The way you sound can cause a person to enjoy or despise hearing you speak, and may even determine whether they are willing to listen to you. Just think of Nina from Office Space.
Over the past few years, including this weekend at MidwestUX, I have been tempted to share a book that helped me improve my own voice. I have cautiously kept this book to myself, however, because I distinctly remember my first reaction to it.
Change your Voice, Change your Life
One Christmas morning back in college, my dad gave me a book called, Change Your Voice, Change Your Life by Dr. Morton Cooper. It declares that it is “a quick, simple plan for finding and using your natural dynamic voice.”
I wasn’t very impressed.
For several years, my dad had commented on how my voice and speaking habits would change depending on who I spent time with. After he commented on it often enough, I monitored how often I said the word “like” and tried to speak in a lower pitch.
But my dad had never given me a book about speaking before, and for goodness sake, it was Christmas.
Over the next few days, I may not, in fact, have spoken to him quite as much as I ordinarily did. But, after some time went by, I decided to give the book a shot. It claimed that if a person learned to speak with his true voice, he would be better respected, more easily heard, and less likely to lose his voice. And he might even improve his singing voice.
Your career and how you sound
As I was thinking this weekend about voices and the way people think about us, I remembered that another self-help book I’ve read mentions voice. So I pulled out my copy of Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage their Careers.
Looking at the table of contents, I realized that Nice Girls doesn’t just have a couple tips about speaking. It has a whole chapter, with sixteen mistakes to avoid.
Author Lois Frankel reminds us that factors like Talking Too Fast (Mistake 64) and Speaking at a Higher-than-Natural Pitch (Mistake 70) “contribute to whether you are viewed as a knowledgeable, self-confident, and competent professional.” And, as she mentions in the text, these bad habits can plague men just as well as women.
Where my voice is now
I still have a way to go in my own voice training. When I realize I’m having a hard time being heard in a crowd, I can speak in the way Cooper teaches, but I would like to be more consistent. The scratchy throat I developed the second day of MidwestUX clearly shows how much I can improve.
So, I’m going to read Cooper’s book again, to improve my speaking just a little bit more.
I hope you decide to pick up Change Your Voice, Change Your Life, too.
PS: Change your Voice definitely not the only voice book out there. If you find another that you like, I would love to hear about it.
PPS: In a comment below, Mary Specht recommends The Voice Book. I’ve read the Kindle sample, and plan to read the rest. It appears to be better written than Change your Voice and likely covers more territory. Note, though, that the Kindle edition does not come with the audio that appears to be central to the book’s method.