The Voice

By Jon Dyson on November 15th, 2015

When we talk, we are using a tool which is unique to every single one of us. Our voice,

The way in which the sounds come out of our mouths can have a significant impact on what message is received and, most importantly, how it is received.

We form perceptions about well-known people in many fields from their voice and delivery. For example, if you listen to Barack Obama, he uses his voice in a very effective way (especially given that he is a politician!). It has been commented that he could read from the telephone directory and still make it sound like the most significant factor in the world.

So what elements of our voice do we have some control over?

The tone: the sounds we make with our voices which can indicate different meaning or attitude depending on how we alter them.

The pitch: the physically created phenomenon of “the rate of vibration of the vocal folds”. Some people have a faster rate, meaning their voice is higher in pitch. Some have a slower rate, meaning their voice is lower. It could be argued that this is something we have the least control over, as we are born with physical characteristics (determined by genetics in many cases) which pre-determine the pitch of our voices. However, you may find that is you have a naturally deep and resonant voice; this may have an influence on the clarity and projection of what you are saying.

The intonation: the sound changes produced by the rise and fall of the voice when speaking, especially when this has an effect on the meaning of what is said. In English, this has particular importance in English given that it is an integral part of the spoken language and it frequently conveys differences in meaning.

The speed: how fast or slow you speak. It is obvious that if you speak very quickly, it is not necessarily a sign of competence in the language – on the contrary. It can seriously affect how the listener is able to decode the message (in plain words, understand what you are saying).

The length: In the context of business, we spend a lot of time In presentations, conference calls and f2f meetings talking to explain, persuade, inform, update, coach, give feedback, and a long so on. The volume of Speech we deliver in one utterance often determines the comprehension or interest of the recipient. Speakers often equate greater volume with greater efficiency, but with native and non-native speakers of English in the mix, this is far from being the general case. So, in fact, if we spend, say, 90 seconds delivering a crucial piece of information in one ‘splurge’, it may well be inefficient, as the thoughts going through the mind of the recipient may well be “Whoa!! Slow down! I am losing every third word here. Too fast”. When we order a fine meal, we aren’t expected to consume our fillet steak as a whole Piece. We cut it into bite-sized pieces. We may need to apply this to the way we talk to people if our intention is to deliver information efficiently and effectively.

Finally, the obvious inverse of ‘Noise’ is ‘Silence’. Silence (Or lack of it) also plays a role in communication among people from different parts of the world. Sometimes, it is necessary to give others, with a different perception of the role of silence, the space to reply, state or frame their words. This is highly influenced by aspects of cultural norms connected to the norms of a community. Conversely, in the West, silence is largely interpreted as an indication of disapproval, confusion, or even embarrassment. Silence is not necessarily there to be filled with noise.

So, next time you open your mouth to talk, remember that there is more to the process than simply what you are saying.

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