Does the way you sound matter?
A major aspect of effective and influential communication is the sound of your voice. If you think this is trivial, imagine how you would feel about submitting to a doctor who sounds uneducated or an attorney who sounds like he grew up in the bush. Have you ever had to deal with a customer service representative who was unable to articulate the answer to your question?
The way you sound gives people a gut feeling about you. Communication researcher Bert Decker says the brain is divided into two parts called the “first brain” and the “new brain”. The first brain is the gatekeeper and focuses on the voice and facial expressions. Once emotional trust is gained, the new brain then processes words and logic. This indicates that the way you sound can interfere with people hearing what you have to say.
Your voice is made up of tone, inflection, volume and other components that contribute to your delivery. In phone conversations, eighty-four percent of the message received by the listener is determined not by the words you say, but by the quality of your voice and how you are able to make your listener feel.
Your voice can convey confidence or the lack thereof. Your tone can make your listener see you as concerned and authentic or indifferent and contrived. Saying the right words is useless if your delivery does not help you to connect with your listener.
Many people are disadvantaged by negative speech patterns that detract from their message. High-pitched, monotone, too loud, too soft, slurred, mumbled, nasal or whiny voices may diminish the message and impact how the speaker wants to be perceived.
An excellent example would be George W. Bush. In the process of preparing him to run for president of the United States, it was suggested that he retain a communication coach because his campaign advisors didn’t think his voice was presidential enough. They also felt his heavy Texan accent would alienate people from other states who associated the southern drawl with being slow and lacking intelligence. To give him broader appeal, they helped him to speak in deeper, more commanding tones and loosened his thick accent.
Public speakers, celebrities and politicians are often the product of good coaching. However, you don’t have to be a public figure to ensure the sound of your voice is not hindering your advancement. If you are not certain, record yourself in a conversation, wait at least a day and then listen. Evaluate yourself and then ask two people you trust to evaluate you. If there is a recurring theme among the three of you, maybe you have something you need to work on.
A part of being a good communicator is having self-awareness. If you think you exhibit a non-flattering vocal trait, have no fear as, in most cases, it can be corrected. What you perceive as non-flattering is probably just the result of bad speaking habits. Getting the best sound out of your voice is a skill that can be learned.
If you are a professional who wants to polish up the way you present yourself, send me an email and request my free guide, “Develop Professional Charisma”, and learn key tips to communicate the way you want to be perceived so you can gain the respect you deserve in business and in the workplace.
• Kim Welcome is the CEO and founder of Influential Voice. She assists businesses and professionals to develop deliberate, skillful, polished communication skills to increase their impact and influence. Her clients range from the country’s largest and most prestigious employers to public figures and individual professionals. Feel free to make contact at email@example.com.