Tag Archives: voice

How to speak so others want to listen

Blue hills

Don’t look at me in that tone of voice, it smells a funny colour.

It’s a popular saying from way back, and it carries a lot more meaning than at first appears.  “That tone of voice” implies a critical note, and one that causes offence.  Equally, you can convey much more than the words you use, through the way you speak.  In the words of the song, “It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it.”

The way you use your voice can make you persuasive and plausible, or it can lose you business.  It can inspire people to follow you or it can distance them from you.  Unfortunately, too many people cause upsets without realising it, just through their tone of voice.

Does it matter?  Only if you want people to like you.

Can you do anything about your voice?  Almost certainly.  It depends on two things: your mental attitude and certain physical changes.  I’ll come to those in a moment, but first let’s consider some typical situations in which the tone of voice has played a major role.

I was running a training session in which I introduced the idea of the Elevator Speech.  It’s something I do very frequently, and I usually do it the same way.  I start by asking all the delegates present “What do you do?” and inevitably they give me their job titles.  I then jokingly say, “That’s so BORING!” and they all laugh.  Not this last time, though.

There must have been something on my mind as I said it, and it upset the people there.  Later they said I had been rude.  Whatever had been on my mind, it changed my tone of voice.  Everything else was exactly as it has always been – or so I thought.  But that slight, almost imperceptible change in my tone, made it sound as though I was being rude instead of funny.

Now consider the way you sound on the phone.

A customer calls and asks a question.  You are a bit busy, but you want to be helpful, so you give what you consider to be an efficient answer, to the point and without wasting the caller’s time.  You think you’ve done a good job.  The caller, on the other hand, may go away thinking you have been rather offhand, possibly even rude.

If you have a tape recorder, use it to understand the effect of your tone of voice.  Record yourself speaking on the phone to different people – a supplier, a customer, a friend, a family member.  Record yourself asking for help, and record yourself giving information.  Is there a difference?

The principal difference in attitude is this: when you are asking for help, you are the supplicant, the other person is the dominant.  When you are giving information, the roles are reversed.  The sales person is the supplicant, the client is the dominant.  As supplicant we use a more appealing tone of voice.

Not everyone in a dominant role will use a less attractive voice, but the temptation is there.  Check out your own voice and see if you detect a difference.

So what can you do to make your own voice sound more attractive? Here are a few simple techniques:

  1. Keep a mirror on your desk to check if you are smiling when speaking – until it becomes a natural thing to do.
  2. Practise speaking lower than usual, especially if your voice is high pitched.
  3. Get feedback from trusted friends on the sound of your voice.  Change what they don’t like.
  4. Sit up straight. Posture affects the voice.
  5. Drink lots of water, especially if you do a lot of talking on the phone.
  6. Practise proper breathing from the diaphragm.
  7. Put a note on your desk that reads: “Hello old friend!” to remind you to speak to everyone as you would to an old friend you haven’t seen for ages.

Be friendly, show everyone respect and develop a mellifluous sounding voice.  It’s an unbeatable combination.

For help with your own voice, go to http://www.phillipkhan-panni.com.

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Consider the way you sound

Listening to Classic FM as I work, I have become increasingly conscious of the effect of a change of sound.  The music itself creates a mood that could be jolly, contemplative or simply relaxed.  But there are interruptions.  Three in particular.

The first occurs when the tuning on the radio dial slips.  This creates a rising tension, despite the smooth, gentle music that may be playing, and I have to rise and give the dial a little twist. Of course this only applies to radios that do not have automatic selection.

When this happens, it forces me to switch my attention from my writing and to the radio.  It also makes me consider the lesson it offers: in relationships, if the tuning is slightly off, if we are not on the same wavelength, there is tension even if all the other ingredients are fine.

The second interruption comes from the ad breaks.  I have never understood why music stations do not exercise some editorial control over the sounds of the ads they broadcast.  In the midst of a programme of refined music, there could be a raucous sales pitch that lowers the tone.  Even as I was writing this, a typical example was broadcast!

A similar experience occurs in, for example, networking meetings.  You could be enjoying a conversation with an interesting new acquaintance, when someone wanders up and cuts in, disturbing the rhythm of the moment.  Are we guilty of such insensitivity ourselves, I wonder?

The third interruption occurs when the programme announcer or DJ (is that what they are called on Classic FM?) speaks at the end of a piece, and introduces the next one, or when there is a break for news.  Here too, I notice the quality of the speaker’s voice.

Sometimes this station’s ‘classical’ music is served up by someone who sounds like a pub barman reading out the day’s specials from the blackboard.  It jars.  And it gets in the way of the information being imparted.

Isn’t that also the case when we hear a speech or business presentation?  We may want to hear the information being presented, but the speaker’s voice may get in the way.  The voice is the vehicle for our spoken business messages, whether it is from the platform, across a desk or over the phone.

What I do is to make people aware of the importance of the voice, and show them how to sound better.  It certainly makes the message so much more attractive.

So if you want to improve the response to a speech or presentation, as well as the message, you may want to consider the way you sound.

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