Was looking at Facebook this morning and saw a post from Judy Muller, who is in DC teaching scientists how to be better communicators. Good for Judy. She was a terrific reporter for ABC News and is now doing something that can only help our broken, suffering and increasingly inarticulate culture. She is teaching people how to talk, which can be pretty important if the person you are attempting to communicate with is for example…your doctor.
Increasingly, we are becoming a nation of “fast talkers.” There are days when I feel like I’m stuck in a Seinfeld episode, surrounded by fast talkers who babble on at high speed with no thought as to what they’re saying before it comes out of their mouths. Diction? Forget diction. Diction’s dead. Most people have no idea what it is. Or was, before they killed it.
If these people were driving a train, they’d go from L.A. to New York at full throttle, missing every stop on the route, leaving all their passengers behind and babbling to one another all the way.
I was afraid it was me, that I was in an early stage of some disease that was taking my mind. Fearing for my sanity, I increased my workouts at the gym. I then discovered others have the same complaint. There’s nothing wrong with them, either.
I sometimes have to ask a person I’m attempting to communicate with on the phone to slow down. It’s embarrassing to have to ask someone, “Would you please speak more slowly? I can’t understand what you’re saying.” Makes me feel ancient. Like I need to slap on a fresh pair of depends before heading out for more polident and a case of Ensure with a box of straws so that I won’t dribble all over myself while watching the Andy of Mayberry reruns and the bowling tournament on the farm channel.
It may be embarrassing, but just asking people to slow down usually works. Once alerted to their condition, a fast talker will usually slow down to the point that the rest of us can understand what he or she is saying until the end of the call, when they fall back into their old pattern and begin speeding again.
Generally, it tends to be younger people who are the fast talkers. My wife thinks it’s because they grew up texting and have no patience for the spoken word. No skill for using it, either. Even some scientists apparently. I hope Judy can help.