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How to sound kind

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Have you ever heard the saying: “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”? This proverb rings with a great deal of truth as the way you sound can directly determine your success in networking, sales, presenting information, selling ideas, negotiating or building good rapport with different stakeholders. It also forms the foundation to successful leadership as it can not only enhance your professional success, but also increase your chances in influencing the ideas, emotions, opinions, and behaviours of others.

The tongue can therefore paint what the eyes cannot see. Think about your favourite Radio Presenter. It might be DJ Fresh, Pabi Moloi, Mark Pilgrim, Anele Mdoda, or even Rayan Seacrest.
• What makes your favorite radio presenter so interesting to listen too?
• Why her/him and not someone else?
• And if somebody else said the exact same information, or content as they did, will it still have the same effect? Well no.

The way you sound can dictate whether someone likes and trusts you or not, and research in Behavioural science suggests that if someone likes or trusts us, they are more prone and open minded to our ideas. The above presenters have all mastered the idea of likeability and utilises a variety of prosodic elements such as a variation of pitch, loudness, duration, intonation, emphasis, pauses, rhythm and tempo of speech to ensure that they make their information sound interesting, friendly and enthusiastic.

However, meeting new people and establishing good relationships with a wide variety of people from different environments, conferences, meetings, industry events or seminars can be quite intimidating, nerve-wrecking or uncomfortable. Many professionals have a fear of what others could think of them, or heard from previous employees that they tend to come across as aggressive or threatening. Fortunately, there are various ways in which you can refine your social and networking skills, as an established network comprises of various benefits such as building friendships and an inventory of knowledge and associates.

The following steps can assist when you want to primarily focus on how you can use your voice and speech to sound more approachable and kinder in social and networking environments:

Step 1: Vary your vocal intonation
Use a combination of prosodic features such as pitch, tone and loudness, in order to create variation in your sound-pattern. This refers to the ‘rising’ and ‘falling’ of the sound of your voice. If your voice is absolutely monotonous, regular, and without fluctuation in melody and tone when presenting, networking or negotiating, you will bore your counterpart or audience in just a few minutes. This is something that you really want to avoid. The behavioural research lab called The Science of People, investigated this phenomenon and found that the most successful TED Talk speakers had 30.5 % more vocal variety and upward inflections than the less popular TED Talk Speakers. This suggests that the use of vocal variety can make you sound confident and increase your charisma and credibility as a speaker. So, when preparing for your negotiation or presentation, enhance your charisma and likeability by increasing the amount of variation and fluctuation of your vocal tone, loudness and pitch.

Step 2: Pattern your voice for Happiness
Because emotions are at the heart of the human condition, they play a central role in persuasion and negotiation. Neuroscientists Susan Bloch and Guy Santibenez discovered that certain emotional feelings were related to certain breathing patterns, facial expressions, acoustic vocalizations and postural attitudes. Their research illustrated that the primary emotion of Happiness is universally communicated by a variation of a fast and slow speech rate, upward inflections and a series of saccadic expirations. They also found that the speaker usually has a smile when communicating his or her ideas to the encoder. This reaction is then mirrored by the encoder who reciprocates the same response.
The power to kindness therefore lies in the physicalizing of happiness. Inventor, Ron Cutman investigated this phenomenon and his studies proved that the physical act of smiling is not only contagious, but also releases chemical hormones such as neuropeptides and other neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins which makes us feel good. Moreover, because your smile is mimicked by your counterpart, they experience the same sensation, therefore feeling as if they are “having a good conversation” or the relation that they “like you and you are being friendly”. Patterning your voice and body for happiness is therefore the key to building positive rapport and relationships.

Step 3: Never be a conversational narcissist
Effective communication involves two parties sharing different ideas and perspectives. The word “sharing” is key here: You want to make sure that you give the other person an opportunity to share their ideas and feelings without interrupting them. Effective turn-taking skills are imperative to master in order to ensure that you are not being a conversation narcissist. Also try and ask questions about the person’s interests; as charismatic people approach every networking situation with “How can get this person to tell me their entire story”?

Step 4: Empathise and Understand
As I mentioned earlier, emotions are at the heart of the human condition and it is therefore through sharing our emotions and feelings that we feel like we can relate or connect with others. Building strong relationships between people. Using phrases that appeals to the senses are usually incredibly effective:
Visual: “I can see how that could have affected you”,
Auditory: “That sounds great”, “yeah, I hear you”
Tactile: “I feel the same way”, “I can understand why you felt unhappy/fearful/excited”, “you must have felt so scared/excited/surprised”

There are numerous ways in which you illustrate kindness, empathy and friendliness in social and professional environments which will not only enhance your negotiation, networking and communicative impact power, but also enable you to build positive rapport and shape definite relationships with clients, co-workers, team members and people from different environments, conferences, meetings, industry events or seminars. Your voice is your superpower as great leaders communicate and great communicators lead.

Elri Wium; Specialist in Nonverbal Communication, Emotion and Voice and Speech Production.

Sessions with Elri can be booked via her profile or by contacting us on [email protected]

If you would like to know more about how you can use your voice to persuade and negotiate, visit or download our app My Pocket Coach available on IOS, Andriod and Huawei.

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