Eh” What did you say” Yep I was getting that all the time too! No big deal, eveyone does it from time to time…but it can actually hurt you, your social interactions, and work interactions. It’s sort of like looking at web pages or potential matches on a dating site…if the immediate impression is not great….NEXT! So it’s important to talk clearly and loud enough for at least the person right in front of you to hear.
Why do we mumble? Often because our mouths are not opening enough or we’re looking down while talking. If you’re shy or not sure about what you want to say, tension can build up in our shoulders, neck, and jaw causing you to mumble too. When that tension builds up, our syllables, words, and sentences tend to run together and our voices get shallower.
There’s also a possible medical reason for mumbling called dysarthria, in which the person has difficulty controlling speech muscles, or the muscles are simply weak. The Mayo Clinic website states the most common causes of
But we are not talking about medical conditions leading to mumbling, we are talking about run of the mill mumbling, aka phonetic reduction. So next time someone asks you to repeat or tells you, “you’re mumbling!”… look them straight in the eye, put your hand on your hip, and say with an annoyed tone, “I am phonetically reducing my words, I bet you can’t do that!” No! Obviously I am just kidding! Please don’t say that or if you do, don’t say I told you to!
You can take some simple steps so that next time you won’t be mumbling! These following exercises are fun and easy to do, and will weed out your mumbling behavior.
- Start talking slowly. Consciously focus on enunciating each word very slowly. At first, it will feel odd to you but stick with it, it will quickly feel normal and relaxed, and understandable!
- During an intense or nerve-racked conversation, mindfully pause for 2 seconds so you can get your thoughts together. It will help you say exactly what you want to without mumbling barely audible nonsense.
- Practice opening your mouth very wide while reading an article containing at least 200 words. Repeat 3-4 times until it starts to feel comfortable.
- Read that same article while holding a pencil in your teeth. You’ll really need to exaggerate each word which helps to build your vocal muscles. Something we all need, especially as we get older.
- One more fun exercise is to repeat a rhyme 10 times slowly, enunciating each word as much as you possibly can. Then 10 times as fast as you can, making sure to still pronounce each word audibly. Here’s a nonsense rhyme to practice:
Blue Bubbles Blow Bacon Backwards Blantly
Not easy, right? Especially in fast mode, but if you do this a few days in a row you’ll see how it gets much easier, that’s because you’re strengthing those lazy vocal muscles!
Now go out, stand up
If you want the world or a friend, to hear you better try out the exercises I listed above and make it your goal to never hear “can you repeat that,” again. You are worth being heard!