Work & Career
9 Voice Tricks Successful People Use to Gain Respect at Work
Don’t let the way you talk hold you back from meeting your true potential. In her book ‘Successful Women Speak Differently,’ Valorie Burton explains how adjusting your voice can help you get ahead.
Breathe from your belly
Take a deep breath, guiding air into your belly instead of your chest. Breathing like this helps the diaphragm tighten and move downward when you inhale to give you more space in your chest cavity, and helps the air escape more powerfully when you exhale. “This type of breathing literally gives you more life,” writes Burton. “It energizes you, relaxes you, sharpens your mental state, and calms your emotions.” Plus, your voice will sound stronger, which will make it seem like you radiate confidence. (These healthy-lung foods could help you breathe better.)
Work on your posture
“Poor posture constricts your breathing and weakens the airflow that will support your voice’s power source,” writes Burton. To make sure your slumping doesn’t hold back your ideas, open your chest and lift your head as you consciously stand or sit up straighter. Start with these tips to improve your posture.
Keep your voice deep
When people are feeling unsure of themselves, they tend to raise the pitches of their voices, which could explain why deeper voices are often judged as sounding more confident. While you shouldn’t force a deep voice, you should make the effort to keep it from rising up when you’re nervous. “When you are not relaxed and don’t inhale enough air to support your authentic voice, your voice sounds higher,” writes Burton. “When you don’t feel strong, when deep down you want to send the subconscious message that you are helpless or childlike, you may speak in a voice that sounds more childlike.” Keep your voice at its normal tone to come off as self-assured and authentic. Here are more sneaky things your voice predicts about you.
Slow your pace
Aim to speak with the clear, steady pace of a news anchor. Spitting out your comments too fast makes it hard for people to catch every word and follow what you’re saying. “When you try hard to say things quickly, the subconscious message is that your words aren’t all that important or that you believe people don’t want to listen to you,” writes Burton. By slowing the pace a bit—especially when you’re excited or nervous, which is when people tend to talk faster—you’ll make it easier for listeners to hear every point you make. Read this to find out how to stop other embarrassing nervous reactions.
Enunciate the ends of words
Speaking fast can also cause you to drop the vowels and consonants at the ends of your words, making it even harder for people to understand you. “They’ll fill in the blank themselves or they’ll tune out,” writes Burton. “Either way, you’ve lost their attention.” To improve your diction, she recommends recording yourself reading a paragraph, stopping to inhale at natural breaks every five words or so. It’s not how you should talk in real life, but it will train you to speak more clearly in everyday conversation.
Listen to a recording
Even if you hate the sound of your own voice, recording yourself talking will help you understand how to improve your speech patterns. Take note of what sounds good, and make an effort to change anything that sounds off. “You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can make tweaks that create measurable improvement in how confident, warmth, or strong you sound,” writes Burton. It’s also smart to practice using these magic phrases to help you nail public speaking.)
Pay attention to inflection
Subtle changes in vocal inflection can totally change how people perceive your statement. By avoiding “upspeak,” which is when let your intonation rise at the end of the sentence, you’ll sound more confident about what you’re saying. “Upspeak dramatically softens the statement by making it sound like a question, as though you are a bit uncertain,” writes Burton. Also, make sure to put emphasis on the right words to clarify the meaning of your sentence. Here’s how to avoid other annoying speaking habits.
“Warmth is one of the characteristics of people who are successful—who inspire, lead, and are most trusted,” writes Burton. Smiling (a soft smile will do) when you talk will automatically make your tone sound warmer. Empathy will also help build relationships with people who just want their voices to be heard. Pause to let someone else speak instead of staying on your soapbox, and make simple groans or whispers to show you empathize with what the other person is saying. Find out if you show signs of being empathetic.
Change your speech, change your life
As founder of the Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute, certified personal and executive coach Valorie Burton helps professionals become strong leaders. Find more about to improve your career through what you say and how you say it by picking up a copy of her book Successful Women Speak Differently: 9 Habits That Build Confidence, Courage, & Influence.