Waste as much time as you need

I talk too fast. All my words come hurtling out at 100mph and collide with each other, collapsing in a cloud of incomprehension.

I also eat quite fast.

I walk quite fast as well.

I realised these sometime ago, particularly about me talking fast. For some reason, my words explode out of my mouth like a jack in the box. As I use this analogy, I realise there may be something behind it. I don’t speak a lot- to other people- I usually keep to myself. So could it be that being in the presence of others brings the words that have been bottled up…

Sometimes I talk so fast that I don’t think people understand me. I can speak calmly if I have to- formal events, talking to someone I’m trying to impress- but for the most part the excitement is too much.

A few days ago, I decided to do something about it.

I decided to control my speed and to measure my words carefully. I was further inspired by someone that I have been around for the past month or so. This person speaks calmly, even when tensed or upset. I hear every word. I like it. I decided to try it out, to form a new habit- speaking calmly.

So far, speaking slowly feels good and weird. It also made me realise a second- and more plausible- reason for my supersonic speed. I am afraid of wasting people’s time. I speak as if I have been allocated a time limit within which I must get my story out. I don’t want to exceed this limit and I spit out all my words. I feel as if I am wasting time, people are not going to sit around and listen for that long.I see the people listening to my story and I just want to get it out as soon as possible. Having their attention on me weirds me out a bit, watching their eyes on me is disconcerting.

Upon further prodding, I realise the root of this is my utter reluctance to inconvenience others. Say I am using the hand dryer in a public toilet and I see someone waiting to use it after me. Rather than take the time to dry my hands properly, I would feel the pressure to hurry up and start to rush, possibly even leave with damp hands. The odd thing is if the roles were reversed, I would tell the person to take your time oh don’t rush it’s fine. I watch people telling stories, taking their time to add irrelevant details, pausing to refresh their memories, not melting under the gaze of their rapt audiences. Where am I rushing to? Take your time.

To improve my speech, I have also made it a point of duty to check out how words are pronounced. As an avid reader, I know lots of words and phrases that I do not know how to pronounce. Sometimes I do not even know exactly what they mean. I just know how to use them because I must have seen them being used in text. Then when I try to use them in speech, I stumble because I realise I do not know how to pronounce them. This of course hampers the vision I have of me being a calm orator.

To myself: do not feel that you are wasting people’s time. Say what you have to say, and say it calmly. People will listen for as long as it takes. Rushing out your words makes you incomprehensible at times which may leave a worse impression than wasting people’s time. Measure your words carefully, do not be afraid to pause for a bit if need be. Enunciate properly, speak with grace.

In addition to speaking calmly, I also want to eat slowly, to savour each bite and each sip before swallowing. Maybe then I wouldn’t bite myself as much. One lesson at a time.