How to Communicate Artfully
We are accustomed to associating sound with noise and music, but speech also has a quality of sound to it. Often we fail to use this quality of sound when we communicate and when we interpret the communications of others.
Think about it: How important is the sound of a person’s voice to you when you meet or speak to them for the first time? What part does the sound of their voice play in your decision to trust them, to connect with them or distance yourself from them? Does the sound of a person’s voice tell you anything about their sincerity and integrity, their arrogance or humility? For most people tone of voice plays a significant part in the attitude they adopt to another and to what he or she is saying.
Effective communication comprises three dimensions:
Content: When you formulate a message or interpret someone else’s you want to be mindful of the message’s purpose, the clarity of its wording, and the degree to which it inspires the intended action or response.
Context: The context of a message takes into account who the message is intended for, the medium of communication (phone, email, letter etc.) and the environment in which it is being crafted and will be read. Where possible context will include other considerations such as people’s cultures, ages, values, social and positional status and education.
The sound of a communication is its most powerful, personal and intimate dimension. Sound is absent in digital communication and even on the phone it is often hard to utilize effectively. This is why emails and other forms of non-tonal communication can so easily lead to misunderstanding. Sound includes quality and tone of voice, intonation, and body language. Even when you are speaking on the phone or writing an email, your body language can introduce tone into your message and add to or detract from its effectiveness and impact. Standing while you speak on the phone, for example, can add authority to your tone, folded arms can add a subtle undertone of defensiveness and if you smile while you write a message or speak on the phone the receiver is likely to detect a quality of empathy and friendliness in your tone.
As important as sound and tone of voice are when we encounter people for the first time, we sadly pay less attention to sound when we communicate with people who are very familiar to us. When a man calls a woman for a first date he is likely to be attuned to the sound of her voice not just to her words. The same applies when we interview an individual for a job. But when our children, partners, bosses or employees talk to us we tend to focus more on what they say than on carefully hearing the sounds of their voices. We generally respond to their requests or statements without paying attention to the emotions that underlie their words. Their emotions reveals themselves more in the sound of their communication than in its content. People might choose words that cover up their real feelings which they might feel afraid to express openly, but the sound of their voices will usually give their true feelings away.
Artful communicators listen to sounds not only to content. They uncover the deeper feelings behind a communication and respond to these feelings rather than just to the words that may have been uttered in moments of anger, frustration, inhibition or excitement. Masterful communicators let the other person know that they have heard not only their words but also the feelings communicated by the sounds of their voices. This makes the speaker feel truly heard, recognized, respected and understood.
When you speak try to use your tone of voice and the sound of your words as tools with which to communicate your feelings. Try not to talk in monotones but introduce the music of the human heart into the way you talk irrespective of who you are talking to. Give the other party the opportunity to understand what you are feeling not only what you are saying. This makes it easier for them to trust trust you and to respond to you in a deep way that goes beyond the superficial meaning of your words.
The words we use come from our minds, we can choose them for effect, for manipulation, for seduction or for deceit. The sound of each of our voices is unique to each of us, it comes from deep within our hearts and is truer to who we are and to what we feel. There is music in your voice, use it. Use it when you speak, use it when you love, use it when you pray, and listen to the music in the voices of others when they speak to you.