How To's

Press Pause & Slow the Hell Down

Press Pause & Slow the Hell Down

Entrain with Your Own Rhythm

The world spins ever faster and before the pandemic, we rushed to keep up. Somehow “speed” got included in life’s aspirational trio – “bigger, stronger, faster.”

Over the years I tried to keep up, really I did. To swim with the big boys. To be an impressive, efficient, sleek machine. But my little fins are not built for speed. I think I’m more of a meanderer. I like the scenic route and I like to ponder. One needs time, for a good pondering. And the only way to do that is to press Pause & slow the hell down.

(Click Here to listen to me briefly talk (1.35mins) about slowing down, as a great way to handle speaking nerves, as part of an interview series with the delightful Doreen Downing. To listen to the whole interview and 19 other anxiety speaking experts, Click Here.)

To continue, when everything barrels toward you so fast, it’s overwhelming. You end up reacting, rather than responding. Sometimes, this means you find yourself corralled into a direction you didn’t choose or want. But somehow, it happened and you just got swept along… Your Honour. This is a kind of entrainment, losing yourself in the rhythm of someone else’s urgency.

I discovered something wonderful and simple some years ago. It doesn’t require years of university study, half a million dollars or a life time of sitting on your bottom in a drafty cave. It is the antidote to an overwhelming life.

So, what is it?

Press Pause & slow the hell down.

Please excuse my fruity language. But while I’ve passed the point of exasperation, I always have time for exaggeration. A bit of drama keeps things playful and interesting.

The Virtues of Slow

We’ve all heard the wonders of slow food and slow travel and for years I’ve wondered, how do I market, “Slow Talk”. Or, “Slow Speech.” Or, “Slow Communicators”. I take it you see the problem? The phrasing is neither attractive nor evocative. In fact, it’s rather off-putting.

“Darling, what do you want to be when you grow up?” 

“A slow talker, mummy!”

“Slow Talk” doesn’t promise the delights of lingering eye contact, meaningful gestures, powerful, heartfelt words. It doesn’t suggest the tapping into presence or the results of provocative pondering. It just sounds, well, kind of… slow. 

And have you heard how fast people speak these days? Unless you are from Texas, I only catch about half what people under thirty are saying.

For years I’ve yearned to teach wait staff and air plane attendants to speak so that you can actually understand them. Is that not the point of speaking? To communicate an important idea or share information? Truly, how does “seatbelt… lunch… evacuation …desert”make any useful sense to anyone, especially in an emergency? Well, I guess if you throw Imodiumin there, it could become quite meaningful.

It seems to me, that we currently inhabit of world of quantity. How much you have, is more important than who you are. But when you pump out the words faster, they lose all definition and all meaning. And what do people do, when overwhelmed or unable able to understand information? They put on a blank smiley face and think about, lunch.

In a nutshell, pausing and slowing down is about quality of human interaction. Quality, not quantity. 

The act of showing up, actually being there in mind, body and spirit is an endangered species. We love to visit it in the zoo, gosh isn’t it a cute idea?But why not take it home and try it out next time you are in conversation, doing the Zoom or speaking to a bunch of people?

How To Slow Down & Not Feel Weird

If you are a naturally fast speaker (as many of us are), then be mindful of your pace and ensure your words do not tumble insensibly from your lips onto deaf ears. Feel free to be yourself. Just remember to throw in some pauses between sentences and have a little rest between ideas. Look into people’s faces to find out if you need to adjust your pace or egad, you could ask them directly.

“Is this clear? Am I speaking too fast? Should I repeat, that last bit?”

A good way to practice finding the most effective pace for you, is to read out loud. If you are unsure of where to pause, stop or flourish dramatically, simply follow the structure of the written version.

As a guide, pause a little where there are commas or when you wish to emphasise a word.

Take a longer break when you come to a full stop or wish to highlight the idea in the sentence.

Lastly, thoroughly enjoy a rest between paragraphs, ideas and introducing a whole new direction.

I say this often, but it really is important. Speaking out loud is for the benefit of others. Help listeners to understand you by giving them ample time to engage, digest and respond. And don’t forget that people may think faster or slower than you, English may be their second language or they could have been up all night with a screaming baby or hot flushes. Slower words equal deeper understanding.

Dare To Find Your Own Voice

Slowing down opens the doorway for being present. It gives your listeners and you, time to consider your next ideas and words. It allows you to be flexible, change direction and respond in the moment. Daring to slow down when you speak, opens up your world to quality communication. And slowing down is absolutely brilliant for the kind of incidental speaking that occurs in meetings or Q & A.

“Hey Susie/Mikey/Vu Lynn/ can you answer some totally unscripted, tricky questions from the group?”

“Umm, sure… why the hell not?”

And off you go, speaking a little more slowly, but with oodles more thought, choice, flexibility and mastery than you ever thought possible.

Press Pause & slow the hell down peoples. Dare to find your own voice.

© 2020, Geraldine Barkworth, Australian speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.