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Why Your Speaking Style Might Be Limiting You At Work

This article was based on episode 183 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get one of three available voice coaching sessions with Judy when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.

Maya Angelou put it perfectly when she said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” In this one sentence, Maya captures the importance of how we communicate. Yet very few people have been trained to use their voice effectively.

I was delighted to speak with Judith Weinman about executive presence and the role of voice in communication. In Judy’s words, executive presence is about showing up clear in your message, effectively using your voice to guide others. As a speech, voice, and communications trainer who helps individuals and corporations cultivate personal and professional communication skills, this is a topic Judy knows a lot about. Here, she guides us in simple ways to channel our breath in order to show up at work in a clear, persuasive, and authentic way.

BREATHE TO BE AUTHENTIC

People care about authenticity. If the words that come out of your mouth don’t seem to be connected with your body and all of who you are, people instinctively don’t trust you as much. We need to come across as grounded. The best way to do that is through the breath. We need to relax and breathe. When we relax, we open up constrictions in the body, and allow the breath to come through our entire body.

Judy suggests creating visual imagery of your breath literally moving through your body from the gut. Think of where it may be constricted and where you’re holding tension. Judy finds that many people hold tension in their tongue, and tend to speak from the throat instead of the chest. In order to sound and feel more powerful, we need to open up that space. To practice, take a deep breath and say a few words, keeping your throat open.

TONE IS EVERYTHING

Tone is primal for humans; we recognized tone and voice before we understood words and messages. Our brains read the tone and assign meaning to it. And if that tone contradicts the words, we trust the feeling conveyed by the tone. In this way, tone is thus more powerful for us than words.

In order to become more aware of your tone, consider feedback you receive from other people about how you speak. Pay attention to clues from how others respond to you to gauge how your tone is coming across. For example, if you end sentences on a high note, you may sound uncertain about what you’re saying.

Managers need to develop a flexibility of voice, knowing which to use in different circumstances. You can practice this by trying different tones, such as authoritative or supportive, and noticing how it feels in your body to speak in that way.

PACE YOURSELF

We may put pressure on ourselves to speak fluidly, using perfect sentences, but that’s counterproductive. Humans think in phrases and clauses. Perfect sentences that sound as if they were written are actually harder for us to comprehend orally. Instead, allow yourself the time to think by slowing down, and speaking naturally.

When we hold onto our breath, words tumble out quickly which can signify a lack of confidence or nerves. Instead, let the breath lead; make sure to pause, allow yourself to breathe, then say the next thought. In this way, the words you say also connect with your whole being.

One setting where pacing is particularly important is meetings. When you prepare adequately, you focus on gauging people’s reactions rather than worrying about what you’ll say. By paying attention to what they need clarification on and adapting your message as you go along, you’re more likely to facilitate a productive conversation.

POWER POSES AND OTHER WAYS TO USE YOUR BODY

When we’re nervous, we make ourselves physically smaller. Women especially tend to do this. It creates a feedback loop of how the body, breath, voice, and mind interact negatively with each other. That is why doing “power poses” to take up more room is one way of disrupting that unhelpful loop (even if they feel a little ridiculous.)

Judith suggests also being aware of opening up the chest rather than having it cave it. In addition, we can be aware of opening up the throat, loosening the jaw, and becoming aware of where we hold tension in the body. When we focus on what we can do to feel better within ourselves, we stop being as concerned with the outer response. This confidence comes across when we speak from this place.

SUPPORT YOUR TEAM IN BUILDING THEIR COMMUNICATION SKILLS

If you notice that some of your employees could use better communication skills, approach the subject delicately. Make sure the discussion comes from a supportive place of believing in their potential, and the success they could achieve if only they could communicate better. Be conscious that equity may be a factor; those who received a poor education or one that did not include speaking skills are often embarrassed to bring it up.

We worry so much about what we say and then disregard how much the way we say it impacts our team. In order to build trust, work on connecting your body with your breath. Take time to ground yourself so that you come across as authentic. And learn how to pace your words so that you speak in easily understood phrases rather than complex sentences or half-thoughts. Mindfulness of the body isn’t just a nice concept. It’s a way to bring us closer to our teams to be heard and respected.

KEEP UP WITH JUDY

Website: https://www.accentjweinman.com/


Get one of three available voice coaching sessions with Judy when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.


This article was based on episode 183 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.

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