Three More Voice Characteristics For Making Connections
Today’s post describes three more vocal characteristics that you can take into account when creating meaningful connections with people, over the phone, or anywhere else where connection matters to you.
Match your ENERGY
I just now remembered a trip with my daughter Aden, 19 years ago, to Epcot Center in Florida. They had an energy exhibit with a theme song. “Energy…You are the source of all life.” It was an infectious ditty, probably because it was so profoundly meaningless yet delivered with, you guessed it, energy!
My favorite definition of energy, and I don’t recall the source, is ‘Energy: a scientific word for everything we don’t understand.’
But here’s one thing I do understand about energy. If a person has a subdued energy, dial yours down. If the person has a lot of energy, amp yours up! If the person sounds down, taking your mood down a notch or two may improve their mood. If a person sounds happy, a similar signal from you creates a better connection than dissonance and dissimilarity.
Match VOCAL VARIETY
As an observer of human behavior, a counselor, coach, and student of communication, I’ve been listening closely to people talk for years. And just as variety is the spice of life, vocal variety can be a spicy mix of highs and lows that creates interest. The most interesting speakers, the most interesting people to talk with, use vocal variety to their benefit, to get and hold interest in what they’re saying.
But if making a connection is your concern, use a similar variety of tones and you’ll find it easier to get and maintain it. Some people talk in a consistently high voice tone. Others in a consistently low voice tone. And some, somewhere in the middle. Some people practically sing their words. They have access to the full range of their tonal variety and use it to speak. Others speak in a monotone, or a narrow range that leaves out the highs and lows.
Match SENTENCE LENGTH and WORD CHOICES
I observe that there are two extremes of verbal constructions: Too short, and running on. Let’s say that another way. With sentences, two extremes. Long. Short.
Short and to the point communications are great in email. They’re generally easier to track than long ones, and they allow one to get to the point and stick to it. But people who get too much to the point may find that they’ve failed to point the way to their point. That’s because some people need some detail in order to make sense of what they’re hearing.
Which brings me to run-on sentences where, if you are listening to someone who uses them and, if you’re waiting to find out where they are going with it and, even though it isn’t obvious you hang in there because you suspect that any moment now they will make the point and, that’s when you find yourself noticing all the connectors of fragments of thought into what sounds like an ending about to arrive then that’s when it hits you that the sentence is running on but the point has run away and you have no clue where they were going with this nor do you care anymore and, yet they keep adding in connectors as if somehow that ties it all together which, really, it does in the sense that it ties your brain up into knots and you’re not going to resolve anything by listening further…..
ARGH! YOIKS! DANG! WTF?
Yet when it comes to making and keeping connection, it is sound advice to talk using a similar sentence length and word choices. You don’t have to go to extremes. But some people do have a little to say, and others a lot to say. Some use big words and long sentences, some use short words and short sentences. Hear it, and match it.
For some, it’s not what they say, it’s the words they use to say it that counts most to them. A person using a big vocabulary will appreciate you responding in kind. A person with a limited vocabulary may have trouble understanding complex words and ideas.
Likewise, some people use technical language and jargon, others use colloquialisms. Notice this and respond in kind, and you will make better connections over the phone and in general.
I have a favored memory of standing in line at a bank with my then coauthor and business partner Rick B. We were wearing baseball shirts with the logo of our institute, the ‘Institute for Metalinguistics.’ We founded the institute primarily to justify having a logo which we could put onto baseball shirts. Back in the day, Rick and I had evolved a way of talking that made sense to us but rarely to anyone else. It was a language organized around deconstructing and reconstructing verbalizations into meaningful chunks of data that could be sequenced or simultaneously applied to psycho-neuro-immunology and internally referenced change work. (You get the idea, right?) And we were talking just like that when a lady standing behind us tapped me on the shoulder and said, “What in the world are you guys talking about?” We laughed, and that’s when she saw our baseball shirts and logo. “What’s metalinguistics?” she asked.” One of replied, “We’re doing it now.”
That’s it for this post. At the least, I hope you’re using these posts to help you have fun listening to the way people talk with each other! At best, I hope you’re building connections using this information, and using those connections to bring about positive change. Your comments are welcome. I’ll be back with more in a couple of days.
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.