The Game of Tones

21 Aug

Woot woot! John Snow and Winter are no longer coming – and the final episodes of G.o.T. are finally behind us. I never watched the show for the sake of time, but it’s 67 episodes are on my list of things to do when I retire!

Today’s topic is about your voice. If you are in sales or leadership, it’s vital that you understand the importance of your tone and pitch in communication – certainly in the workplace, but it comes in handy outside of work as well.

When I had the opportunity to be on the radio this past spring, I did a self-examination and put my voice under the microscope – specifically for the radio program, but also as an ongoing examination of “What do I really sound like?” and I went through the list below on the 8 areas in which you can improve upon your communication.

  1. Volume. Identify if you are a quiet, medium or loud talker. You don’t hear yourself the way others hear you (hence, record it!) so you are probably going to have to ask others for feedback if you are unaware. Adjust your volume to the appropriate level for any given situation.

2. Tone. In speaking, as opposed to music, higher or stronger intonation is created by using more volume. More volume – or loudness, in the musical sense – does not raise the tone to a higher pitch. Sometimes the most effective method is lowering your voice. The psychology says that people key into those words because of the change and take your calmer sounds more seriously.

3. Pitch. Your pitch can refer to intonation, but it can also refer to the overall level of brightness in tone that a speaker consistently maintains. According to the BBC World Report on NPR, British speakers generally speak with a higher pitch than American speakers. Of course, everyone is different, but there is some general truth to this.

The higher the pitch, the louder one’s voice will sound. To the extent that pitch is like intonation, there is the potential for misunderstandings when we consider pragmatic language. There is also the potential for simply not being understood at all by using intonation and stress patterns in both words and phrases that are foreign and unfamiliar to native speakers.

4. Speed. The number of words communicated over one minute has everything to do with the setting and audience.

  • In a speech, you slow down…
  • On the radio, you exaggerate your annunciation of words at a steady pace (but don’t pause for more than 1 second!)…
  • Over the phone, you also focus on pronunciation but should pause occasionally throughout the conversation…
  • In person, pronunciation isn’t as important as your pace and pauses…
  • One on one with your best friend, you probably talk twice as fast as normal…
  • And of course, around your grandparents, your speed slows down…

See a theme here? You are probably talking too fast and your listener is missing a lot of your message.

5. Confidence. You must be aware of the fine line between confident and cocky. If you are boasting, it should start with a self-deprecating comment. Whatever you do, don’t use a booming voice when you are across the table from someone or you’re likelier to sound cocky versus confident. Confidence is important in creating conviction behind your statements. You want the audience to believe you so convey confidence in your words. Too many hesitations, “um’s” and “ah’s” as well as licking your lips may cause the listener to doubt you.

6. Listening. An underrated component in understanding your own voice is being a better listener. Are you aware of the volume, tone and pitch of others? Do you consciously listen for it over the phone? If you can hear it in others, you can start to hear yourself better (at least when you record it and play it back to yourself). If you show a genuine interest in their words, you are more likely to receive the same level of interest from the other side.

7. Authenticity. I’m a HUGE believer in authenticity, as many of you know. This isn’t about faking it, it’s about training yourself to communicate better. It’s not about changing your personality, it’s about raising the volume of your mousy voice or slowing down your motor mouth. We all have a natural style with some bad habits – similar to learning how to use “bigger” words or spell correctly, we all need to work on the sounds that come out of our mouths.

8. Non-verbals. Your audible words along with non-verbals all play into communication style. Make sure your physical positioning is in sync with your voice, so you’re easily understood. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Are you pursing, biting or licking your lips?
  • Are you maintaining a balanced level of eye contact with your audience?
  • Is your body in line with the listener(s)?
  • Are your hand movements in sync with your message?
  • Are you crossing your arms and looking disagreeable?
  • Is your body language relaxed and approachable?

Here is a link that will give you more non-verbal suggestions: https://bit.ly/2x2rESK

Practice makes perfect.

The key to really getting others to listen to you is your own curiosity. Analyze yourself and others’ communication styles. When talking with others, use their first name and ask questions. NOW they are interested in what you have to say.

Practicing these habits rewires your brain and soon the changes won’t have to be conscious (21 days creates a new habit!). As you record yourself on video, you are going to see other habits to be aware of as well. I’ve managed and coached salespeople for years and I’m adamant that they should record their presentations quarterly in order to watch and hear themselves and hone their craft.

Since it’s impossible to make a living without communicating with other humans, make the most of it. We all want to be understood. Never stop working on helping others understand you clearly by refining your communication skills.

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

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