You likely know someone who likes to lean in a bit too closely during conversation. Or speaks at a volume so loud it's nearly deafening...or so soft it's nearly inaudible. Last month, I joined Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie on the Today show to offer some tips. You can watch that video here. For some additional tips (and the inclusion of how to deal with a fast-talker and a spitter), read on
FOR THE CLOSE TALKER
•Backing away will only invite the close talker to tighten the gap again, so step back and then immediately fill the void with a cocktail glass or small food plate (extended outward from your own body) or by talking with your hands. You can also place a fully outstretched arm on the close-talker's elbow, keeping him or her at a distance more comfortable to you.
FOR THE LOUD TALKER
•A loud talker is not always aware of his or her volume, so try to nip this one in the bud by speaking more softly yourself. Very often, the loud talker will match your level. If this does not happen, it's possible that the other person has a hearing impairment and is unaware of how loudly he or she is speaking. In such instances, if this is someone you know well, point out in a caring way (in a separate, side conversation) that sometimes the individual's volume is a bit elevated, and that you're certain he or she would want to know. Very likely, the person will be grateful you took the time to mention it.
FOR THE SOFT TALKER
•This one is perhaps the easiest to handle….let the person know you really want to hear what is being said, but are having a hard time doing so. Blame it on your own hearing or the loudness in the room, but ask the person to speak at a higher volume, because you don't want to miss a word!
FOR THE FAST TALKER
•Fast talking is not always a bad thing….in New York and other cities, rapid speaking can be a sign of engagement, excitement, or sometimes, of being in a rush. But if you are having a hard time understanding a person because he or she is speaking too quickly for you to process (this is often an issue when the language being spoken is not the native tongue of one of the individuals), try speaking more slowly yourself to see if the other person matches your cadence. If modeling slower speech does not do the trick, as with the soft talker, simply ask them to slow down a bit because you don't want to miss anything. No one is going to be insulted upon hearing that you want to hang onto his or her every word.
FOR THE SPITTER
•This is often a consequence of fast-talking, so getting the person to slow down may help. If that does not do the trick, offer him or her a drink…getting the person to sip and swallow will often clear the mouth of excess saliva and prevent spittle. If these tips don't eliminate the problem, refer to the tips for a close talker, and stand at a safe distance so you don't walk away from the conversation all wet!