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Could Your Tone of Voice Cause People to Misunderstand You?

speaking

Our voice is our presence, just like you hear a roaring sound coming from waves that are crashing to the shore and know that the ocean is present.

Since we were born, the very first time we opened our mouths we announced our persona, our presence was made known, we let out our first cry to say,

“Here I am, I am here to love and be loved.”

Everything in nature has a sound, thus has a presence. Some sounds in creation are really loud and clear and some are subsonic, you can not hear them. Everything that exists is here to powerfully communicate by transforming whomever chooses to engage.

The challenge for us all is how can we communicate in a way that we can connect, build trust, and create lasting change in our interaction with audiences and clients by using the beautiful organ of our soul called the VOICE.

Most speakers I know would never really think about their vocal tonality until there is a problem, perhaps a misunderstanding has just been caused because your vocal tone is revealing an aspect of what we really mean in your conversation.

Have you ever heard someone say,

“Don’t use that tone of voice with me dear” or, “It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.”

When you neglect your voice, don’t care about it, don’t think about it, or don’t feel that it’s important, you are neglecting the potential of your presence. You are limiting the potential of your communication.

Vocal tone carries the emotion of our message and you can learn to have control over your tone.

Questioning and Command Tonality:

You may be very unaware of the impact of your speaking or singing tonality.

• What do you actually sound like?
• What message are you sending through your voice tone?

Have you ever considered whether you are using the right tone for your message?

A voice can have a mismatching tone to what you are saying. You could be saying one thing and others are hearing something else. You may unconsciously be using a questioning tonality or a command tonality that is not the right tone for your message or for your audience.

A questioning tonality creates uncertainty and takes away your authority in your communication. A command tonality can create intimidation or give perception of authority in your speaking.

Vocal Tip:
• The questioning tonality is a higher frequency, brighter ,softer, involves more breath and has a high pitch inflection usually at the end of each sentence.

• The command tonality is a deeper pitch and lacks higher frequency, it sounds strong and is associated to leadership and authority and usually it drops and comes down at the end of a sentence.

Both these tonalities can be useful but must be controlled and not become your regular voice tone because overtime they can shape and limit your presence and effect how others perceive you. Your tonal quality should not limit or keep you stuck.

You must have the ability to access varied tonalities for difference conversations and audiences.

Vocal Practice:
Doing a lip or tongue trill can enable you to create different frequencies allowing you to access different tonalities.

Have a listen here and try this exercise.

Vocal Tone for Compliments: 

To be sincere and thankful use a brighter and breathier vocal tone, but don’t over do it. Generally we trust, feel safe and like to listen to a vocal tonality that is genuinely sincere.

Vocal Tone When Pressing a Point:

Use a stronger deeper tone, with less breath. This gives the signal that you mean what you say and say what you mean. You will be listened to because this tone has a demand tonality and it says you better listen to me.

Vocal Tone When Speaking to a Young Audience: 

For an intimate and nurturing communication, like when I speak with my young 10 year old daughter, I use a softer, higher pitch tonality to match her voice. This allows me to build a stronger connection which will allow better conversations.

What Do You Sound Like?

You would never really know the quality of your tonality until you record yourself and listen back. When it comes to tonality most of us have BLINDSPOTS because we all get used to our own voice and wouldn’t know any different.

Having control over your preferred choice of tonality, knowing what tone is appropriate for your specific message is an art form for powerful communication.

I am an observer of intelligent interpersonal skills that humans intuitively have in verbal and non-verbal communication and listening. I have noticed that we have the powerful ability to read between the lines and also behind the lines.

As a three- year-old, my daughter could pick up in my tone of voice an indication of anger, fear, sadness, or excitement. She would question me and say, “Don’t be sad, Mum” or “Are you angry, Mum?”

“An interesting thing about tone is that it is one of few qualities that are universal across human societies” —Tonya Reiman Body Language University

The way I see it is that, your voice is like your face; you take it everywhere with you and it leaves traces of perceptions about you as you go. When we listen to someone speak we immediately develop unconscious perceptions about their whole life. They may not be true, but it still affects how you have impacted others and what they believe about you.

A Friendly Voice:

A friendly voice is what all of us want from time to time.

We are often puzzled why people don’t get back to us or just drop off our connection list.

I have often asked myself, “Did I say something wrong?” or, “I wonder what she/he thought of me when I said that?”

Sometimes through our vocal tone we may have intimidated the other person or just put them off to any further communication.

We all have different vocal tones because we have different personalities and we can learn from each other by modelling the vocal tones we like and try them on and see if it’s a fit.

To discover your unique friendly vocal tone you can begin to ask yourself what does a friendly voice sound or feel like?

Vocal Practice:
Play with your voice and do some acting.

Find a private spot and get your favorite teddy out, sit him or her down, and begin to speak. Video record it and watch it and listen back. Pretend you are the friendliest person ever. As you do this, I would imagine your voice sounding higher pitched than usual and also not so loud and more breathy.

Record your voice on my SpeakPipe app link below and when I receive it I will let you know what I think. With personal coaching and diagnosis for your voice type, I can tweak your voice tone by giving you exercises that change the ratio of air and muscles in your larynx.

Send your recording on SpeakPipe here! 

Vocal Tip:
• In general for a more friendly tone, it’s usually pitched higher and not deeper. It’s not loud or assertive, but breathier and more relaxed and at ease. The vocal cords are not so pressed (tightly closing) allowing the breath to flow more.

Women’s Vocal Tonality For Business:

The Wall Street Journal reported about research from the University of California which stated that charismatic public speakers use their voices to influence large audiences. The research found that successful politicians share key vocal qualities that strongly effect how people respond to them and this is nothing to do with the meaning of their words they say or the ideas the express.

When you speak with this style of vocal tone, along with a mindset for connection and a message that is inviting, you are likely to be less threatening and clients and audiences will trust you and feel you are affable.

Other research says that women’s voices are judged more harshly than men’s voices. The natural higher pitch and breathiness in a woman’s voice can make her sound less certain in a business environment.

The ability to make more money is usually associated with those who have deeper voices and this is because of the perception of having more authority and assertiveness in the voice. A command tonality is a leadership skill and women who have higher-pitched voices naturally struggle to create this quality. Having a deeper tone will also help you sound more assertive and powerful.

Vocal exercises can be practiced to improve and strengthen a woman’s voice. When I work with women’s voices I spend most of my time improving their deeper voice, connecting, balancing and blending their chest voice (deeper voice ) with their head voice (higher voice).

The women I work with have much stronger, confident, assertive voices and immediately notice how people respond to them with giving them more respect and attention. They end up getting better quality jobs that pay more money, do better in interviews, and get promotions.

Margaret Thatcher was an example of how her leadership became stronger after taking vocal lessons to improve her tone. Click here to see the before and after.

There is something powerful about having a deeper voice in business; it’s a very strong aspect of delivering powerful communication.

Want more? Check out video on “Women’s voices for leadership”.

Having the ability to access varied tonalities in our voices can allow us to connect in different situations on a deeper level, and with different audiences.

About the author

Maria Pellicano

Maria Is an author, speaker, singer and coach. She is the Director of "Harness your voice" for speaking training and SingOut school. She is qualified mentor vocal coach, certified with the Institute of Vocal Advancement and also a Master human behaviour and NLP (marin style) Strategist. Maria has been working with delivery and voice for the past 20 years, with over 10,000 hours of private and master classes and workshops. helping singers, actors, speakers, trainers, teachers and preacher to speak with confidence, control and passion. She is the recent author of “The Art Of Powerful Communication” Aligning The Mindset, Message and Voice. In workshops and private sessions maria closes the gaps in communication empowering leaders to have greater credibility, competency and confidence that provoke emotion in audiences on any platform.

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