How to Break a Bad Speaking Habit

bad speaking habitA speaking coach I know says 95% of her clients talk too fast. Which is a pretty understandable reaction to the often surreal experience of getting up in front of a bunch of people to speak.

But talking too quickly makes it harder for your audience to understand you. And your key points don’t “land” the way they should — the audience doesn’t have time to process them.

So to break this (and any other) bad speaking habit I recommend a technique whose name I completely made up but which is based on some of the things I learned in acting classes.

I call it “push the extreme to find the mean.”

A Lesson From the Acting World

In acting, for instance, if your performance is lacking emotional depth, the director will encourage you to go over the top — super angry or distraught or overjoyed.

You would never play it that way on stage, but the act of pushing yourself in that direction helps you break through self-imposed barriers, making it easier to add the right amount of emotion to your performance.

Applying This Technique to Your Bad Speaking Habit

I recommend this approach for any bad speaking habit, whether you speak too quickly or quietly or pace around the room nervously.

Whatever your issue is, practice the opposite when you’re preparing on your own. If you talk too fast, try speaking very, very slowly. Painfully slow. Like. One. Word. At. A. Time.

Of course, you would never want to go that slow in a real situation. But the act of taking yourself to the opposite extreme will “pull” you back in the right direction. It will re-set your normal state so you’re slower (and better) than when you started.

The same principle applies if you’re too quiet. Do the opposite: SHOUT IT OUT LOUD. Too fidgety? Stand frozen like a statute. Manic gestures? Lock your arms in place.

Keep At It

When you find yourself relapsing, go back to the slow talking. Practice, practice, practiceKeep working it until a solid, deliberate pace becomes your new habit.

It’s not going to happen overnight, but you should see progress each time.