One of the biggest frustrations when trying to communicate with those who mumble is the fact that we, the listeners, cannot understand their diction. What generally results is that we will ask that oft-repeated question, "What did you say?"

Recently, a young man called me and wanted to know where his voice should be vibrating in his body. As a voice coach, this is one of the things I teach when I show people how to find their ‘real’ voice. While I can appreciate that he was most intent upon discovering his richer, deeper, more mature sound, I told him that his first step was to go back to session #1 of my training and work on the mumbling exercises because I was having great difficulty understanding him.

While I have not met this 17-year-old young man personally, the chances are good that he is tall. In general, short men speak more distinctly.

Mumbling is lack of movement primarily in the lip area when forming words which is why I often refer to mumbling as lazy lips. With lockjaw, on the other hand, the lips are moving but the jaw is rigid. I find this latter problem to be more common with women.

Whether the problem is mumbling or lockjaw, one exercise that is extremely effective is to say something you know from memory with the knuckle of your middle finger in your mouth. Now, remove your knuckle and say those same exact words again. You should notice an immediate difference in the opening up of your mouth and also how you form your sounds. Practice this exercise over and over at various times throughout your day. You should notice quite a difference within a week if you are persistent.

You can also take that exercise and apply it to the way you answer your business phone for example. Whatever your words, say them 1st with your knuckle in your mouth and then without it. Learn to distinguish the difference in how you sound. In doing so, you are then retraining your inner ear– which is the way you think you sound – to recognize the difference.

[My father recently suffered a stroke which greatly affected the speech center in his brain. He tries to talk but his words are unrecognizable. I am confident that he thinks he is speaking clearly because his inner ear and his brain are telling him so.]

Constantly repeating yourself is a waste of time and effort. You can speak more clearly if you are diligent in your practice. Make it a priority for everyone’s sake.

Author's Bio: 

The Voice Lady, Nancy Daniels, offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as the Voicing It! the only video training on voice improvement. If you would like to see a wonderful example of volume control and diction, watch Mohammad's ‘before & after’ video clip at Nancy's Voice Training website.