I heard shrieks and shouts coming from our sitting room very early the other morning, my husband was freely utilising his vocal cords!  My son poked his head out of his bedroom and asked if everything was alright … I ventured into the afore-mentioned room to find my darling shouting at the TV as England equalised against Italy – very serious stuff!

It has also been an interesting week for Phil Neville, the former Manchester United and Everton player, who has been maligned in the press for his less than auspicious first effort at commentating.  His co-commentary of the England vs Italy match was met with 445 complaints to the BBC due to his monotone delivery and lack of emotion.  Jokes were made that England’s physio, Gary Lewin, had injured his ankle “falling into a coma” brought on by the monotony of listening to Mr Neville.  Phil responded in a good natured way by saying that he was glad he could help the nation to fall asleep: We may have young children who we would like to be lulled to sleep at bedtime, but not passionate adults wanting to be inspired whilst watching their beloved footie!

It is a problem that, in many walks of life, we can be excellent at our chosen careers but have had no training to enable us to successfully commentate, speak publicly and effectively communicate information or our thoughts and ideas.  I am sure that Phil will now be quick to employ the services of someone who can help him to improve the modulation and energy behind his speaking ….

… Is that my phone ringing now?!

Queen Elizabeth II

People the world over are working on their verbal communication skills knowing that, without excellence in these areas, success and fulfilment in life may be limited. Much of life is certainly about how we interact and build rapport with others; and oftentimes this must be with people of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds to us. So, what ought we to be working on as “global communicators”?

I worked with a Russian lady in London some years ago who was totally confused as to how the English language should sound and be spoken. Having been educated in America and having lived in Switzerland, London, Yorkshire and various other places in the world she did not know what was correct pronunciation. Indeed, every geographical area has its own distinct accent, colloquialisms and individual nuances.

A prerequisite to being a “global communicator” is certainly to be a good listener – so gaining some understanding of the culture, influences and interests of a particular friend, colleague or neighbour. However, what we absolutely cannot do without is clarity of speech. This is not necessarily about RP (received pronunciation) or Queen’s English, it is about whether my speech is intelligible? Can I be easily understood? Is my speaking clear? How often am I asked to repeat myself?

A quick win in achieving greater clarity of speech is considering the pace at which we talk. For most of us our difficulty is speaking too quickly (especially when nervous) making clear diction impossible and making it hard work for our listeners.

Our next consideration is how precise and definite we are in articulating the sounds that make up the words that we speak. Try saying “Peggy Babcock” ten times faultlessly!  For this, we may need some help with the correct placement of our organs of articulation and some serious tongue twister exercises.

So next time you are doing a presentation, a speech or just talking with a group of friends … don’t ignore the puzzled expressions or the drifting off to sleep… take a breath, slow down, take time to say your consonants and find your communication skills improve one-hundred-fold!

 

 

 

The Voice!  We hear a lot about Voice these days particularly with regards to the singing voice.  We love to see the buttons pressed, the chairs swing round and the thrilled look on a contestant’s face as they are recognised as potentially having a voice with star quality.

However, Voice is a lot more than just sounding melodious or hitting high notes – as admirable and as practised as all that is.  Voice is about influence, it is also about passion.  Certainly, in some contexts, we can affect and influence others by our actions alone but, nine times out of ten, it is our words  and how we use them – persuasively, kindly, analytically, reasonably, encouragingly or harshly … that brings influence to bear.  We think of the evocative speeches of Martin Luther King Jnr, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Emmeline Pankhurst, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gandhi, Hitler, Lenin, the list goes on … men and women with a Voice and the ability to influence others, some for much good and some for great evil.

We live in a world where it is important to consider how we are using our voices to bring a positive influence in our worlds of families, friends, and colleagues.

 

As we consider the miraculous gift that being able to speak is, we realise that, as with any other gifting, we can ignore it; take it for granted or abuse it.

Most of us probably fall into the second category with regards to using our voices until such time as we strain them through misuse and unwittingly find ourselves in the third category.  However, what about those of us who ignore the gift, and maybe due to negative experiences or self-inflicted limitations, find ourselves for the most part Silent.

Our mental health is improved as we yield to the deeply human need to speak and to be listened to. Remember Wilson, the volleyball that Tom Hanks’ character Chuck, dressed up in the film “Cast Away”. Wilson proved critical to Chuck’s mental health as his deep need to speak to someone – or anything(!) was evidenced.  Some people speak to their dog or cat or plants in the event of having no-one else to speak to.

For those of us who have become “silent”,  it is time to pick up the talking spoon again and start connecting with others verbally.