From delivering a presentation at work to having a casual conversation with a colleague, the way individuals speak can have a massive impact on their career. In fact, Julian Treasure, a sound researcher and consultant, says the human voice is the most powerful instrument in the world.
But speaking in a manner that drives change isn't as easy at it seems, Treasure explains. Humans are all guilty of occasionally committing at least one of the "seven sins" of speaking—gossiping, judging, being negative, complaining, blaming, exaggerating and using dogmatism. According to Treasure, these "speaking sins" make others less likely to listen to what individuals have to say.
So how should people speak so they are not only heard, but also listened to—especially in a professional environment where a well-articulated opinion can mean the difference between company success and failure?
Read on for three takeaways from Treasure's TED talk below.
"There are four powerful foundations to stand on if we want our speech to make change."
In his talk, Treasure highlights four critical components of effective speech: honesty, authenticity, integrity and love (HAIL). These four elements can help individuals drive conversations in ways that are meaningful and thoughtful, but they are most powerful when applied together.
For example, while it's important to be honest, it's also important to deliver honesty with love and care, and not in the romantic sense. Say a CEO is delivering a speech about the state of the company, and the organization happens to be going through tough financial times. It's crucial for that leader to be honest with employees and emphasize the seriousness of the situation, but also be mindful of employees' worries. Pairing the honesty with sensitivity to soften the blow is critical, Treasure says.
"You have an amazing toolbox. This instrument is incredible, and yet very few people have ever opened it."
In addition to using the HAIL strategy, Treasure also recommends that individuals become more aware not only of what they say, but also how they use their physical voice. Using a lower register may make a voice sound more powerful and authoritative, while eliminating song-like prosody (or intonation) could help give an uncertain voice weight.
For example, a new employee that still feels timid in company meetings might unknowingly let her voice get progressively higher as she speaks, which makes statements sound like questions—this is prosody at play. Keeping the voice steady and letting statements stand can create more vocal confidence for the listener and the speaker, Treasure says. In other words, if that employee has a novel idea, it's much more likely to gain traction if it's delivered confidently.
"We speak not very well to people who simply aren't listening in an environment that's all about noise and bad acoustics."
In the age of social media, it's easy for nearly everyone to share their opinions with a massive audience. But the world is noisy and attention spans are short. Increasingly, Treasure says, people have learned to tune out what they deem to be irrelevant to the point where they might be missing voices that are adding real value.
The only way to be heard today? Learn to speak in a way that sets you apart from the loud environment you're in—like a conference room full of stubborn executives. It'll require adopting the tactics Treasure outlines in his talk, but if you and your employees can get out of your comfort zone and start speaking with purpose, you'll hear a distinct difference—and make one, too.