In a famous Seinfeld episode, Jerry and Elaine are having dinner with Kramer’s girlfriend who is a “low talker” – she speaks at such a low volume that it’s impossible to hear what she is saying. Jerry can only ask her so many times to repeat herself, so he ends up just nodding at everything she says. By the end of dinner, he finds out that he has agreed to wear one of her clothing designs, a Puffy Shirt, on the Today show.
Are you a low talker?
No one thinks they lack a sense of humor, have just average intelligence, or are a low talker. So if you speak softly, you probably aren’t aware of it. Because quieter speakers can hear other people, they think everything is fine. In fact, they believe, if there’s any problem at all, it’s that some people speak too LOUDLY.
What’s wrong with talking softly?
- People will only request, “Could you repeat that?” so many times before giving up on listening to you
- With everyone multitasking in meetings, no one will even pick up on your non-verbal cues
- On conference calls people will talk over you not realizing that you were speaking
- When introducing yourself to a group, what people will remember about you is not your name (they couldn’t hear it) but that you’re the person who mumbled and had to be continually prodded to speak up
- People will interpret your lack of participation with lack of interest
How to encourage others to speak up
It is important to understand that low talkers are unaware of just how softly they talk. They are usually shy and hate having attention drawn to them, especially about how shy they are. If you’re with a soft spoken communicator, here’s what you can do to help:
- Blame the environment. Explain that the restaurant, meeting room, phone equipment has made it difficult to hear
- Arrange to speak one-on-one whenever possible
- Speak more softly yourself
How to be heard
- The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel about speaking up, so rehearse how you are going to introduce yourself and bring up your ideas
- Test out speaking louder than you usually do with people you’re comfortable with
- Practice, practice, practice. You can get a lot of that at Toastmasters, a great non-profit that helps people with public speaking
1. Ask your Accountability Wingman for an assessment of your voice
2. No matter what the audible level of your voice is, check out the speaking tips on Toastmasters
3. Avoid conference calls whenever possible
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