Person To Person: Finding Your Best Voice In Relationships

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Do you ever take the time to consider how your voice affects your interactions with others? You may be surprised at the impact. Good or bad, there are steps you can take to improve the way other people hear and perceive you.

Tribune News Service

Have you ever paid attention to the power of your speaking voice? How you express yourself through words is powerful, and the tone of your voice can impact others as well.

We all need to make sure the voice we're using, in every sense of the word, gets the results in real life that we truly desire.

You can use your voice to soothe, slam, shame, or encourage.

One woman we know says she failed at selling Girl Scout cookies many years ago. "Back in my youth, we went from house to house. I'd walk up, knock on the door and say, 'You don't want to buy any Girl Scout cookies, do you?'" Her sales were zero, until she changed her verbal approach.

Stop for a moment to reflect on the voices of such actors as George Clooney, Jimmy Stewart, or Morgan Freeman. You can "hear" their voices in your head and each of their voices elicits a certain reaction inside of us.

Let's take Morgan Freeman, for example, in paying attention to the power of the human voice. No one was surprised that he was chosen to narrate the series on "The Story of God" on the National Geographic Channel recently. The comfort, kindness, and trustworthiness of his voice is amazing.

While Morgan could likely play a villain role, if he wanted to, most of us know he could convincingly be the voice of God in any production.

"How you speak is a major part of your life," says a friend of ours we'll call Richard. "I used to flub up every date I went on. I would talk fast, and the tension would build up quickly. I was just so nervous; I'd over-talk the whole time."

Most of us could benefit from working on voice strategies such as these:

-Try to sound trustable. There's never a time that acting evil or sneaky will pay off. You want your listeners to believe you'll follow through on your actions. You can say things such as, "Feel free to call me back, if you need any further information."

-Give some good ideas. If you're talking with your boss, try hard to be part of solutions, not part of the problem. For example, tell your boss: "I'll do some research on that new software. I'll talk to a computer guru at the college this weekend."

-Practice avoiding an emotional approach. If you'd like to dive into an argument with someone, try sounding more calm and logical. For instance, say, "I know we should fire that guy, but let's ask him some questions first. Let's allow him to explain why he skipped the meeting."

-Work on your voice tone. Record yourself and listen with your eyes closed. Focus on your likeability, sincerity, and how encouraging you sound. People who can encourage others with their voices are usually tapped for leadership roles.

"I work with people on improving their voices," says a music teacher we'll call Amber. "Some people have a beautiful singing voice, but a horrible speaking voice. When you speak, the pitch of your voice should go up and down like musical notes. If you sound too monotone, you'll sound harsh."

She continues, "I tell my students, 'If you think your speaking voice doesn't matter, think about this: Picture your favorite movie star or favorite teacher with a bad speaking voice. Is it likely they'd hold your attention then?' Most agree that the answer is no." ___ (Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Cafe, Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)

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