I once wrote a post about how to suppress stammering where I gave practical steps that have been tested and confirmed to be effective. I have personally tried these too and I am confident they will really help you too.
In this post, I offer yet another approach to overcoming speech problems. Not everyone experiences chronic, perpetual stuttering like some of us did. Having to grow up stammering almost all through my childhood stages wasn’t so much fun. Several interventions were meted out, but not all of them were effective. The bright side is here I am with little or no stammering left in my tongue.
Aside from childhood stuttering that some people experience, many other speech problems are never strange to most people. We have all experienced some level of speech problems at different points, sometimes on stage, otherwise referred to as stage fright. Others experience speech problems at certain other conditions. However, overcoming stage fright will be a very extremely required for personal and career development.
The degree of severity of speech problems varies from individual to individual. Some people will have more trouble with it than others, but no matter how insignificant these speech problems may seem for different individuals, they can cause significant damages in certain scenarios.
For the most part, these tips I will provide shortly will help you over any speech problems you may be battling with currently. There are many common causes of speech problems and of course, these have solutions to them as well. I will approach the effective tips for overcoming speech problems by first talking about 6 common causes of speech problems. Then, thereafter I will talk about some additional and specific solutions to these speech problems.
6 Common Causes of Speech Problems
If you have ever tried public speaking, you will understand the woes of speech anxiety. In speech anxiety, you develop unnecessary fear while talking to a crowd of unfamiliar faces. Your confidence level drops drastically, especially if you are new to public speaking.
Sometimes, you might experience speech anxiety while talking to strangers, even though they do not make up a crowd. As frustrating as speech anxiety can be, I have good news for you. There are easy ways to overcome speech anxiety. You should get started now.
Before we get to the section where I write on the effective tips for overcoming these speech problems, a few short tips include prompt practice, taking deep breaths, positive visualizations. Positive visualization is a kind of positive thinking that reassures you that the whole public speech would go on well. This helps calm your nerves when you are experiencing an attack of speech anxiety just before you begin your giving your public speech.
Harsh speech quality comes off as abrasive and offensive to other people even when you do not intend it that way. Harsh speech quality of this kind is usually due to what we call “glottal attack”. In a glottal attack, there is too much force in closing the glottal folds or vocal cords when you speak, thus producing an unpleasant sound especially for words that start with vowels.
An effective tip that voice coaches will often advise speakers is the use of a breathy or windy voice in order to overcome this issue. As you keep practising this, adding breathiness to your voice will become natural to you and will help smoothen out any harshness in your voice. It may be difficult at first but it is easily surmountable.
Stuttering is a speech disorder common in children and is often a cause for parents to look for child speech therapy. The words can appear to get “stuck” or the speaker finds themselves repeating sounds over and over again. I have also written a whole article on overcoming stuttering, and one thing I can tell you is that many interventions are out there.
A good simple but yet effective tip for stuttering is to talk slowly. Rushing your words is only going to make the stammering worse or face serious problems trying to get the words out. Once you start stammering, it is good that you keep silent again and reorganise your speech before proceeding. Otherwise, you get into a loop of repeating words or phrases over and over again without making any significant sense of them.
It is also important that you practice these steps in a safe environment of close friends and family who understands you. This way, they can wait for you to try these steps without interrupting you midway. It becomes even more frustrating when someone cuts your speech up midway just because you do not yet have a fluent tongue.
Fast speech comes naturally for some people. They are able to articulate words rapidly without breaking them. The major issue in rapid speech is that people who are listening to you may not follow your flow of idea with you. It makes comprehension difficult for most people. This in itself is a major problem.
For people who talk very fast, not only is their listener affected. They too are affected because they could get easily fatigued. So adequate breathing between sentences becomes key. Slow deep breaths that come from the diaphragm will help slow down your pace and facilitate listeners’ comprehension.
If the cause of rapid speech is speech anxiety, managing the breath would be a great solution too. And then, you can try to match your breathing with the pattern of your speech. If you are speaking way too fast, chances are you are trying to catch up with your breath – essentially gasping for air – which only throws off your rhythm and the pace of your speech.
It looks obvious that only the lower jaw has a free range of motion to allow us to eat and talk freely. When the talk, eat or use the mouth, the upper jaw is stationed in one position with limited range of motion, while the lower jaw glides either left or right, down or up or a combination of two or more directions.
This motion of the jaw is very important for speech, but it can be affected by diseases, injuries and other damages to the mouth and jaw.
Sometimes, you can involuntarily clench your lower jaw so tightly that it becomes harder to articulate speech smoothly. Well! For this, I have not really experienced this well enough, maybe cold, shivering or some other factors could contribute to this, but so far we are aware that this can affect the quality of speech.
A tight jaw can be easily corrected. First, by addressing the underlying cause of the jaw tightness, and then, deliberately relaxing your jaw or doing a massage on it in a circular motion. The goal of these actions is to improve the strength of the jaw muscles and enhance movement in all permissible directions possible. If you are prone to a tight jaw, you should make it a habit to observe your jaw for any tightness especially when you are not talking and learn to relax them when your mouth is close.
Dry mouth is one of the topmost cause of speech difficulty and loss of fluency. The mouth is constantly lubricating itself with saliva produced from the salivary glands in the mouth. These glands, however, get their salivary secretions from body water.
Thirst is one common cause of dry mouth, especially on hot days when water loss via sweat is higher. The mouth requires constant lubrication for the efficient articulation of speech, otherwise, speech problems can be experienced. When there is a problem with speech articulation, your thoughts processes are also affected. You find it hard to express what you are saying in your head. This becomes a major problem when you need to speak for an extra hour or two.
But the good thing is, it has just a very simple solution. Drink enough water, or maybe at intervals depending on which you are comfortable.
Effective Tips For Overcoming Speech Problems
Here we are going to see 7 techniques offered by the speech pathologist, Martha Payne, on how people can overcome speech problems. After having x-rayed the causes of speech problems like speech anxiety or stage fright, rapid speech, stuttering, etc, you would agree that for most of these problems, the easiest thing to do is to avoid speaking altogether.
But why do you have to keep mute or scare away from speaking, public speaking or otherwise, just because you have some speech problems that can easily be corrected? These 7 Techniques will be of great help, and I also talked about them in my previous posts on public speaking and the reasons you fidget.
Be calm, don’t hurry
Practice voice control
Engage your audience
Work on your body language
Don’t hide your fear
Understand stage presence
Adequate preparation builds your confidence level on a particular subject. You are not expected to say or know everything about the topic you are to present, but your audience is expecting to get a level of experiential and practical knowledge from you.
Your audience validates your information by how confident you are while presenting your speech and by how practical your approach to the discussion is. By practical, I mean your speech should give practical directions on how it can impact their lives as individuals.
But when your confidence level is low, even your tongue becomes twisted and your brain can get locked up. This is what we call stage anxiety.
Most people who develop stage anxiety when they are asked to speak in public do so primarily because they are not confident of themselves and what they know about the topic. What can they possibly talk about to impress the crowd that they do not already know? This is one thought question that puts every new public speaker off balance. Another thing is the fear that someone might ask a very difficult question that they would not be able to answer.
Very surprisingly, these are just happening in your head and they might not show up in the course of your public speech but the damage they may have caused might not be reversible. So in order to prevent this, you need to build up your confidence level by preparing adequately for it. Do your research, rehearse your work, present to a smaller group of familiar people and correct your mistakes.
One common mistake people make while preparing is when they try to cram or memorize every single word without actually understanding the overall message of their works. When you do this, your confidence level further drops because you fully rely on your ability to remember every single word or phrase. Paradoxically, when it comes to memory, you know that you can’t trust yourself, don’t you?
To avoid this, you must strive hard to understand every concept in your presentation and make it a part of you as much as you can, so that even when you miss the exact words, you can normally use alternate words in their place.
This further improves your confidence and ironically, you end up remembering your exact words and arrangement better than when you were forcing yourself to remember them.
Be Calm, Don’t Hurry
Like we saw in the causes of speech problems, rapid talking or talking too fast does not help either the speaker or the listener(s). Basically, rushing your words directly or indirectly means you don’t care if your points are taken by your audience or not, you do not carry them along in the discussion and sooner or later you would start seeing the dissatisfaction on their faces. This can further increase your anxiety.
It is very important that you slow down your speaking pace. Like I already talked about earlier, this helps you to breathe properly too. Sooner or later, you too would start experiencing symptoms of fatigue and shortness of breath. Gasping for breath in public is not a good omen because when people notice your restlessness, it further distracts them from your speech.
Practice Voice Control
Voice control is one technique singers and vocalists adopt in producing better quality of speech and sound. There are many unique speech plans you can leverage if you wish to practice voice control.
At the end of the practice, you would have learned how to breathe through the diaphragm as opposed to the chest. Properly using and exercising the diaphragm help you produce better quality speech and vocal sounds if you are a singer.
Experts at SpeechAim, a speech therapy organisation have said that “diaphragmatic breathing is an invaluable technique for any public performer, including singers, pastors, and public speakers. It allows you to hold notes and voice for a prolonged duration without running out of breath. You will sound fabulous all through the presentation, no matter how long”.
Engage Your Audience
Engaging your audience makes public speaking fun for both the speaker and the audience. The job becomes easier and more interesting and the listeners learn the most when they are engaged.
The simple trick in engaging your audience is to make your presentation a two-way interaction as much as you can. Monologues, which are the conventional way of talking to people without them contributing has many serious challenges, one of which is the burden of educating and entertaining the audience all by yourself.
A two-way interaction piques the interests of your audience and whets their appetite to learn one or two things from your speech. Aside from this, engaging your audience in a two-way interaction also helps you to find out where they are stuck, what issues they are having, understand their questions and keep the discussion going and productive.
Audience positive reactions give an extra boost and their dissatisfaction is so enervating. When you do not engage your audience, they easily get bored and dissatisfied. Very often, this energy-sapping feeling by your audience does not hide undercover. It stares right through you in a bid to push you out of the stage and never to see you climb that podium any longer. Such a rage, you’d say.
One last thing, though I have already mentioned it, is that engaging your audience is like helping the audience to help you. It gives you some time to breathe, think and process your thoughts. Thus, making your speech better, more creative and more informative.
Work On Your Body Language
Communication is not only about speech. Gestures, body movements, body expression, standing posture. facial expressions, stage movements make up a great part in the dissemination of the overall message. These body motions are collectively referred to as “body language”.
Your body language conveys almost as much information as the words you speak, if not more. Anxiety can totally ruin your body language, it can sometimes put you in a rigid non-expressive position or make you fidget involuntarily.
Don’t Fight Or Hide Your Fear
Hiding your anxiety makes it even more obvious to the audience. It is normal to become afraid, especially in the initial moments. But dealing with fear is something you must learn to do.
Instead of hiding your fear, overcome it. When you try to hide your fear, it feels like you are hiding a burning fire in the midst of the hay. It finds a way to show up again.
When your audience sees that you are in control of yourself, their confidence in you becomes bigger. Carefully dealing with fear involves a lot of interventions, but taking a deep breath and smiling are two effective interventions to overcome your fear.
If your source of fear is due to the fact that you do not believe in what you are capable of, you must deliberately learn to remind yourself that you deserve to be on that stage and you the best fit for this presentation. One thing you must bear at the back of your mind is that your audience wants you to succeed, they want you to entertain or educate them. So smile, breathe in and out and scare your fear away.
Understand Stage Presence
Be present and show enough enthusiasm and energy towards the topic of discussion. Let everyone in the auditorium feel your presence. Smile freely without forcing anything. Flow naturally and show everyone that you enjoy being there. This is what stage presence entails.
From common causes of speech problems, we talked about 7 effective tips for overcoming speech problems. Speech is very important for work, career, inter-personal communications and others.
This post offers you insights into the need to adopt techniques for overcoming speech problems. Instead of avoiding public speaking, in this post were some practical ways you can develop your voice to speak better.
Speech, as well as body language, are involved in the dissemination of information. Hence, understanding body language helps to sustain the interests of your listeners.
Breathing and diaphragmatic exercises are usually very helpful as speech therapy. But then, adequate preparation cannot be over-emphasized.
After these have been said, I admonish you to adopt these measures instead of giving up on public speaking. You may have told yourself that you won’t need to give any public speech ever, but you never can be too sure when you would be asked to address an audience. So, it is great to get yourself ready before the day finally shows up.
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