Though we don’t always like to admit it, appearances matter. Whether that involves the clothes we’re wearing, how we hold ourselves or even the tone of our voices, the end result is the same. If you aren’t able to project an impression of yourself that’s confident and collected, others won’t be able to see you in this way either!
So far, on this site, we’ve talked about how to create a personal style that conveys the impression you’d like to others, as well as how to master your body language to appear confident in any situation. However, we haven’t yet talked about how to maintain control of your vocal tone – even though this element is just as important as any of these others when it comes to your overall appearance.
Step #1 – Identify the situations in which your vocal tone seems “off”
Before you can start making improvements to the tone of your voice, you’ll want to start by identifying the situations in which you feel uncomfortable with your vocal delivery.
For example, a few situational prompts to consider include:
- Do you feel comfortable with the way you communicate your needs in a business setting?
- Do you share your thoughts and ideas in an assertive manner in team meetings?
- Do your business colleagues respond positively to the ideas you present at work?
- Would your coworkers describe you as timid, assertive or aggressive?
- Are you able to tell your family members what you need from them to be comfortable?
- Do the strangers you encounter in public (ie – in restaurants and at the bank) respond to your requests in the way you’d like?
If you aren’t getting the results you’d like out of these exchanges, it could be that your tone of voice is betraying your innate desire to be respected and taken seriously. Think back to specific instances in your past when your words weren’t interpreted in the manner you intended and determine whether or not your tone of voice may have contributed to these misperceptions.
Really put some effort into remembering these scenarios. Think about how you felt when you knew you were using the incorrect tone of voice to convey your thoughts and intentions, and imagine the look on your contacts’ faces as you made this mistake. By making your recollections as vivid as possible, you’ll be better able to redirect future conversations to the assertive tone you desire.
Step #2 – Find your “pass the salt” voice
To understand what your assertive tone of voice sounds like, imagine yourself asking a dining companion to pass you the salt. In this casual situation, you wouldn’t timidly whisper your request and you wouldn’t shout at your dinner mate to fulfill your request. Instead, you’d ask simply and directly for the condiment you need in order to eat your meal.
That “pass the salt” voice is your assertive tone of voice, and it’s the one you should be using in all of the different situational prompts listed above. Using an assertive tone in these situations will increase your odds of being perceived in an appropriate manner – as well as improving your odds of bringing about your desired result, due to increased clout give to you by others!
Step #3 – Envision yourself using this vocal tone in uncomfortable situations
Now that you know what your assertive tone of voice sounds like, run back through the situations you envisioned back in Step #1. But this time – instead of remembering yourself using an inappropriate tone of voice – imagine yourself conveying the same information in an assertive tone.
Again, put some time into this step – no matter how strange it might feel. By mentally rehearsing these interactions, you’ll be better prepared to use your “pass the salt” voice in real world situations.
Step #4 – Practice your assertive tone in the real world
Of course, all the visualizing in the world won’t solve your vocal problems if you aren’t willing to put your newly found assertive tone of voice to practice!
Don’t automatically assume that you’ll be able to run out and start speaking assertively in any situation. Some people will be able to do this, but others – and quite frankly, I think most of us – will need a little bit of practice before we’re able to make the leap to using an authoritative tone in stressful or high-risk situations without reverting to our standard timid or aggressive tones.
So instead of jumping right in, practice using your “pass the salt” voice in low-risk situations first. Speak clearly to shopkeepers, waiters, cashiers and other people with whom your interactions carry little weight. Over time – and with regular practice – you’ll feel more confident using this assertive tone of voice in any situation you encounter.