You’re in Business Now … Leave Your High School Voice Behind
Do you feel like you are not being taken seriously?
When you are delivering information does your audience start to problem solve . . . when what you meant to do was give them answers?
Are you being held back in your organization or being passed by for a job or promotion?
Somewhere along the line you may have learned to believe that, as a woman, if you raise your voice an octave, or become ‘cute’ that you will magically melt the person in front of you and get what you want from them. The problem begins if you make a habit of speaking this way and can’t let it go – or you never learned to bring your tone down and be business-like in the first place.
It’s the tone and inflection used as well as the words spoken.
This might work at home, but if this style is a permanent state of communication for you, it may be holding you back in business and that is when it becomes an issue! It is easy to lapse into a voice that is comfortable for us – but how we talk to our family and girlfriends may not be appropriate for a business meeting.
If your voice and tone goes up at the end of every sentence it may imply to your listener that you don’t trust yourself or that you are uncertain of what you are saying. It may also appear that you are looking for validation or approval. If you are seeking a decision vs. seeking approval the question mark should come at the end when you ask “What are some possible solutions for this issue?” If you have an implied question mark with your voice raising at the end of each sentence your audience won’t have confidence in what you are saying and it will seem as if you are constantly looking for something from them – when they are looking for something from you!
Imagine this example (the question marks imply a raised tone and inflection at that word so it seems like a question) “Those boxes(?) of inventory in the corner(?) You said you wanted to catalogue the contents (?) and I have an idea(?) We could create a workbook(?) in Excel (?) and create a spreadsheet for each box (?), and tape it(?) on the front of each box (?) so the staff will know what’s in them(?). Would that work for you(?).”
What is being said in this example is that you have a good idea for organizing your workplace – the words are right – it’s the voice and tone that are the problem. The words coming out of your mouth are intelligent but your message and ideas become hard to hear in the words because of the questions (the inflection).
There is no denying that there are different voices we use, depending upon who we are with – don’t give up the fun kid voice you share with your close friends or family – you can speak to them however you want. Do you have one friend that as soon as they phone everyone around you knows exactly who you are talking to because of the voice and words you use? That’s okay! But, if you want to be sent out to represent your organization (or represent yourself in business) you can have the greatest business suit and haircut on the planet and have all the right words prepared to say, but you must have a voice that can instill confidence in your listeners. If you sound unclear or uncertain then your organization appears unclear or uncertain. Regardless of how you look and the level of work you can produce, people may still doubt what you say because of how you’re saying it.
So, you are reading this and you are wondering … Do I do that? Is this me? How will I know? Many times we are operating on a sub-conscious level because we have done something for so long it seems normal to us (and even those around us). A friend said the other day that her husband married her for her Scottish accent and now he no longer hears it – we become very accustomed to the people we are with the most.
Find someone you trust and ask them some key questions – this could be your friends or family, but probably more applicable would be someone from your workplace or a former professor or teacher. If you are in a business networking group where you regularly speak, but you’re not getting any referrals from, ask someone that you have connected with there. People that love you or work with you will never tell you something that they think might hurt your feelings – unless you ask.
Approach them and ask them clear questions such as:
- When I speak, what impression do you get?
- If you didn’t know me would you describe my speaking as assertive, young/mature?
- Do I sound like I know what I am talking about?
- Am I speaking with confidence about my subject?
Note of caution: If you are reading this article and know someone this applies to, don’t pass them this article unless they ask – we must remember to be gentle with each other and people need to see us kindly in order to take our advice or learn from us. We can’t just tell people things because we believe it will help them – thinking kindly is about respecting someone – if they respect you they will ask you for your opinion.
If you don’t want to ask someone, recording yourself may be the best way to hear this in your own voice. The next time you go to a business meeting ask for permission to record it on a small recorder – suggest that you want to take notes afterwards or record key points. Then, listen to how your voice is compared to the rest of the people in the meeting/room.
- Does your voice go up?
- Are you pitched an octave or two above the rest of the contributors?
- Are you rushing through the words?
- Do you have cutesy little giggles?
- After you finish speaking are people giving you solutions?
Make sure that it’s a long enough meeting before you attempt this exercise because at first you will be very aware that the recorder is on but eventually you will lapse into your natural state. If it isn’t a confidential meeting there are usually no issues – just make sure to ask for permission (oh, and make sure there is lots of time on your recording device).
If you think this is you then what can you do?
- When you speak don’t make what you say sound like a question – keep the inflection down or even at the end of your sentences.
- Take your voice down an octave.
- Keep recording yourself and note improvements
- Work up the courage to ask someone you trust
- Remember if you deliver your message in the form of a question you end up leading your listener to try and find solutions for you and what you have just told them – you will get completely off track and lose momentum for what you want to accomplish.
- Voice coaching can be a powerful business tool – it is not just for theatrical and musical performers. Start thinking of your clients as your audience and you on the stage – get a standing ovation from them – or at least a sale!
Please remember that your high school voice can be appropriate – the only time you have to leave it behind is when it is stopping people from hearing your message, or stopping you from achieving all that you want to and CAN achieve.
If you think you might be speaking in your high school voice and want some help with speaking in the business environment, Fiona Prince is a Communications Consultant who works from the premise that miscommunications are inevitable and that when we know how and why a miscommunication occurs, we are better able to manage it and get on with whatever project we’re working on. She provides workshops and one-on-one coaching. Read more about Fiona at www.princeheron.com or contact her at 250.418.5982 or email@example.com