Listen to voices!

It was a BBC Radio 4 programme, announced as a comedy show – and within 60 seconds I had to switch it off.

Had to switch off? Yes, the quick-fire, raspy, edgy voice of the presenter grated on my nerves. It was physically uncomfortable. He has a great voice… for a writer.

I’d recently been exploring the skilful use of voice with a couple of our training groups so I was probably more attuned than usual to voice and its impact. And this came as a useful reminder of how easily we can put people off if we’re unaware of our voice sound.

Voice is a big turn-on or turn-off for many people and it’s wise to check how your voice may unconsciously affect your listeners.

Listen to voices for a few days.

Tune in to your own voice and those of others.

Volume: Is yours too high? Too low? Or do you vary it to match your messages?

Tone and pitch: Is it typically mono-tone? Strident? Edgy or harsh? Make a few brief recordings of yourself and play these a few times. Could you listen to these at length? (Remember, most of us hate the sound of our own voice at first, though!)

Tempo and speed: Is your voice varied and interesting? Do you allow pauses between your sentences and phrases to give people time to think – or do you gabble? Do you speak so slowly that they… drift off… into a comfortable trance…?

Note which voices you warm towards. And which you recoil from?

And then evaluate your own. Or, if you’re very brave, ask a few friends and colleagues to frankly tell you what they think.

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