works both ways (ie not just Germans talking in German to non-Germans) but obviously
    I notice it more then. Mind you, because of that, I am more sensitive to the needs of Germans when I speak English
    to them, and despair when other English speakers – especially those with ex-pat experience like me – speak too fast
    or not clearly, and use slang or jargon that will just confuse most people.

    OK, not much to do with your post, seeing as you’re supposed to be talking the same language and all that, but I was
    so excited to be the first to comment… 🙂

  2. almost witty says:

    I have many of the same problems, although I blame mine on wanting to emulate Ben Elton from the 1980s when I was an impressionable youngster.

    Everyone has told me recently that I tend to gabble away nine-to-the-dozen – which is not good when you’re going for interviews and the like. But then I tend to gabble away on forums and blogs too. Like here. 😛

  3. Rudi says:

    Geoff, I hear you! In the northeast United States (especially in the greater New York-Boston area), the cadence of speech is a lot faster than in any other part of the country. When I moved to DC in 2003, the first thing I needed to learn was to slow down because the natives down here missed half of what I said. At one point, I recorded myself and played the recording to friends. While my diction was spot-on, I was speaking quickly.

    And the further south and/or west you go, the slower it gets. The “deep south” in the US is the slowest in terms of mean speech cadence. The midwest and Rocky Mountain west are slow, as well – a bit of a “cowboy cadence.” In the far west, California is slower the further south you go. Oregon and Washington tend to be quicker – more akin to the New England/New York pace.

    Good luck with the transition. It will seem painfully slow for a while.

  4. Paul says:

    Me, I tend to speak real fast! One thing Rebekah has said that if I couldn’t sign she wouldn’t have married me because I speak too fast to lipread!

    I also find myself in places, take Macdonalds for example. I rehearse in my head what I want to say, perfect. Its my turn next … I gabble it out and have to repeat it! Doh! Makes me feel real stoopid sometimes! Hey, ho I say.

  5. Ben says:

    Wot, No Spurs?

  6. Geoff's Mum says:

    I think you had the misfortune to inherit this trait from me. I did grow out of it up to a point at Secondary School, but found that going to Yoga classes and adjusting your breathing rate really helps. I am still told by my nearest & dearest that (a) I talk too fast &(b) I talk too much! Over the years I have learned tricks to cover up deficiencies e.g. I am unable to begin a sentence with the letter ‘B’ ‘D’ or ‘P’. I always remember what Maggie Thatcher was told to improve her public speaking: speak Lower & Slower, try it. Anyway well done for the public speaking, it’s not easy.

  7. Sam says:

    I never noticed you had a stutter, or that you spoke especially fast. Mind you, I speak quite quickly, and you were probably trying to understand my mashed vowels so we never noticed the other’s garbled speech.

    By the way, I have to say this, I know you’ll appreciate it: I’m sat in the Newcastle newsroom, supposedly doing my job and who’s stood behind me?
    In my building!!!
    In my office!!!
    In his pink shirt what he always wears!!!

    I am ridiculously excited and don’t dare turn around 😉

  8. Sam says:

    By the way, I was always told to speak slower than sounded slow to me, and breathe more deeply than you normally would when you reach a comma, so you give your audience a chance to catch up, and you know you have enough breath for the next sentence.

  9. Ian Fenn says:

    Yep, you’ve always spoken quickly. Sam’s advice is good. It goes without saying that you should also listen to your mum.

Powered by WordPress