What Does Your Speaking Voice Say About You?

Speaking Voice

A Speaking Voice To Command Attention & Authority

Why do some people generate more attention and authority than others? Is it something they do with their speaking voice?

I Speak Therefore I Breathe
As you breathe in and out, air is pushed out of the lungs by the diaphragm and upwards against the vocal cords. This causes the cords to separate and breath passes between them. Ta daa! Sound is produced! The extraordinary variety of sounds we humans produce is caused by the vibrating sound waves in the throat, nose and mouth.

Why Everyone Has A Unique Speaking Voice
Your voice is different to everyone else because of the unique size and shape variations producing different vocal tones in the vocal cords, nose, mouth and throat.

Your voice becomes even more unique to you when volume strengths such as soft and loud are added. In your mind, think of hearing a whisper… now think of hearing a command.

Pitch conveys the colour, meaning and emotion behind your words. Think of a speaker you know whose voice has a high, monotonous, low, shrill, flat or squeaky pitch. What’s your reaction to each? What’s your preference?

And let’s not forget rhythm or ululation, the cadence and emphasis that individuals place on syllables and pronounciation which contribute to the different sounds of a regional accent or to convey meaning. For instance, “I see” or “I see.”

For Every Role, A Different Speaking Voice
Everyday, we all play different roles as parents, colleagues, managers, friends, lovers or children. Have you noticed whether or not your voice changes as you step into each new role? Have you noticed a variation in the voice of others? Obvious examples include:

  • A soft, slower tone when addressing children or someone who is upset or an employee learning a complex new task;
  • an authoritative level tone when addressing a team or audience;
  • a playful whisper to share a joke with your partner.

HOW you say your words is more influential than WHAT you say.

Influencing Others With Your Speaking Voice
Expression and emotion in your voice stirs an emotional response in others. For example, in the West:

  • Deeper, authoritative tones enhance credibility and leadership;
  • High, shrill tones lose authority and are ignored;
  • Soft, confident, slow tones cause people to ‘lean in” and reflect;
  • Powerful, story telling tones using language rich with emotive pictures command attention and engage imagination.

Leaders are often elected and followed due to their ability to lead with their voice and the power of their words. If you are a leader, you need to speak with professional presence. If you are a speaker, you need to lead with professional presence. Leading and speaking are flip sides of the same coin.

What Does Your Speaking Voice Say About You?
Most of us make assumptions about what we sound like based on feedback both verbal and non verbal (such as a smile or a frown) from others.

But are your assumptions about your voice and its influence, correct?

Some of my clients come to see me about “improving their voice” as they desire to command authority and attention when they speak. Sometimes the reasons are obvious:

  • they speak too softly (so they learn to project);
  • they speak too quickly (so they learn to slow down and pause);
  • they speak in a monotone (so they learn how to add colour);
  • they speak with a nervous quiver (so they learn to manage nerves).

What surprises me is how often people assume their voices aren’t powerful enough, effective enough, articulate enough or even good enough for others to hear. When we film or record their voice, they can hear the truth for themselves and take steps if they need to.

What Does Your Speaking Voice Sound Like?
To command greater attention and authority when you speak, you first need to get some factual feedback:

  • Ask 5 friends and colleagues for 5 words describing your speaking style;
  • Observe the impact of your words as they land on people’s faces. Are they listening respectfully, enthusiastically or tuning off?

Great speakers and leaders (at home, at work and in the world) command respect, trust and attention and inspire credibility and action. You can use your influence “for good” simply by finding and tweaking your authentic voice.

Access the power of your vocal cords and let me hear from you!

(c)2014, Geraldine Barkworth, public speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

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