As Mark Bowden brilliantly says, if your business has the universal monopoly on a product or a service, with zero competition – you do not need to keep reading.
Winning trust is a must for those who, like me, do not live in that scenario. Our voice is a powerful non-verbal tool that can help us move in the right direction . It can convey charisma, authority, facilitate connection and inspire to action. Or it can express aggressiveness, insecurity, and even induce sleep. In this article, we will explore how the voice can be a powerful non-verbal tool in communication and contribute to winning trust.
We have learned a great deal about how trust is closely connected with first impressions. Split-second reactions of our reptilian brain will take charge of regarding others as friends or foes, way before giving us the time to articulate any logical thought. This decision is based, among other factors, on the other person’s body language, breathing pattern, voice and even facial features.
When it comes to our voice, first impressions are mainly associated with three parameters: vocal quality, pitch and phrasing. And all three are present in the words “Hi”, and “Hello”.
Vocal quality can be simply described as energy distribution. More specifically, how does our voice sound? Strained? Breathy? Effortless? Why does it matter? Because the sound we produce will impact how close we get to our goals. Or far. Imagine lulling a child into sleep with an edgy, piercing, voice. Now imagine motivating a team with a breathy, or hoarse voice. Or try winning a client’s trust with an aggressive tone.
Incongruencies between how we sound and how we want to sound happen because we go through different physiological states that impact our voice directly, and influence communication as a result.
Thankfully, we have tools at our disposal to positively impact our physiology: learning how to breathe effectively, using our support muscles to produce a healthy and effortless sound (sometimes necessary over a long period of time), are some examples of steps we can take to be in charge of how we sound. We can be in driver’s seat and mindfully steer even through challenging roads.
Pitch is the most obvious indicator of emotion, even for the distracted listener.
We naturally vary our pitch when we interact with people we are attracted to, or when we talk to someone we consider superior in some way, or when we give expert advice. Pitch is also often associated to levels of hormones such as testosterone and estrogen in an individual, influencing how we perceive them in terms of attractiveness and authority. We vary our pitch naturally as a response to different contexts, and mostly without being conscious awareness. But what if this response is not in line with the impression we want to make?
The same tools we use for improving our voice quality will also have a positive impact on the control of our general pitch. This happens because of two reasons:
- if we have enough breath-flow involved in sound production, for example, the larynx will remain relaxed; therefore, the pitch is more likely to stay closely connected to the value we attribute to our message.
- the physiological effects of slowing down the breath (calmness, mindfulness and presence) improve the function of our cognitive brain and allow us to focus on the message and its delivery. The chances that the general pitch will be adequate to the impression we want to make are now much higher.
Phrasing has to do with how we shape a word or a sentence. How the pitch varies throughout the sound (different from general pitch, in the paragraph above), and conveys meaning to what we say. Phrasing becomes a lot more evident when we utter full sentences and can make use of different colors and other vocal parameters (pauses, emphasis, pace), but even a simple “Hello” can be phrased up, down, kept monotone or be shaped into a florid melody. There is no right or wrong use of phrasing, just the different cues we offer to our listeners minds and help them make decisions and assumptions about us.
As first impressions go, we will more often than not benefit from conveying warmth in that first greeting. This will inform the listener we are friendly, willing to engage in conversation and that we are confident. This inspires trust. You do not need to be an expert of the voice to know how to convey warmth in your greeting.
Tip: Record yourself saying “Hello, it is lovely to meet you.” Listen back: is the sentence very monotone? Then you will probably perceived as lacking warmth. Add 20% more melody to it and record it again. How does it sound now? If there is more melody, there is probably more warmth in your greeting.
The voice is a powerful non-verbal tool that can help win trust right from the first “Hello”. Our voice quality, pitch and phrasing affect how others perceive, listen and interact with us.
By being aware of how we use our voice, and exploring vocal tools such as breath-flow, support, posture, projection, and different vocal parameters, can help us become more effective communicators and manage challenging situations with mindfulness and presence.