Just like a fingerprint, you have a unique sound. You vocal cords developed during puberty to a certain length and mass which gives you the pitch that you use. The shape and mass of your vocal tract (the back of the throat, the tongue, the lips, etx) is where the sound is configured. You are limited in how much you can change your pitch but you have a lot of opportunity to develop your sound by changing the vocal tract.
Unlike a finger print though, you can make other changes to the way you sound. Many people intentionally change the way that they sound so that they are more authoritative, or confident, or something else. From Margaret Thatcher, to multiple US presidents, to company spokespersons, and senior level executives, many individuals study, develop and master a speech and voice brand that defines them and helps them boost their careers and ultimately make more money. They adjust something-maybe increase their loudness, reduce an accent, eliminate word fillers, learn to speak concisely or develop another aspect of speech, language and voice.
How can you align your sound with the person you wish to portray? How can you express your values and be perceived the way you want through your speech, language and voice skills? Here are four steps to get you there:
Step #1 Know who you are and what is important to you. One exercise that I like to take my clients through is to give them a list of values to look at and circle the ones that are important to them. This values exercise is helpful because our values are often expressed through our speech, language and voice skills. If you value confidence, there are ways to show that (be sure you project your voice, eliminate uptalk, etc.) Maybe you value trustworthiness. How do you express trustworthiness through your speech and voice? And that leads to step #2.
Step #2: Once you know what is important to you, become aware of the “sound” of that person. Who do you know who sounds the way you want to sound? Great speakers are everywhere--within your company, in the media, etc. This is actually a great time to notice voices as we draw closer to another election. Listen carefully to the candidates’ voices and how you feel about them. Notice their pitches, loudness levels, voice quality, vocabulary, diction, etc. Take some notes about the voices you like and dislike and what their skills tell you about the candidate. This is a fascinating study; I project that the person with the best voice and presence will win.
Step#3: Become aware of what you currently sound like. Now that you are familiar with what it sounds like to convey a value that is important to you, what do you sound like? Are your speech, language and voice skills aligned?
How can you find out? Listen to recordings you make, ask a colleague, or hire a professional. If you aren’t aware of your own sound and how you are being perceived, you won’t be able to make any changes. So this step is important. It might feel a little uncomfortable because you are being vulnerable and asking for feedback. But this will be helpful to you to find out from others just how you come across.
If you are perfect in the way that you sound, then step #4 is to continue what you are doing. If you found some misalignment, read on…
Step #4: Make the appropriate changes with substitute behaviors. Every aspect of speech, language and voice has a counterpart that can be learned. If you speak too quietly, you learn to speak more loudly. If you use a lot of word fillers, then you substitute silence in place of your fillers. If you speak too quickly, you learn to speak slower. If a foreign accent interferes with your intelligibility, learn new skills to help you be better understood.
Leading in a very intentional way, requires communication skills that match. Your speech, language and voice are part of your professional brand that showcase your values and help you achieve success! Your communication must always convey your vision, your purpose and your values in order to build credibility, be trustworthy and likeable and ultimately achieve the professional goals you have set for yourself. If you lack confidence about the way you sound, you may be mission opportunities at work. Take the speech, language, and voice confidence quiz to find out if your sound is holding you back. https://clearly-speaking.com/
Lynda Waltner Stucky helps executive leaders maximize their potential through their speech, language and voice skills so they stand out from the crowd, skyrocket in their career and get people to listen and respect them.
She is President of ClearlySpeaking, and a certified/licensed speech-language pathologist. She provides training to reduce foreign and regional accents and master speech and voice branding alignment. She has over 30 years of experience developing communication skills for individuals in a variety of settings. She is the author of Voice Branding for Executives: How to Align Your Speech, Language, and Voice Skills with Your Professional Goals.