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Tone…how important is it?

9th Dec 2013

A discussion started recently on Linkedin about the importance of words, tone and body language. The initial comment stated figures from a study done on communication by R Mehrabian - that message is carried by 7% words, 38% tone and 55% body language” - started a fair bit of discussion.

Why is tone imporatant? In speech changing aspects of our voice can change the meaning of a comment or statement. For example, if we ask: “are you coming by taxi?” in a neutral tone it is simply a question as to how we might be travelling. If we raise our voice and ask the same question in a loud voice, it might suggest we are angry about this choice of transport.

By contrast when we write (text and email included) we cannot hear tone. Our punctuation might suggest our tone but we can’t be sure if someone is trying to be funny, mean or sarcastic by words alone. Which is why conversation (face to face is best) is by far the better way to communicate, to hear the words and understand the meaning beneath the words.

Record yourself repeating the same phrase but using different tone of voice so you can hear exactly how we carry meaning in our tone. Learning how to change your tone is covered in the modulation section of the Say It Clearly manual. For more information contact the author.

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Confidence is King

28th May 2013

The first aspect to effective speaking in any situation is ensuring you are relaxed. This doesn’t mean fall asleep relaxed but making simple adjustments to your body to make sure you can breathe properly and produce the best speaking voice you can.

If there is any undue tension in any of the muscles that are used for breathing or voice production, the speech produced will have some fault, such as a hard tone or harsh breathing. The speech produced will therefore not be as effective or as clear as it could be.

Reasons why we can feel nervous before speaking vary. It could be we are worried the listener might not like what we have to say, concerned that what we are going to say isn’t suitable for the audience, we might not be sure that we are expressing ourselves clearly or that we can be heard. We might worry that we will forget our memorised work or that we haven’t prepared ourselves properly.

Signs of our nerves can include; screwing up or hands into tight balls, pulling our shoulders up to our ears, rocking forwards and backwards on our feet, over gesturing, saying um or ah.

Everyone feels nerves before they speak. It is completely natural but you need to learn to calm your anxiety so you are able to get your message across and deliver your speech to the best of your ability.

Five tips to ease nerves and build confidence

  1. Stand with your feet hip width apart, breathe in through your nose to the count of five. At the same time raise your arms until they are parallel with the floor. Hold your breath to the count of three and then lower your arms and breath out evenly to the count of ten. If you find you have run out of air before you get to ten you need to practise so you can control your outflow of breath. If you have air left over practise again but count to fifteen as you lower your arms. You are aiming to be able to be able to do this to the count of twenty then you’ll know you have good breath control and you are breathing deeply enough. Shallow breathing can cause you to pause in the wrong place as you are speaking and incorrect phrasing means lose of meaning. Getting enough oxygen into your brain stop those ‘mind blanks’ that can be created through nerves.
  2. Stand with your feet hip width apart. Rise up onto your tip toes then rock back onto the heels of your feet. When you stand make sure your weight is evenly distributed along the balls of your feet and heels. Make sure your ears are directly above your shoulders. This will ensure your posture is allowing you to breathe as deeply as you can to sustain your breath while speaking.
  3. Take a deep breath in slowly through your nose. Laugh a big, loud HA, HA, HA and then exhale the rest of your breath. This will relax any tension in your jaw and back of your mouth.
  4. Have prepared notes in large font. Highlight the punctuation that will help you remember where to breath.
  5. Have water close at hand to take a sip. Talking can dehydrate you which makes speaking (and thinking about what you’re going to say next) difficult. Dehydration is usually the cause of jumbled speech.

For those who really hate speaking to any sort of audience being prepared, believing and understanding what you’re going to say is the most important part of learning to relax.

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Get in touch with Miriam to discuss how she can help you.