How to talk so others listen

A compelling, genuine voice connects us to other people, says Sarah Neish


How to talk so others listen
  1. Vary your tone Voices can either engage us or turn us off instantly, says Patsy Rodenburg, author of Presence. ‘The most important thing is to use a range of tones, as people tune out if there’s no difference in sound. You could have the most intriguing information, but if it sounds like you’re reciting something, you won’t be heard.’
  2. Watch reactions Which of the two main traps do you fall in to? ‘Do you talk loudly to make others listen? Are you sometimes mistaken for being aggressive when you don’t mean to be?’ asks Rodenburg. ‘Or do you mumble and let sentences trail off, making the listener do all the work?’ Watch people’s reactions when you speak, to gauge problem areas.
  3. Yawn away tension Any tensions in the body will constrict the sound of your voice, making you appear negative even if you want to seem supportive or compassionate. ‘If you’re anxious about saying something, yawn before you begin,’ says Rodenburg. ‘The movement opens your throat, and frees your voice, alleviating those tense sounds’.
  4. Connect with what you say ‘We alienate listeners when we don’t emotionally connect to the words we say,’ says Rodenburg. ‘Make a list of powerful words — for example love, hate, all, nothing — and practise bringing each word to life. If you feel what you’re saying, people will be compelled to listen.’
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