Tone of voice and breathing can have a huge impact on the way a statement you make or a question you ask is interpreted. Often taking a breathe and waiting until your next sentence has more impact than continuing to talk. However, to be comfortable with silence when you are in a pressured environment is a skill that must be practised.
As a professional opera singer outside of my Talent and People role at Passle, one of the most important things I was taught was how important the breath before I say or sing a phrase is and how much it impacts the meaning behind the phrase. And this is just as true when talking in a business capacity.
To put this into an example, it is often easy to tell the emotion of someone in the way that they inhale, prior to saying the phrase. A sharp intake of breath might mean someone is excited to share something, or even frustrated about something. A relaxed lengthy breath might mean they are about to share something in a more relaxed fashion.
Put this into a business context, and the way you breathe prior to delivering a pitch or a user training session with a prospect or client could be the difference between the client choosing whether or not to consider buying your product, or between the the client having confidence that the product will work and impact their business successfully.
Intonation and inflections in the voice differ between regional accents in the UK, in the English language being spoken in other countries and with people speaking English as a second language, so it's important to be open minded towards inflections. However interpretations do make an impact on the impression that is received. It's also worth noting that the language and syntax used also impacts how something is interpreted.
So how can you take steps to ensure your message is being received in the way in which it is intended?
1. Record yourself. Listen back to yourself delivering a pitch with someone else and ask how it sounds.
2. Practice taking a breath before you speak between key sentences. It may feel unnatural, but it probably won't to others around you. It will also give you more time to think and calm any nerves.
3. Listen to a good actor or news reporter and listen to how they use breath.
4. Know your audience. Being aware of how people like to converse and receive information is key.
Have you ever wondered why two people can say exactly the same thing in a meeting, but only one of them gets credit for it? Many times it’s the way we sound that makes the difference between whether or not we are actually heard. We all know when someone sounds nervous or confident. Think about the following phrase hesitantly uttered, “I have something to say?” versus the same message confidently declared, “I have something to say.” Click here to hear the difference — both instances are my own voice, yet the differences are striking. Which voice do you want your employees to use when speaking to clients?