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I’m listening as fast as I can

March 20, 2014
Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

On a recent segment of the Today Show, an expert was reporting his findings on the controversial subject of global warming. The gentleman was knowledgeable and articulate. He seemed to have an in-depth grasp of this important topic and shared some thought-provoking insights.

There was only one flaw in the man's timely report. I could barely understand a word of it.

The problem wasn't due to complex information or to the mannerisms of the presenter. The problem was simply that the man was speaking too darned fast!

In recent years, I've noticed many folks, from television anchors to sales clerks, from doctors to computer technicians. all seem to have ramped up their speaking speed. I keep wishing folks came with a knob to slow their rhetoric to an understandable level.

When I brought up the subject of fast-talking with a group of friends recently, everyone agreed that we all seem to be hearing too slowly for this fast-paced world.

My pal Joe remarked, "On CBS last night, the anchor talked so fast I could barely assimilate the news he was reporting."

His wife Dottie remarked that she knows why folks on TV talk so fast. "They're just trying to keep us from changing the channels," she laughed.

The conversation convinced me this problem isn't my imagination. So I did some research into the fast-talking trend to see what the "experts" might have to say.

It was interesting to read that television anchors employ talent coaches to hone their delivery. But not all those who sit in the anchor chair go to the lengths of that extraordinary newsman, Walter Cronkite. I learned that Walter was so determined to reach his viewers that he trained himself to speak at 124 words a minute so he could be understood.

In fact, most folks normally speak about 1/3 faster than Cronkite. But there are people who work at talking at a rate of up to 195 words per minute.

Many of these fast-talkers are in the persuasion business. Used car salesmen immediately come mind.

But I've had conversations with others who seemed to think the faster they spoke, the easier it would be to convince me. That was one of the tricks our kids used in those long ago days of "it's not my fault" claims.

We could always tell the depth of the miss deed and the child's involvement by the speed at which it was reported. That became the equivalent of the Schenk lie detector test.

Others I've encountered who seem to talk on the fast track are folks who have a presentation to give and simply want to get it over with. I've been guilty of this one myself.

In my early public speaking days, I reasoned that the faster I blurted out my piece, the faster I could return to the anonymity of my chair. Unfortunately, no one in the audience gained anything from what I had to say since they could hardly catch the rapidly delivered message.

So, over the years, I've learned to slow down to make myself understood.

Now, if I can just get others to do the same, I won't miss so much of what's going on around me. Because, unfortunately, I just can't seem to listen any faster.

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