Recently, a viewer mentioned that people don’t listen when she speaks, but when she raises her voice to get their attention, she gets criticized for being too loud. That has to be frustrating. And it’s another reminder that when things aren’t working well for us, as speakers, our instinctive reaction can be counterproductive.
For most people, speaking louder means using more force, but that just makes you sound forceful, and people react negatively. Increasing the volume gets their attention, but doesn’t turn them into focused, curious and receptive listeners. What’s a more effective strategy?
My suggestions center around cultivating connection. Communication involves making a connection to convey a message. That connection exists on three general levels. It’s a connection to yourself, a connection to your message and a connection to your listeners. Any failure of communication is the result of a breakdown in one or more of those three.
What does it mean to be connected to your self? I think it involves being present and interacting in a way that’s fully engaged, bringing all of your self to the conversation. And I think the most basic starting point for that is to consciously feel both feet on the ground. Really.
Feeling your feet helps you speak with your whole body, not just your brain, When you learn to consciously enjoy the physical sensations of speech, you become more attuned and engaged with your entire being, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
What does it mean to be connected to your message? At the very least, it means you have clarity. You know what you’re saying and you can express it concisely. You engage your brain before you engage your mouth. More importantly, it means you speak with conviction, that you feel what you’re saying. If you don’t, it’s just empty words.
A physical way to cultivate being connected to your message is to take a breath before you speak. The verb “inspire” has two meanings. One of them is simply to breathe in, to inhale. “Inspire” also means to be filled with the urge to express something. When you breathe in your thought, you own it, and it comes out with your stamp on it.
What does it mean to be connected to your listeners? Communication is a relationship, a shared experience. So you have to care for your listeners. It’s not just about what you want to say, it’s about what they need to hear, and you must do everything in your power to meet that need.
I think it starts with eye contact. I know that sounds obvious, but you would be shocked at how often it’s absent, or, even if speakers are looking, they’re not really seeing their listeners as real individuals. Communication is interaction, even if you’re the only one speaking, so you have to open your eyes to see what they’re giving you in response.
Many years ago, I was teaching a night class, called Voice and Speech. One of the students, I’ll call her Anna, was frankly a bad student. Anna often missed class or showed up late. When she was there, she went through the motions without really participating, and she often failed to do her assignments. I was so annoyed with Anna that I was determined to give her a failing grade for the course.
On the last day of class, students took turns describing what they had learned and discovered about their voice and speech over the course of the semester. When we got to Anna, she said, “I’ve noticed I don’t have to yell at my son anymore, because now he really hears me.”
I nearly fell off my chair! That’s not something a below average student could say. Not only was it rather personal, it demonstrated an unusual level of observation and insight. Needless to say, Anna didn’t fail the course, and it was solely because of that single statement.
Anna’s experience with her son is an example of the power of these principles. They can change you, they can change your family dynamics, they can change your work life. Of course they don’t work by flicking a switch. You’re not going to do them tomorrow. They need to be cultivated and reinforced over time, but these principles can provide a roadmap for that journey.
By consciously cultivating a connection to your self, a connection to your message and a connection to your listeners you can encourage people to pay attention, listen receptively and respond to your message—without raising your voice.
Thanks for watching and good luck as you continue to improve your skills and become a more effective speaker. I’ll see you in the next video.
Raising Your Voice
When people don’t pay attention to you it’s tempting to raise your voice, but that’s often counterproductive. Here are three guiding principles that will encourage listeners pay attention, listen receptively and respond to your message.