Why is your voice so important as a woman in the corporate world?
“I’m on a number of boards. Sometimes I will speak and other members will talk over me – or they won’t listen to my ideas. My male counterpart sitting on the other side of me – then delivers my idea and everyone thinks it’s great and they embrace it – I feel like I’m just not heard” – female executive.
This is a common story for many of my female clients. Why does it happen? And how can we empower women to overcome this hurdle?
Your voice is such an important communication tool and literally says so much about you. Other than the social indicators your speech and voice illustrate, the most important concern is – are you easy to understand, pleasant to listen to and do you convey authority and credibility vocally. Of course, the way you present physically through your dress and general presentation also play a role. But think how many times you only deal with your clients over the phone. How many times is your voice your only communication tool?
Women, have many vocal challenges. We can be high pitched which leads to a sometimes irritating tone. We tend of have rising inflections at the end of our sentences. These high inflections directly lead to a lack of authority in our voices. A deep, resonant voice demands respect and if you start to take notice people listen more. Don’t get me wrong – men have vocal challenges as well. Australian men often mumble and don’t open their mouths. They also can speak with monotonous tone that can be very boring to listen to. These are their set of challenges.
If our goal as good communicators is to be clear and precise, then our speech needs to be well articulated. We need to finish off our words – the consonants need to be hit. Our vowel sounds need to be rounded – Not ‘Prud & Trud’ but definitely not “Kath & Kim”. The reason for this is not one of judgment but one of how do I want to be heard? Am I easy to listen to or do people switch off as soon as I speak.
So what can you do? The first piece of good news, is that your speech and vocal ability can be improved. Sometimes it just takes a few quick tips from stop saying ‘anythink’ to start opening your mouth to allow the voice out. To lower your pitch does take effort and time and a voice coach. Think about your voice – correct yourself. Awareness of your speech faults is the first step in the right direction. Be confident is what you say – don’t shy away from speaking strongly and with conviction. To be a good communicator you need to own your thoughts and deliver them in a concise and confident manner.
And to leave you with one thought from a long time ago which still rings true today from Shakespeare –
“I do not much dislike the matter, but the manner of his speech”.
So, make sure that what you do say, does matter!