Space… The final frontier!

Last summer I received an email in response to one I had sent out.  Something weird happened in the transmission.  All the space between words had been stripped away and the email I received looked something like this:


While I eventually was able to figure out what it said, it was hard work!!!  My mind had to parse each word (and each paragraph) so that I could distinguish one word from another (and one thought from the other).  It probably took me 5 times longer to understand what was being said than if the spaces had been included.

(c)Copyright: Carla Kimball, 2009We all understand this and take for granted that when we write, we add the space between each word and an even larger space between one paragraph and another.  But when we speak, particularly when we’re anxious, we completely forget that adding a little space (pausing) between thoughts and ideas helps the listener integrate what’s being said.

Anxiety causes all our rhythms to race:  our heart beats faster, our breath becomes shallow and rapid, our thoughts are racing, our eyes jump from one thing to another without really focusing, and we begin to speak very fast.

And, when this happens during a talk, our audience simply can’t keep up with what we’re saying.  There’s too much information coming at them at one time.  If we jump from one point to another without pausing, the audience has to work too hard to hold on to what we’ve said and they get only some very small percentage of our message.

Pausing is the equivalent of the space between words and paragraphs.  How can you slow yourself down and pause frequently to make it easier for your audience understand your whole message?

2 thoughts on “Space… The final frontier!

  1. Oh… Absolutely, if two people who are native speakers can’t really keep up with each other if they’re speaking too fast, than just imagine how tough it would be if there were language differences. As you well know, Terry, it’s doubly important to take our time when we’re speaking to people who don’t know our language well.

    To use the writing metaphor that I started with, I think when we’re speaking to a non-native English speaking audience, we should think about double spacing our lines and adding more space between each word.

  2. Well explained, Carla!

    I agree with you 100%.

    Now, imagine not taking time to pause when you communicate with non-native English speakers who have different English levels?

    I think the situation would be alienating to them.

    How can you cultivate relationships in that particular case? I think if people cannot understand you, connecting with people and establishing relationships are at stake.

    (I am considering your post from a communication perspective in which a native speaker communicates with a non-native speaker. I suppose you can also apply this perspective when communication is native to native.)

    What do you think?

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