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Do you mumble?

Does anyone else have a problem mumbling sometimes? I know I do.

Speech skills have never been a strong point for me. I didn’t speak any words at all until I was three years old. And why should I? I had an older sister who answered everything for me and told mom and dad exactly what I needed or what I was thinking. When I finally did start talking, I spoke in complete sentences.

My family will tell you I’ve been a mumbler my entire life. I think it really got bad in my early teen years, though, when I was viciously bullied.

But now, I can’t seem to shake it. When I really concentrate (like when I’m publicly speaking, or speaking to a group of employees), I can overcome it. If I don’t directly focus on it, my lips don’t seem to enjoy moving at all.

While most of the time it’s not too big a deal, I am a little worried that I’ll say something like “pass the salt” and it will be heard as “have my baby, you naughty hotty you”. Of course, I could blame any stupid thing I say on the mumbling, always declaring that I was simply misheard and misunderstood.

Does anybody have some good advice on overcoming mumbling? I think I’m going to go see a speech therapist and work on it. Surely it’s something that can be overcome permanently.

Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

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65 comments
A Vulgar Cretin
A Vulgar Cretin

My son, now 14, was a mumbler.  He's improved much of late, for no particular reason.  My siblings and I always spoke clearly and LOUDLY, with no discernible accent.  This is because we sang together as a family (think Von Trapps meet the Partridge Family mixed with the Gaithers ... it's scary!) and my dad was a drill sergeant.  ANNUNCIATE!  CONSONTANTS MATTER!  We aren't praising the LOR!  This isn't STAR TREK!  (Obscure reference ... did you get it?)  We're praising the Lor-DUH!  DUH-DUH-DUH!!!  

 

So, short of a "Kings Speech" type trainer, I guess my advice would be repetition.  RepetitioNUH!  NUH-NUH-NUH!!!.  If you're willing to recite repeated prayers as a form of prayer, maybe say the Lord's Prayer or Creed 33 times a day (or 10 or 50 ... some monks recited all 150 psalms daily).  But do it intentionally and, frankly, kind of overacting.  

 

I believUH iNUH GoDUH, the FatheRUH almighty (ends in a vowel, so no biggie), makeRUH of heaveNUH and earTHUH  

 

Or sing it, again slowly and distinctly, paying attention to every sound you're making.  

 

As an aside, although I don't mumble my speech, I mumble my life.  I don't live intentionally and distinctly.  I've come to the conclusion that it's worse, more evil, than intentionally deciding to DO evil things.  If I CHOOSE evil, I can make a difference choice and CHOOSE to live well.  If I just stumble into it, moved by ... whatever, then I can't decide to do something else.  All the forces that move me must be changed.  

Jenn
Jenn

Talk to a mirror. Seriously. You'll see the difference between how you look when you mumble (head down slightly and shoulders a bit hunched) and when you talk straight up (chin up and shoulders back, etc).
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Cheryl
Cheryl

This has been a problem for me for YEARS. And the worst part is that if someone calls me on it, I speak even quieter, because now I'm embarrassed.

My problem is I'm a common wealth baby. I've lived in 4 different countries, learning to speak in Australia, moved back to SA, immigrated to Canada, and lived in the UK for years, before I came back. And in not one single one of those countries did my accent fit in. I have ALWAYS sounded foreign...even in my country of birth. I now have a heavy english accent that gets the "OMG SAY SOMETHING!"...and I want.to.die.

I have to overcome it though because my little bubs has a trumpet for lungs so in order to compete I gotta step up my game.

Amber
Amber

I mumble, but only in certain situations. Mostly when I'm unsure how people will respond to what I am saying. I am not so great with confrontation sometimes. Sometimes I drive my husband nuts because I mumble and he has some hearing loss so I get "What?" alot. I also mumble when I'm thinking faster than my mouth can keep up. I have to make my self slow down and focus on the words.

Meagan P.
Meagan P.

MUMBLER! lol yeah I am too. It get's me and my family into many heated fights. . . yeah.
My recent post Switching to Forward Facing

Martine
Martine

I would highly recommend you see a speech therapist, they can give you exercises to work on those muscles needed to properly articulate, even in high anxiety moments, kind of like physical therapy for the mouth!

single green Muslimah
single green Muslimah

I too have always wanted to go to a speech therapist for my mumbling. I've been told that I talk like a person with marbles in her mouth. :( I know I need to enunciate more and as someone mentioned, it does tend to happen when I'm feeling insecure or unsure of myself.

I wonder if speech therapy is covered by insurance and how much it is out of pocket...

Jess
Jess

LOL... this is a quote I've heard & love...
'How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?'

saffronrose
saffronrose

Many kids who delay speaking end up speaking in complete sentences when they finally start talking.

I think speech therapy will help--if nothing else you may find out why long after the bullying, you still mumble. It is common for someone who can do something at work, and in formal situations, to be unable to do the same in casual or social situations. Social anxiety works that way for at least one friend.

You go!

TraceyH
TraceyH

Can I suggest you take an acting class - enunciation is very important when you're on stage...

juliannac
juliannac

I never had an issue with this until I put my braces back on this October. Seems I talk so fast that my mouth can't form the right shapes when talking over the braces. I've had to slow. way. down.

Can't wait to get them off in April... I have so much to say!

Hey, two things... first, why do I alwasy get a thumbs up when I post here? And second... I have watched this blog take off over the months, and I used to see you pop up and comment on other blogs. Do you still read and I am missing the comments? Or, have you just gotten to wildly popular to keep up? I was just wondering... not a big deal. -J
My recent post Cheap Entertainment

Fin
Fin

My sister and I have a double whammy problem - she mumbles and I am a little hard of hearing. What works with us is engaging conversation directly - looking the other person right in the face, bodies facing and everything. Talking this way seems to help us. As others have commented, please share what you find out if you go to a speech therapist. I'd be very interested in hearing about that experience. :)
My recent post when you try your best- but you dont succeed

Stephanie
Stephanie

I don't mind people who mumble because they don't like public speaking, or have a hard time with people. But people who mutter under their breathe about people to themselves drives me nuts. If they have something to say about someone.. say it, dont be rude.

JulieZ
JulieZ

Ooh, I'm a bigtime mumbler, too. I'll be reading the other replies with fingers crossed for a viable solution!

Alicia
Alicia

My son mumbles so badly I have to constantly ask him to stop, slow down, repeat...he's 27 !!!

I know I mumble when I've just got so much on my mind and my brain is going 50 mph faster than my mouth... I just need to learn to slow down and do it right the first time...repeating takes so much more effort...

This affects me in my employment sometimes and I hate how it makes me appear unprofessional and scatter-brained.

Dan, I'm sure there's a personal image consultant or speech therapist that can help you rein in those mumbling moments....

:D
My recent post The Grinch That Stole The Gift Card

nightowlang
nightowlang

I'm awful about mumbling and also stumbling over words. It's why I like doing medical transcription at home--all of my communication is done by email, so I have time to think about what I'm going to say. Everyone gets on me about the mumbling and talking too quietly. Let me know if you do think of something!!

BrokenTogether
BrokenTogether

My wife is a mumbler sometimes and it seems to be a motor issue. The words are there, but they are not as pronounced. It drives me nuts as well because I dont like asking for repeat performances, but I have to remember it probably bothers her more than it does me. If it is a motor issue, than I would think a speech therapist would be able to help a great deal. I spent a great deal of my youth being bullied as well except mine started when I was a third grader. I had to get off the school bus and try to run home before they caught me or I would try to get off at different stops because they would be expecting me at mine, but they even got smart to that and started hiding in trees and having multiple people at multiple stops. It sucked and it forced me to become a person I didnt necessarily like being.
My recent post Third Time is a Charm Or so the Saying Goes Part 3 of 3

Heather
Heather

I used to be a mumbler...I think stemmed for a "rule" I made up for myself that I needed to be quiet as a child. This "rule" also meant that I just wasn't talkative period, which eventually evolved into me disliking talking to people in public.

For how I came over these communication stumbling blocks, I kind of made a "deal" with myself in middle school. I told myself that as long as what I said in a conversation was 1) constructive/pertinent/interesting and 2) audible, then I got "off the hook" for saying much more. This worked out pretty great, and helped me kick my mumbling habit, because if I wasn't audible, I "had" to keep talking.

You might be wondering how that's really an improvement in my overall communication skills, seeing as how I was basically using talking as a negative motivator for myself. Well...here's how this story ends:

The thing is, even in middle school, I *knew* I was smart, and this was enforced as I entered high school. I *knew* that I thought critically about things, and I *knew* that was a good thing! (I think a lot of that can be attributed to my honed observational and listening skills that had improved as a side effect of my young aversion to talking.)

So once I was over my mumbling stage, and audibility wasn't a big part of my "deal" anymore, I started observing how my other stipulation was impacting my conversational skills. I realized that people didn't know I was as smart as I knew I was, and it really, *really* bothered me. I'm an opinionated person, and I don't like my opinions to be ignored, but I slowly realized that people didn't *know* my opinions because I didn't *volunteer* information in conversations, it all had to be "prompted." So then talking became a matter of pride: how can I convince people that I'm smart?

A lot of that came with time and practice. In all honesty, it's still something I struggle with when I'm making new friends and I don't quite know where their personal line of "oh, that's interesting" and "oh, you're just a big know-it-all" is for me to gauge my "level of participation." But I think I'm getting better...Though maybe this long of a comment is evidence to the contrary...whoops! lol

Anyways...if you couldn't catch my advice between the lines of my story here...

1) Figure out why you mumble, why it's a problem for you and for your lifestyle, and what will motivate you to not do it anymore
2) Use that information to make a specific goal tied to overcoming mumbling and reward yourself appropriately
3) Remind yourself all throughout your conversations with other people that what you're saying is valuable to you and to them
My recent post Commitments to Our Future Children

Chrissy
Chrissy

I didnt speak out loud until I was three, either. I don't mumble but thats because I had an Air Force officer for a father and he would have us stand before a mirror and enunciate words so we would not have an accent. My mother was an amateur actress so we were taught to speak gently, evenly but be able to project it as needed.., all very useful. I can still manage my accent if I focus on it, but it slips out.

My daughter and boss are mumblers and it makes me crazy (though sometimes its funny...I will miss-hear them---"a quasedilla" became "a case of beer" when my daughter said it once) I know people dont do it on purpose so I generally blame it on my hearing and ask them to enunciate for me

Volante Varrato Carlson
Volante Varrato Carlson

I don't necessarily have a mumbling problem but i've been told on occasion i speak to fast.. The key is to just slow down. And i think what a good piece of advice here is DON'T BE AFRAID TO BE HEARD. I'm sure you have a wonderful voice. Everyone has the right to be heard. So speak up, Speak out, and be heard! :)

Christine
Christine

I smiled reading this- Mumble is my pet name for my husband. I tease thim that he mumbles in every language- even sign language! I dated a guy once who hated my NY accent. He kept telling me "Slow down and enunciate!"

Why are you afraid of being heard? You are an adult now, if mumbling is holding you back you can focus on who you are presently. You aren't a teen being bullied. You don't have to be embarrassed of yourself. You deserve to be heard, listened to and respected.

Speak as if you're writing. Sometimes I have a hard time writing papers, but I'm a terrific speaker. I just slow myself and sak myself, "What would I say?" then format it all at the end.

Give someone permission to police you, like my boyfriend who hated my accent because he had a hard time understanding me. I used to say, "Are you on crack?" to anyone I disagreed with and gave a friend permission to point it out when I said it and I'd have to think of something else to say. I no longer ask people if they're on crack. If a friend can say you're mumbling and that can cue you to speak more clearly it can help.

Or, find a woman who finds it somewhat frustrating at times and endearing at others who will lovingly call you Mumble when no one else is around.

Good luck, Dan!

Allison
Allison

Have you had a speech therapist answer, yet? I'm one. If you can, seeing an SLP would be a good idea. There are some simple strategies you can try. You can adopt the ones that make a difference for you and if you can make them habit, even better. It takes a little awareness, practise and a little patience with yourself! I can see you doing an excellent job!

Fran Wolfe
Fran Wolfe

The Kings Speech is a new movie that's out at the fancy theaters right now. Its about a British king that overcomes his speech problems (stuttering). I want wait to see it, its gotten great reviews. Go see it!!! And Good Luck!!

Jenn
Jenn

I used to mumble back when I was bullied, too. I was so darn insecure that I didn't believe anyone wanted to hear anything I had to say anyway. Even when things got really bad and I was psychiatrically hospitalized, my psychiatrist constantly asked me to repeat myself. It was hard enough to say it the first time, but to repeat it? I was mortified for the first four years I was in therapy. Then I started group therapy and EVERYTHING changed. I learned to be more assertive, and with that came the courage to speak up. Now I'm an actor, and I have no problem projecting my voice to the back of any theater. Maybe community theater would be a good step to learn how to speak up. Or group therapy, if you're not opposed to the idea. Group therapy is much more useful and broader than one-on-one, and it seems intimidating, but it works. Really!
Yes, mumbling CAN be overcome permanently!

Tiffani
Tiffani

Seeing a Speech Therapist is a great idea. Their techniques are excellent.

@jds0376
@jds0376

YES! And I don't even realize I'm doing it. I think I'm speaking clear as a bell and everyone around me will say, "What did you say??" I also think out loud and people assume I'm talking to them. Good way to create some serious misunderstandings. I also have a habit of not finishing my thought. The assumption is that the person knew where I was going. Not always true.

My recent post Breast Milk and Humanity- Struggling with Let Down

Jess
Jess

I don't mumble but I think it's a great idea for you to seek professional help! A speech therapist will have all the resources you need to help you stop mumbling.
Also, like other people may have mentioned, it might be linked to self-esteem stuff. In that case, I'm reading a really good book titled (wouldn't you guess it) "Self-Esteem". My counselor recommended it and while I am not a mumbler I swear that going through this book and doing the exercises is improving all areas of my life, even my speech. I am more precise and concise when I speak. So hey, give it a try if you're interested.
Good luck! And by the way, you don't mumble at all in your writing. : )
My recent post heres to 2010

Variety
Variety

As a singer, I had to learn to enunciate, and it bothers me when my kids mumble. I remind them to "open your mouth" and "move your lips" (all said while dramatically exaggerating the movement of my own mouth) because I can't understand them. It's starting to get better, abut we've been working on it for years!

Bella
Bella

I don't do the mumbling but my husband does. It drives me nuts!
My recent post The 8 year old dating scene…

Jessica
Jessica

My husband mumbles all the time too. Fortunately i've learned how to understand it. I've even had to translate for his Mom before. People are astonished that i know what he is saying at some points.

KyLee
KyLee

I've always been a mumbler and tripped over words. My oldest son (age 7) is following in my footsteps and the teacher says it's the only thing he needs to improve at school. My husband was a drill sergeant in the Army and it drives him absolutely nuts! It's amazing what children pick up from their parents, although it's too bad they don't have the tendency to pick up the 'better' traits.

WolfGirl82
WolfGirl82

I am a champion mumbler, just like my dad. I did find, as other people have noted, that in singing it's much easier to enunciate and you'd never know I mumble listening to me sing. When asked to repeat myself, I will sometimes give it one more try, but often get frustrated and either rephrase in a shorter way or say "Never mind" even if my thought was important to express.

Keep us updated with anything you do to tackle this, please!

Vlad Marrero
Vlad Marrero

I don't know id it help for mumbleling but I when my studering acts up I take a deep breath and try to say it a different way. I also slow down my thoughts.

Nix
Nix

Hehe It not that I mumble it trail off.......I even type that way....certain people have problems with the way i talk but most do not....for the ones that do, I think they must have a hearing problem in my voices range....I don't think it is a huge problem until it affects your job or something like that..other than that save your money and repeat if necessary!

Nan
Nan

My problem isn't mumbling. It's taking too fast. A lady once told me to slow down cause she didn;'t understand anything I told her. I really didn't think I talked THAT fast... but I have to slow down for some of the "Senior" group of our citizens. :)

BRK
BRK

I used to - but not as much anymore. I was always told I talked too quiet - which I didn't understand because I could hear myself fine! I think my job has helped a lot because I had to get used to speaking in front of large groups and speaking during meetings. I started paying attention to the volume that worked for people and made a conscious effort to speak at that level - finding your volume and enunciating helps. Now I'm working on how often I say 'um' when I speak in groups. :) babysteps.
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Dorci
Dorci

Whadja say? ;O)

My husband claims I mumble. I tell him he needs to get rid of the ear hair.
My recent post Time Out

teachinfourth
teachinfourth

I have students who mumble when they talk...it drives the rest of my class crazy as they can't hear them. I guess this is why the district just installed new sound systems in the classrooms.

Party and bonus.
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@lilmommyfoofoo
@lilmommyfoofoo

I can't hear the word mumble, or any variation of it without thinking of Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka pretending Mike Teevee is a mumbler....that is weird, I know.
Well, yes, I am a mumbler too. I have been my whole life, and honestly, I thought I had really gotten over it, but I have noticed an increase in the amount of people that ask me to repeat myself. So, I either still mumble, or I only communicate with people that are hard of hearing. (Something tells me I just still mumbl....)
I wonder if maybe a part of it is being a writer. I can always express myself really well in writing, but then I find myself a bumbling fool in some conversations.
Oh well. Good luck with working on it, and maybe give us an update in a few months. :)

Kay
Kay

I mumble too Dan. I think it is out of fear of actually being heard and it being mistaken as something mean, cruel or just plain stupid.

I really need to rethink who I hang around with...

kroets
kroets

My fiance has the same problem. If I'm on the phone and can't understand him, I'll tell him to enunciate and it makes a huge difference. I wish I had some advice. If you do figure something out, I hope you'll share it with us!
My recent post Perfectly Afraid

merrydayduke
merrydayduke

Before going to a speech therapist take an acting class. It sounds like you can speak fine you just need a little extra practice. Acting is FUN and you have to enunciate, so you get practice overcoming your mumbling, have fun, and get to meet other fun people too. I don't think you have a problem I think you just have a habit and habits are much easier to break than problems are to overcome. Good Luck.

Roxanne
Roxanne

My husband has a similar problem. We have a magnet on our fridge for my husband that says "when in doubt mumble" it was a gift from my brother. I'll never forget the day of our wedding when he he completely mumbled the first line of his vows, we got a good laugh and my brother whispered to my sister-in-law the famous line from the magnet.

Advice on how to overcome, just speak slowly and enunciate :)
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sailnchk
sailnchk

audition for community theater. It will be more fun and won't cost anything but your time. I still have my drama teacher from high school in my head yelling enunciate! and Project! in my head and I am 53.

Michelle
Michelle

My youngest daughter does this, unless of course she has a point to make. Usualy the point is to get her siblings in crap or to tell us how disappointing our parenting skills are.

Either way, what she knows is 'If you think it's worth saying you better do it so that people hear you, you might not get a second chance.'
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Jasmine
Jasmine

even stuttering can be 'healed' now a days, think it's great that you want to work on it. good luck with that!

Endang
Endang

To overcome mumble ? no need, yeah no need Dan. Why, did you feel bother ? You know Dan, maybe it because you are a mumbler then you became like now, a success blogger, a wonderful blogger with your all wonder posts, with your unlimited ideas, with you over productive. No, no, no, don't feel to overcome mumble is needed, not at all. There was a word such as "There is a plus thing behind the minus thing". Go ahead with your big blog, your big SDL.
Regard.

Volante Varrato Carlson
Volante Varrato Carlson

my son has a problem with mumbling sometimes..but he does it i think because he's unsure of himself yet. he's only 6. We ask him to speak up so we can hear him a lot actually lol. just takes practice and positive reinforcement.

Amy
Amy

Hey, have you written your essay yet?

Jasmine
Jasmine

work on the mumbling I mean...