The way you speak is important. From what you say to the way you express it, it is perhaps the most obvious method of communication at our disposal. Speech has come to be a universal signifier of confidence, competence and status – and nowhere are these traits more crucial than in the workplace.
Famous speaker Julian Treasure looks at a hugely important point regarding the way we communicate: It’s not just about what you say, but about how you say it. His ‘toolbox’ is made up of the different elements which comprise our speech. These can be utilized and trained in order to get the most out of our speech.
Want to change the way you’re seen at work? Your voice may be the place to start.
Altering where you locate your voice can increase the power of your speech. We may speak from our nose or our throat, but for weight we ought to speak from our chest. This lowers and distinguishes our voice, giving an enhanced sense of power, as depth is associated with power and authority. It’s been proven that we vote for politicians with lower voices, as demonstrated by Margaret Thatcher’s work with a voice coach to lower her register.
Looking to up your authority and score that promotion? Consider working your pitch levels.
Timbre refers to how our voice feels. Rich, warm voices which are smooth are thought to be most attractive and produce the best listener – perfect for those looking to exude understanding and strong EQ skills. Luckily, your voice can be trained in this regard through focusing on such things as breathing and posture.
Prosody is the singsong metalanguage of our speech (the rhythm and sound variations) and essentially makes up the notes that we speak on. Monotone speech forms, where people speak literally on one note, can create a style of speech that is hard to listen to or focus on for a long time. Repetitive prosody, where a particular rhythm is repeated (for example, each sentence sounding like a question) can also irritate a listener.
For those giving presentations or making calls on a regular basis, prosody work can help keep an audience attentive. Consider varying your speech pitches and mixing up your turns of phrase – and watch your listener’s ears perk up!
Whether we speed up our speech when excited or slow down to place emphasis on a particular sentiment, the pace at which we talk can affect the way our speech is perceived. At the extreme end of this is silence. In formal, showy situations such as presentations and the like, a slow speed should generally be strived for, to maximize the authority and meaning of your words; in everyday conversation, a faster pace is perfectly acceptable. No matter what situation you’re in, it’s generally a good idea to vary speed between moments of speech – though don’t take this too far!
Differences of delivery in where we place a particular utterance within our register can affect the meaning conveyed. Though we mostly work our pitch unconsciously, it can help to become more away of where you’re placing certain sentences within your register. Speak as if you were daydreaming or complete relaxed. That should be the base for your general speaking register.
Loud, excited speech can gain attention or irritate those around you if you’re imposing your voice when it’s unwanted. Alternatively, quiet speech can be used as a power tool in conversation, forcing people to pay close attention to you in order to hear what you’re saying.
If you have something particularly important to say, such as a speech to a large group, then application of these different speech tools can make all the difference as to how you are perceived. Julian Treasure advocates using certain exercises to warm up your voice before speaking.
It can be hard to critique your own voice. Thankfully, you can make vocal recordings with most phones these days; painful though it may be, try recording some simple sentences or presentation excerpts and playing them back to yourself. Are you rushing words that could be expressed more clearly at a slower speed? Are you making poor use of your lower register? Is your timbre thin and unattractive? If the answer to answer of these is yes, it may be time to start thinking about your toolbox – and we don’t mean the one under your bed, gathering dust!