Speaking: How Fast Talkers can Slow their Speech for Greater Positive Impact-Part 3 (Thought Groups)

When speaking, fast talkers and speakers of English as a second language can slow their speech for making greater positive impact.  One method is by using thought groups.  A thought group is a group of words that form a unit of meaning.  This group of words go together to express a thought or idea.

Negative Impact of Fast Speech

Without using some of these techniques, the person listening to a fast speaker can experience communication barriers. As a result, the listener can misinterpret what’s been said.  The listener many times becomes frustrated.  He or she no longer wants to ask “What did you say?”  The listener stops tuning in.  She or he exits the communication exchange.  In the worst case, she or he avoids communicating with the person altogether.

To prevent these communication barriers, implement the following techniques using thought groups.  English speakers use thought groups for communicating clearly.  You can pause between thought groups to slow your speech down. Let’s look at the aforementioned sentence as an example.

Thought Group Example

Here is an example of three different thought groups in one sentence.

Sentence: “You can pause between the subject and predicate to slow your speech down.”

  1. The first thought group is ‘You can pause’.
  2. The second thought group is ‘between the subject and predicate’.
  3. The third thought group is ‘to slow your speech down.’

Notice that each thought group has words that go together ultimately forming meaning in and of their own unit separate from the other parts of the sentence.   Nonetheless, the three thought groups are also related to one another.

Pausing in Thought Groups

Target your pause at the end of thought groups.  If you group your words naturally, there will be a better flow to your speech, and it will be easier for people to understand you.  Besides pausing at the end of thought groups, it’s also important to slow your speech within the thought groups.  The way you speak the words during the time before the thought group ends will impact your communication partner(s) .  Here are some ways you can slow down before the pause at the end of thought groups.

How to Confidently Slow your Speech in Thought Groups

  1. Be confident in your ability to recall the next thought in line in your mind.  Many people speak quickly because they are afraid they won’t remember what they want to say if they don’t “get it all out” right away.
  2. Practice holding yourself back somewhat while you speak.  You can do this by breaking down sentences into their individual words.
  3. Break down the concept of words into specific speech sounds for clearly speaking your thoughts.  Focus on each individual speech sound in each word.


Fast talkers and speakers of English as a second language can slow their speaking rate for making greater positive impact by using thought groups.  Pausing at the end of thought groups, focusing on words in sentences, and on speech sounds in words can facilitate a clearer, more succinct speech pattern that people understand, enjoy, and of which they want to hear more.

To your improved impact using thought groups,



Bonnie NussbaumAugust 20th, 2014 at 8:35 am

I have a friend who is an incredibly fast talker…to the point some thought she was Bipolar. It is tiring trying to keep up with her conversation. Now to find a way to share this with her that’s not offensive!

Barbara WilliamsAugust 20th, 2014 at 12:57 pm

I thought the whole purpose of speaking was to be heard and understood; guess not, huh. This reminds me that not all speakers and hearers are alike, and that if we truly do want to be heard and understood, we must take the time to pause in our conversations.

MatejaAugust 20th, 2014 at 2:12 pm

I learned to slow down, as English is not my native language. It certainly helps!

Pam Kachelmeier MA, PC, LCAugust 20th, 2014 at 2:44 pm

I use to wonder about this and noticed it in very fast talkers – so much information, it was like overload and to think that all was being stored in the brain. I often wonder how people do remember a speech unless it has been lived in vivo.

Kailean WelshAugust 20th, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Great tips to help slow things down. I know when I get nervous I tend to speak faster and everything starts running together. I will be more aware of my thought groups, as well as individual speech sounds. Thanks!

Jill GreinkeAugust 20th, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Great tips on how to slow speech down. It is so important to control your speed so that you are easily understood and make your point clear. This is something we all need to work on.

veronicaAugust 20th, 2014 at 7:36 pm

I love the whole idea of bringing conscious intent to slow speech down. I studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC and we spent a lot of time on speech. Speaking so one can understand you is critical in order to be heard. I loved my speech teacher but you would have been awesome!

Tina GamesAugust 20th, 2014 at 8:34 pm

What timing – we just talking about this at dinner tonight. We went to a really fun restaurant and had a peppy waitress with a great smile. The only challenge was – she talked SO fast, we had to keep asking her to repeat what she said. It got old after awhile. ~ And in business, and particularly when we’re giving speeches, we want people to hear what we’re saying. ~ Thanks for the great tips!

Marit GrendstadAugust 21st, 2014 at 7:14 am

I´ve got a lot to learn. Would love to hear you demonstrate this Cher. I often get the points better when I see the person live.

Vickie LegareAugust 21st, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Thank you for sharing your valuable information Cher. There is so much to learn about public speaking and it is appreciated that you share.

TeenaAugust 24th, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Very valuable info Cher – thank you! When someone is speaking fast and I have trouble understanding I sometimes feel rude when I have to ask them to repeat it again- and often more than once. If I gently ask them to slow down a bit this may be very helpful and a very effective communication skill 🙂


Cher GundersonAugust 26th, 2014 at 7:05 am

Bonnie, If she’s aware of her fast speech, she might be open to you sharing with her “I was surprised to come across an article with tips for maximizing communication-one of the tips involved speaking at a slow enough rate”. Otherwise, if she’s not aware, you could approach is as an opportunity to share with her your own learning. Perhaps you could let her know you were surprised to come across an article addressing slow speaking rate which is one of the methods that improves the ability to connect with others when talking, and prior to that, you hadn’t known these tips. You know her best 🙂 Drop me a brief note to let me know how it goes 🙂

Cher GundersonAugust 26th, 2014 at 7:16 am

I agree that the point of speaking is to convey information in a way that others can understand. Your point that not all speakers and listeners are alike is true. Pausing not only improves the ability for the communication partner to better comprehend, it interests the listener more by varying the rate. Pausing also highlights or showcases relevant information to stand out from the other information, alerts the listener that a topic has changed, etc. Pausing is a critical and many times overlooked element in effective communication that I addressed in a recent webinar called 5 Strategies to Break through Public Speaking Blocks & Get out of your Own Way. You can listen to the recording here: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BzTv6o7JGZO4dE1qSE1yRjdSOUE/edit?pli=1.
Smile to you,

Cher GundersonAugust 26th, 2014 at 7:17 am

It’s great to hear you slowed down your English being that it gives your communication partners more time to process perhaps the accent from your native language, and if I’m right, is Slovenian?

Cher GundersonAugust 26th, 2014 at 7:26 am

Pam, Yes, one of the reasons some people speak fast is because they have such a fast rate of information flowing through their brains and there is a sense of urgency to “get it out.” A lot of the times, those speakers don’t realize that it’s just as important to create connection with their communication partners; otherwise their listeners don’t process the information anyway.
As for your comment of wondering how people remember speeches without living it in real life, there are ways to do it in way that allows for spontaneity and a natural style that engages the audience. It’s what we address in our Individualized Private Public Speaking Training package. You might be interested in the recent webinar 5 Strategies for Breaking through Public Speaking Blocks & Getting out of your Own Way. You’ll find it here: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BzTv6o7JGZO4dE1qSE1yRjdSOUE/edit?pli=1
Drop me a line to let me know what you think of it 🙂

Cher GundersonAugust 26th, 2014 at 8:44 am

Kailean, you’re very welcome 🙂 You also might enjoy the recent webinar 5 Strategies for Breaking through Public speaking Blocks & Getting out of your Own Way. It has helpful tips that are different than those in this article about slowing down. You can apply the tips to situations for public speaking or in general when you get nervous. Here’s the link info: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BzTv6o7JGZO4dE1qSE1yRjdSOUE/edit?pli=1.
To your successful communication,

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