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Imagine going for a job interview and the employer sitting across from you is truly intimidating. He’s big, bold, loud, and mean-looking. What might this do to your confidence? To your mannerisms? To your way of speaking?  A recent study has found that men and women generally speak with higher-pitched voices to interviewers they think are high in social status.

In fact, this is something I learned about 30 years ago, when I first started working in Telemarketing – as Contact Centres were quaintly known back in the 1980’s. A group of us at Programmes Limited (subsequently Merchants/Dimension Data) figured out that when you had to ask ‘The Big Closing Question’, it worked better to have a descending pitch towards the end of the sentence.  Or to put it another way, to ask the question as if it were a statement, and not a question.

Learning to manage your voice and body language in stressful situations

You can try this in the safety of your own home (or office) if you like.  Say the following sentence out loud: “I can go ahead and book that for you now.  Would you like me to do that?”  Say it first as a question – you’ll probably find you have an upward inflection in your voice – simply convention and force of habit at work.  Now say the sentence again as a statement – i.e. with a downward inflection at the end of the sentence.  Notice the difference?  Which inflection makes you sound more confident?  It’s one of those things that, once noticed and learned, you can never un-learn.

Nervousness, for whatever reason, can affect our voices in different ways, and these changes can make us sound less confident, less sure of what we are talking about, and ultimately, less trust-worthy.  Higher pitch is a classic.

Pitch, Pace, Volume, Diction and Energy

Pace: when people are nervous, they can tend to speed up.  This has the unfortunate effect of making the client ask you to repeat yourself.  If they have to ask you a second time, they’ll be losing faith in you very fast.

Volume: sometimes people ‘Go Quiet’ when it comes to the big close or the bad news.  Again, the client has to ask you to say it all again.  Not good.  Sometimes, when very nervous, people speak fast and quietly.  A recipe for disaster.

Diction: when we get annoyed with a customer (it has been known to happen) we may start to over-emphasise what we’re saying.  It can sound like you’re shouting, or speaking through clenched teeth.  The customer is likely to feel (a) you think they’re stupid or (b) you’re angry with them, when you have ‘no right’ to be.  On the other hand, we can sometimes add mumbling to the other ‘vices’ mentioned above.  So, we might mumble the bad news, too fast, in too high a pitch.  This conversation is going down the toilet.

And finally, we come to the magic ingredient that cures all: Energy.  Very hard to define, but we all know what it is, and it’s particularly noticeable when it’s absent.  Sounding bored is a massive turn-off for customers.  The difference between energy and volume?  Think David Attenborough: even when he’s whispering (for example when he’s been ‘invited’ to sit in with a family of silverback gorillas), his energy is what keeps us glued to the screen.

Good energy, medium pace, audible volume, clear diction and above all lower pitch, will make you sound interesting, interested, trustworthy, polite, knowledgeable, intelligent, and sane – whether you’re giving a customer bad news, asking them to pay up, or asking for the sale – whether that’s for twenty quid or twenty million.  What’s not to like?

We can help you and your teams sound more confident and trustworthy.  Here’s the link to the training section of our website.