real life

There's an interesting reason some people talk so much faster than others.

I’m a fast talker. And I blame my childhood.

After spending my formative years dying for attention in a family of four children, including two older loud and talkative sisters, it’s no wonder I communicate the way I do. I talk loudly, proudly, quickly and rarely wait for my turn.

Don’t worry — I’m raising my children to communicate differently. The last thing I want to do is unleash three little rapid-fire versions of me on the world.

It was much worse when I was younger and more obnoxious, less introspective about my bad habits that could be mistaken for rudeness.

Jo Abi
Jo Abi, self-confessed fast talker. Image: Supplied.

These days I'm a bit better, but not much.

How I speak clearly indicates a few things about who I am:

May come from a large family;

Family of loud communicators;

Talkative family history;

Most likely a second or third child;

Grew up being told to be quiet or shut up.

It also explains a lot about why I gravitated towards a media career. I'm online/on TV/on radio. Just try talking over me now!

Fast talkers can usually blame their families. Image: Universal Pictures

Anecdotal evidence aside, there are various (and maybe less insane-sounding) reasons for being a fast talker.

Researchers call the tendency Exceptionally Rapid Speech (ERS), coined by Klaas Bakker, a communication science and disorders researcher at Missouri State University. ERS is different from the speech disorder known as Cluttering, which includes fast talking with the addition of having to fill in any and all silences during conversations (known as "disfluencies").

Bakker even conducted a study in 2011 called A preliminary comparison of speech rate, self-evaluation, and disfluency of people who speak exceptionally fast, clutter, or speak normally. It suggested fast talking is non-physiological, which suggests it is more likely to be psychological.

The study did manage to disprove the idea that fast talkers are more intelligent than slower communicaters, but I could have told them that.

Listen: Most of us don't mind a chat... except if it's on the phone. Just ask Mia Freedman. (Post continues after audio.)

The first time I became aware of why I communicate the way I do was when I read an article explaining that radio announcers are often second or third children in their families.

It claimed they were raised having to compete with siblings for attention and often the only way to get heard was to speak loudly, and to interrupt an ongoing conversation. Whenever one of their siblings made the mistake of pausing or drawing breath, the younger sibling learned to launch into their own contribution as quickly as possible, lest be interrupted again.

Writing for Health DayBeth Haiken claimed that if you add the the fact a child is 'high energy' to the mix, the issue becomes even more obvious:


"Your child may be especially prone to interrupting if yours is a talkative family or if she often hears you and your spouse or other adult relatives finishing each other's sentences. You've probably already talked with her about when she should interrupt (the house is on fire) and when she shouldn't (she's bored).

"She probably also knows (even if she doesn't always remember) that the appropriate way to preface a necessary interruption is to quietly say, "Excuse me." But putting these principles into practice is much harder than merely comprehending them, especially for high-energy kids."

That's me in a nutshell.

The notoriously fast-talking Gilmore girls, Lorelai and Rory. (Image: The WB.)

Initially I was a quiet child, the third daughter in a family of six with one younger sibling, my brother. I believe he had the best of upbringings because I was always happy to listen to him, having been scarred by my own experience of being told to "be quiet" by adults and "shut up" by siblings — the most stinging version going something like, "Why are you even talking? Nobody wants to hear what you have to say."

No wonder I speak with such definance as a grown up. I dare you to shush me. I dare you to tell me it's NOT MY TURN TO TALK.

I used to joke that the reason I spoke the way I did was I am Italian, but I soon discovered that only explained the "loud" and "uses her hand when she speaks" tendencies, not the fact I speak so quickly.

I KNOW it's really rude. I KNOW I speak quickly. I know I should be patient and slow the frig down, but I just can't. It's embedded deep into my subconscious.


I'm an aggressive and defensive conversationalist. So many times I've tried to change my evil ways, but it never takes. Most of the time I don't even notice how rapidly I'm speaking, but I do normally catch onto the fact I've interrupted the conversation a few too many times and I'm left to just apologise and mention the fact I grew up in a loud and talkative family.

It's thought that people who grew up in loud and talkative households are more likely to be 'fast talkers'. Image: Offspring, Network Ten

I do teach my children to behave differently. Often when I have all three of them in the car they talk at once, as though I have three sets of ears. They're getting better at taking turns, politely prompting each other when they've finished sharing whatever it is they wanted to say.

"It's your turn, Kitty," my son Philip will often say to my daughter when he's finished explaining to me why "school sucked" and he's never talking to insert-name-here again. Meanwhile, my son with autism quietly listens and only usually shares his thoughts when I have a moment to ask, "Giovanni, how was your day?"

My children are growing up in a completely different environment to the one I grew up in, sparing them the urge to embark on a defiant media career that for me is most likely an extended tantrum that began in childhood.

They'll be better versions of me — which is what most parents aim for when it comes to their kids — with all of my wit and charm and humour, but slower, more measured, polite and less frantic in their syntax.

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