Someone who fails to enunciate clearly, making you struggle to understand their words, can be highly annoying. To enunciate simply means to speak each syllable and word clearly and audibly. When you mumble (i.e. fail to enunciate) you deprive yourself of the opportunity to communicate and your audience of your wisdom. Many in your audience will disconnect, some will ask you to repeat your message (sometimes multiple times) and some will simply guess at what you said. Any of these responses is a recipe for miscommunication.
The failure to enunciate clearly often results from a physical problem, such as stroke or injury. Other times it is due to factors within the speaker’s control, such as being lazy with the mouth and tongue (e.g. not opening their mouths) or speaking too fast.
Do You Enunciate Clearly?
Do people ask you to repeat yourself often? If so, understand you are not being heard or understood. This is your problem, not theirs. It is up to you to address and correct the situation.
Failure to enunciate clearly can quickly become habitual. You know what you said and don’t hear what others hear. If people ask you to repeat yourself, consider recording your normal speaking voice and listening to what they hear. Imagine what it would be like to listen to the voice you hear. If you hear the problem, great! If not, ask a trusted friend.
Another way to learn if you mumble is to join Toastmasters and be evaluated by your Club. Ask for specific feedback on how clearly you enunciate.
Recognize the difference between enunciating clearly and speaking so softly no one can hear; simply raising your voice solves the latter issue.
What You Can Do
If a physical condition causes your speaking problem, you might best benefit from working with a speech pathologist. It may also help to let people know you have an issue so they don’t judge you for it.
A speech pathologist can also be a great help or the rest of us. If you want to work on it yourself, there is much you can do. Youtube.com contains a number of videos with tips for improving your speaking; simply search for mumbling. One of the videos I particularly like is of Roger Love, a leading voice coach. Jaeny Biak (a former television host and journalist) demonstrates a good exercise newscasters use to warm up. Several other videos provide useful information as well.
Why Enunciation Matters
Regardless of why you fail to enunciate clearly, it is important to recognize that your audience struggles to understand you. The purpose of speaking is to communicate ideas from one person to others. When the others cannot understand, communication fails. Some in your audience will respond with annoyance or disengagement. Others will make an effort to understand—to a point. Many are likely to discount your credibility or even your intelligence.
As always, it is the person speaking who is responsible for making the message clear. Causing the audience strain and struggle to understand is poor communication.
What Does This Have To Do With Respect?
You benefit when you have enough respect for yourself to speak clearly and allow your voice to be heard. Your voice matters.
Your audience benefits when they receive your information. This requires you respect them enough to enunciate clearly.