Sensuality and selling: it’s all in the voice (Obstacle #13)
I can’t focus. It’s uneven, pitchy… staccato words hitting me like a Thompson submachine gun. I have turned my phone volume down to a low, low level to try to soften the noise but it continues to pierce my sternum and the sensitive area just below my eyes. I may need a migraine pill. The speaker’s voice is scratchy, high pitched and cracks frequently like an adolescent boy. He’s talking fast, but unrhythmically and takes awkward, somewhat lengthy pauses.
In an earlier blog, (Can you hear me now?) I discussed how sometimes the way in which women present ideas leads us to be overlooked. The focus was on how we show up, the power with which we deliver our message. Part of that power is is the tool with which we deliver – our voice.
I think hearing is our most under-rated of senses. There is so much we glean from sound – not even words, just sound. There’s so much we feel. A few bars of a song can take us back to a teenage memory. The cry “Mom!” has every mother’s head swiveling, even though she knows in that split second it is not her child. My cat, Chairman Mao, knows the sound of my car. When I pull up in the driveway, he immediately comes to the door and waits for my entrance. (Yes, he is an exceptional cat). Sound evokes emotion, action and reaction. So how can you make it work for you?
We are not all born with Buttah’s voice. We are born with our actual pitch, timbre and resonance.
But we can control some aspects of how our voice represents the story we want to tell.
1. Pitch: a low pitched voice is considered a dominant characteristic. Studies have shown that executives with lower pitched voices have longer tenure in their roles, make more money and evoke a higher sense of trust in others. However, all is not lost if you’re not blessed with a naturally low voice. Assuming you don’t want to go through testosterone treatments or “voice scratching”, the simple act of slowing down and lowering the volume of your voice can help minimize any negative impression.
Also pay attention to the pitch you use when making statements versus asking questions. Although both genders fall into this pattern, women are more guilty than men of ending declarative statements like they aren’t really sure… and we do it unconsciously. You’ve heard it: you’re asked a question and your answer is, “I went for a short run around the high school track…?” And your pitch rises to a question on the word ‘expert’ leaving open the question, did you or didn’t you? I am not sure where we picked up such an insecure speech pattern, but at least this part of pitch is completely within our control.
Keep in mind: this is NOT the same as monotone. Monotone is deadly. “Bueller… Bueller…”
2. Rhythm/tempo: speaking quickly can convey passion, but it can also convey nervousness or the impression of talking too much. Consciously controlling the tempo of your speech can have a significant impact: slowing down to emphasize key words or phrases, speeding up to generate energy and pausing between phrases or ideas all work to relay confidence and masterful storytelling.
3. Timbre: the emotional quality you bring to your voice. It’s the quality of your voice that reflects your attitude or meaning behind a particular word or phrase. Here is where your real sincerity bleeds through… or sarcasm… or anger. It’s another area where the energy in your voice reflects your emotional message, the one supporting the actual words you utter. So know what you’re saying with your words and what you want to convey, and reflect that in energy you bring to speaking those words.
4. Enunciation: speaking clearly isn’t just about being heard and understood. It leaves an impression. Enunciating your words indicates you are deliberately choosing each one to convey your message. That suggests confidence and thoughtfulness. It also forces you to slow down when you speak and control your tempo.
Speech is power. And it’s a tool you use daily. Speech is motivating. It’s excruciating. It invokes powerful emotions. It shares. It obfuscates. It brings people together. It rips them apart. We use our voice to convey so many things, human things, things that matter.
Are you using yours consciously?