Updated: May 5
The answer to how to speak clearly and stop mumbling seems to avail so many of us. We all want to feel confident when we speak, but there you are, midway through speaking, and someone says, ‘what did you say?’. It used to happen to me a lot. In fact, ever since I can remember, people seemed to struggle to understand me easily.
Why? Was it my pronunciation? Was it because I was too quiet? Was it because I spoke too quickly? Is it because my presentation skills suck? Is it something to do with my accent? Whatever the reason, not knowing how to stop mumbling meant that I lost confidence and started avoiding speaking. This was a mistake - a big mistake!
Speaking up to thrive at work especially is critical, right? So people perceived my silence as sanctimoniousness, insecurity, condemnation... the list goes on! And when I did speak, I struggled to shake off these perceptions, I felt disconnected from people and a vicious cycle ensued.
Clients of mine who, to varying degrees, share in this experience, express their frustration with not being taken seriously in meetings, their ideas not being valued, and even struggling to gain promotions or rise to the challenge of being promoted. "Why is it hard for me to speak clearly?" they ask - they feel stuck and don’t know what to do.
It’s not for lack of trying. Why is it that the knowledge that they are unclear and the desire to stop mumbling and speak clearly isn't enough to enact change? Why is it that it is worse in some instances and not others? Why is it that others seem to be able to speak clearly and confidently and not them?
For me personally, this ghost of the past still comes back to test me at times, but what has changed is that I now know my triggers and have successful strategies that enable me to speak clearly and enunciate well.
And in my coaching what I’ve discovered is that these triggers and successful strategies differ for each of my clients. There are no tricks. And if that’s why you’re reading this, not only are you reading the wrong post but you’re also looking for the wrong answers; your focus is too limited. It’s not to say that there aren’t proven, universal tools that can dramatically shift your thinking and enable immediate progress - there are. I don't mean boring and repetitive exercises for clear speech and articulation. There are actually techniques that have been around since the time of Aristotle; techniques that are the very foundations for effective communicators - something of a secret code. And unlocking this code can release ones full communicative potential.
But what IS exactly the same for anyone who wants to improve the way you speak, is the need for courage and commitment. It takes courage to keeping showing up and speaking up. To keep having the conversations, putting forward your ideas or concerns, making known your feelings. To allow yourself to transform beyond your limited sense of self.
And I hate to break it to you but endless tongues twisters, diction exercises and articulation drills are not going to break your habits and enable you to suddenly speak clearly and coherently. Mouth exercises for clear speech are pointless. They make you feel more in control because you feel like your are ‘doing something’ about the problem. It’s like going to the gym to get fit: unless you’re doing the right workout you’re not going to change anything. And sometimes that means asking for help, and sometimes that help isn’t what you expected and is challenging and takes humility to admit that you yourself haven’t got all the answers. But as long as you’re asking the right questions of the right person, the guidance you receive can get you unstuck and the journey to success looks genuinely achievable. If you have any questions, you can reach out to me here.