Q: There seems to be an increasing tendency for people to talk very fast both on the phone and in voice-mail messages. Especially when people have...

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Q: There seems to be an increasing tendency for people to talk very fast both on the phone and in voice-mail messages.

Especially when people have unique names, it’s tough to understand speed talking. Is there a way to diplomatically encourage people to slow down?

A: Pace of speech varies greatly among cultures, parts of the United States and even genders. We feel most at ease with those whose verbal speed is similar to our own.

If you can kindly let fast talkers know you have difficulty hearing quick speech, they’ll often help you by slowing their pace. Try the following strategies:

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1) On your voice-mail message, either ask people to spell their names or speak slowly when giving their names and phone numbers.

2) Also on your voice mail, it doesn’t hurt to add: “Even if you believe I have your number, please leave it again.”

3) Tell customers, clients and people who frequently call your voice mail that you’re often picking up messages out of the office.

Make it clear that speaking slowly and clearly leaving a name and phone number will earn a prompt return call.

These days, when people can take a week to call back, the promise of a quick response is motivational.

4) Rather than asking a speed talker to repeat an unusual name, try something like: “Could you please spell it for me?”

Keep in mind that our speech is a reflection of our state of mind.

Many people feel like they’re trying to drink from a fire hose in lives where there’s never enough time.

In turn, when people talk to us, their pressure to get out data quickly can feel like they’re aiming the fire hose at us.

When we remember that people usually don’t do annoying things for personal reasons, we’re more likely to speak and behave in ways that focus on getting what we want, rather than blaming.

The frenetic pace of modern life isn’t likely to slow down, but the people you interact with will — if you ask effectively.

The last word(s)

Q: After reading your column for years, I’ve learned to say “No” to things I don’t want to do. My career is thriving, but I’m feeling guilty. Should I stop?

A: No. Don’t say no to “No.” Guilt fades with time.

The resentment of self-sacrifice gets worse with time.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to: www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube