Six Important Tips for Your Phone Voice
Would you Repeat Please? I Can't Understand You.
The soul 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 is based on two parts.
- What we say.
- How we say it.
Once a word has been allowed to escape, it cannot be recalled. The old 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 of all complaints.
I'm not referring to those from other countries trying to learn the English language. I am talking about you and I. 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 and sometimes there are physical or mental reasons for poor diction. If this is the case, you may be excused. For the rest of you, here are 6 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 exercise:
- Blind Exercise" - Pretending that you are speaking to someone who is blind, say the phrase, "I'm glad to meet you". Break each word down, concentrating on the following:
- I'm ( drop the jaw when attacking the "I" for a more open sound ) and be sure to close the lips on "m".
glad (finish the "d" by putting your hand up to your mouth to feel for the quick spurt of air following the "d")
to ( the "o" is given the sound of "oo" and the lips should be pursed as if sucking through a straw ).
meet ( hum the "m" and the mouth is in a smiling position for the "ee".) Be sure to articulate the "t".
you - ( the "y" is a diphthong, meaning that 2 vowels are used to form this letter. Begin with a very quick "ee", followed by "oo".) - ee-oo.
Practice this exercise until your speed and sound is 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 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 words are unclear. Poor articulation can hurt your credibility when communicating.
Practice the following articulation exercises. Begin slowly, then gradually increase your speed:
- Red Leather, Yellow Leather.
- A big black bug bit a big black bear.
- She sells seashells by the seashore, and the shells she sells are seashells.
- Eleven benevolent elephants.
- Giggle gaggle gurgle.
- Round the rugged rocks the ragged rascal ran.
Record Your Voice Without Being Critical
Tip #2 Record Your Voice
It's amazing 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 voice. It stands to reason that because we spend years only hearing the sound that resonates between our head and face surfaces, we never hear our projected sound (true sound).
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:
- Using the floor, place yourself on all fours, with the hands and the knees.
- In this position, drop your head as though you're looking at the floor.
- 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.
- As you speak the word "whoa", draw your attention to the vibrations in your chest area. You are initiating your chest voice.
- Be sure to supply plenty of air to the word "whoa'.
- Your body must be in a relaxed position. Keep checking your head to avoid lifting the neck. Concentrate vividly as you repeat this exercise.
Tip #4 Watch Your Speed Limit When Speaking
Talking to fast can be a detriment to good communication. And speaking too slow will put others to sleep. Recording your voice and listening for the tempo at which you speak can be a very helpful way to hear how you sound to others.
With YouTube videos being so popular, it's crucial that before we publish our own, we work on our voice to assure a satisfactory and interesting 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 "speaker" phone with the sound magnified - 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.
Avoid Talking With a Mouth Full of Food
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.
The Sound of Our Voice Can Convey Many Moods
The sound of our voice and how 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:
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.
The truth is, the human voice is capable of showing true emotions even when we are in denial.
August 10, 1876: Alexander Graham Bell makes the world's first long distance telephone call, about 6 miles between Brantford and Paris,Ontario Canada.
How do You Sound When Answering the Phone?
The telephone rings just as you are about to have your dinner. You are tempted to ignore the caller, but you anxiously pick up the phone and impatiently answer, "hello!" It becomes obvious to the caller that his call has been an interruption. He feels bad 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 relative 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, ressearch shows that 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.
How to Be a Better Listener
The number one frustration and complaint with being engaged in a conversation is the other party doesn't really listen. Interruptions are frequent and we aren't even allowed to finish a sentence.
Being a "phone hog" is rude, selfish and dis-respectful. 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:
- Take a deep breath before replying.
- Wait two seconds after the person finishes speaking before you take your turn.
- Show a sincere interest by asking questions on the topic.
- Care about what's being said by the other person.
- Do not interject. As difficult as this might be, learn to restrain yourself.
Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, and but one tongue-to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak. - Socrates
4 February 1878: Edison demonstrates the telephone between Menlo Park, New Jersey and Philadelphia, a distance of 210 kilometres (130 mi).
It's getting harder and harder to differentiate between schizophrenics and people talking on a cell phone. It still brings me up short to walk by somebody who appears to be talking to themselves.
Bob Newhart quotes
Final Thought ~ It's Not What We Say But How We Say It
People cannot see us when we speak on the telephone, therefore judgements are made on what we sound like. The importance is not so much what we say, but how we say it.
- We assume others understand our meaning.
- Be aware of the tone you are using.
- Studies have shown that 87% of the opinions people form about us, when speaking to us on the telephone, are based on the tone of our voice. Only 13% is based on the actual words we use.
“It is not what we say or feel that makes us what we are. It is what we do...or fail to do."
Marianne, BBC 2007 Production of Jane Austin's Sense and Sensibility.
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Audrey Hunt