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Six Important Tips for Your Phone Voice

Audrey coaches others to speak with confidence, showing them how to make simple corrections in the way they are using their phone voice.

Holistic health and cranial-sacro therapist Judith Way uses her soft, comforting voice with clients.

Holistic health and cranial-sacro therapist Judith Way uses her soft, comforting voice with clients.

Would You Repeat, Please? I Can't Understand You.

The sole purpose of our voice is to communicate. Speaking, singing, crying, and laughing are all forms of communication.

Because we can't be seen when talking on the telephone, the message we communicate comes in two parts:

  • What we say
  • How we say it

Once a word has been allowed to escape, it cannot be recalled. The adage "Think before you speak" is full of wisdom.

What do the following phrases all have in common?

  • "Would you repeat that, please?"
  • "I'm sorry I can't understand you."
  • "What?" "What did you say?"
  • "I can't hear you."

If your answer is: They all refer to the inability to understand what the person is saying, you're right. This is the number one frustration when talking on the phone and has become the biggest complaint.

I'm not referring to those from other countries trying to learn the English language. I am talking about you and me. We all need to concentrate on speaking more clearly. It isn't all that difficult. It just takes a little awareness and some practice.

Now, I don't want to offend anyone. Sometimes there are physical or mental reasons for poor diction; you may be excused if this is the case. For the rest of you, here are six tips to help you begin speaking more clearly and confidently:

Tip 1: An Exercise for Good Diction

Words can touch us in many ways—but only when we speak clearly. If you need help with articulation, try the following "Blind Exercise." Pretending that you are talking to someone who is blind, say the phrase, "I'm glad to meet you." Break each word down, concentrating on the following:

  1. I'm (drop the jaw when attacking the "I" for a more open sound, and be sure to close the lips on "m").
  2. glad (finish the "d" by putting your hand up to your mouth to feel for the quick spurt of air following the "d")
  3. to (the "o" is given the sound of "oo," and the lips should be pursed as if sucking through a straw).
  4. meet (hum the "m," and put the mouth in a smiling position for the "ee, and be sure to articulate the "t").
  5. you ( the "y" is a diphthong, meaning that two vowels are used to form this letter. Begin with a very quick "ee," followed by "oo.")

Practice this exercise until your speed and sound are natural. Write out other common phrases you might use while on the phone and practice as outlined above.

Slow your speaking down while practicing this exercise. As your enunciation improves and becomes more automatic, add speed, a little at a time.

The words we speak are shaped by the mouth, particularly the lips. The vowels must "carry," and the consonants must be clearly articulated. The lips and tongue have a specific job to do. When they fail to do this job, our speech becomes mushy or mumbled, and unclear words. Poor articulation can hurt your credibility when communicating.

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Practice the following articulation exercises. Begin slowly, then gradually increase your speed:

  1. Red leather, yellow leather.
  2. A significant black bug bit a big black bear.
  3. She sells seashells by the seashore, and the shells she sells are seashells.
  4. Eleven benevolent elephants.
  5. Giggle gaggle gurgle.
  6. Round the rugged rocks, the ragged rascal ran.
Try to be non-judgmental when you record your voice.  Accept your unique sound knowing your voice can be improved.

Try to be non-judgmental when you record your voice. Accept your unique sound knowing your voice can be improved.

Tip 2: Record Your Voice

It's incredible what we learn about our voice when we record it. It's also somewhat surprising. The first time you hear your voice, you may be shocked or go into denial. This is precisely the time to let your ego take a back seat. Denial is a common defense mechanism we use to avoid dealing with painful or uncomfortable experiences.

After a lifetime as a public speaker, I still dislike the sound of my recorded voice. Such a reaction is natural. Because we spend years only hearing the sound that resonates between our head and face surfaces, we never hear our projected sound (our authentic sound), and it's not familiar to us.

Tip 3: Is the Pitch of Your Voice Too High?

Ouch! Speaking in a high tone may feel comfortable for some women. The truth is, many girls never lose their child-like sound, which is naturally on the high side. The sound is carried through the teen years and into adulthood. This irritating sound can be developed into a warm, rich chest tone.

The following exercise will introduce you to your chest voice:

  1. Using the floor, place yourself on all fours, with the hands and the knees.
  2. In this position, drop your head as though you're looking at the floor.
  3. Using a low pitch, say the word "whoa" as though you're calling for a horse to stop. Keep in mind that the sound of your voice must be low.
  4. As you speak the word "whoa," draw your attention to the vibrations in your chest area. You are initiating your chest voice.
  5. Be sure to supply plenty of air to the word "whoa."
  6. Your body must be in a relaxed position. Keep checking your head to avoid lifting the neck. Concentrate as you repeat this exercise.

Tip 4: Watch Your Speed Limit When Speaking

Talking too fast can be detrimental to good communication while speaking too slowly will sleep others. Recording your voice and listening for the tempo at which you talk can be a constructive way to hear how you sound to others.

With YouTube videos being so popular, we must work on our voice before publishing our videos to ensure a good and exciting presentation.

Tip 5: Avoid Chewing Gum or Eating During a Phone Conversation

Never eat or chew gum while on the phone. Is anything more annoying? And if you are on a "speaker" phone with the sound amplified—well, you get the picture.

I have a friend who is a potato chip fanatic. I swear, I think she waits until we are on the phone to rip open the noisy bag. Then she proceeds to smack away, causing me to get annoyed.

It's sometimes hard to understand what a person is saying with food in their mouth. Make it a practice to change this habit if you're guilty.

Your mother probably scolded you for talking with your mouth full. This also applies when talking on your cell phone.  If the other person is chomping down a big mac while you're trying to talk, simply tell them you'll wait until they are finished.

Your mother probably scolded you for talking with your mouth full. This also applies when talking on your cell phone. If the other person is chomping down a big mac while you're trying to talk, simply tell them you'll wait until they are finished.

Tip 6: Learn to Be a Good Listener

Try not to interrupt or cut the other party off while carrying on a conversation. This is a habit that can and should be broken. Being a good listener is one of the most important rules for good communication. It takes a sincere desire and a good deal of practice to learn this skill but it can be done.

Talk less and listen more.

The Sound of Our Voice Can Convey Many Moods

The sound of our voice and the way we use it can say a lot about us. For example, we can convey the following emotions and moods as we chat away on the phone:

  • Depression
  • Illness
  • Exhaustion
  • Excitement
  • Positivity
  • Negativity
  • Happiness
  • Surprise
  • Love
  • Hatred
  • Sleepiness
  • Sorrow
  • Agitation
  • Hurt
  • Distraction
  • Professionalism
  • Irritation
  • Boredom

The thing is, we are usually not even aware that we come across in a certain way. Most of us are pretty good at hiding our emotions. We try to be in control, especially when we are on the phone. But the truth is, the human voice can show genuine emotions even when we are in denial.

World's First Telephone Call

On August 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made the world's first long-distance telephone call, between Brantford and Paris, Ontario, Canada (about 6 miles).

How Do You Sound When Answering the Phone?

The telephone rings just as you are about to have your dinner. You want to ignore the caller, but instead, you snatch up the phone and impatiently answer, "hello!" Now it becomes evident to the caller that his call has been interrupted. He feels terrible, and he feels responsible for your present emotional state. He may think twice about calling you in the future.

The word "hello" is one of the most used words in the English language. Whether we use related words like "hey" or "hi," the meaning is the same. However, the interpretation of this basic greeting depends on how we use our voice.

According to industry titans such as Nielsen, eMarketer, and more, in the year 2017, we spent an average of 4 hours a day on the telephone. This number increases with the use of social media, games, email, and such.

Robert keeps his telephone image pleasing, warm and professional.

Robert keeps his telephone image pleasing, warm and professional.

How to Be a Better Listener

The number one frustration and complaint with being engaged in a conversation is the other party doesn't listen. Interruptions are frequent, and we aren't even allowed to finish a sentence.

Being a "phone hog" is rude, selfish, and disrespectful. Nothing destroys your telephone image as fast as hogging and dominating a conversation.

Being a good listener is a skill we can all master. Yes, it takes some practice, but all leadership skills do. Here are a few tips to help prepare you to be a better listener: