I had the great opportunity recently to take a peek behind the scenes at Radio Pembrokeshire; and to try my hand, or perhaps I should say my voice, at recording.
For me this was, in effect, a reversal of skills. The most recent voice training I received was in relation to the delivery of hypnotherapy, which required the use of a relaxing, gently suggestive, lull. Whereas radio is about upbeat, larger- than- life voices conveying all the things that body language can’t through the medium of radio.
I found myself having to concentrate on the pronunciation, tone and emphasis of my words but with a view to demonstrating a higher level of energy and enthusiasm – the stuff that makes people sit up and listen!
The use of back-round music can suggest a context; and special effects and enhancements can change the nature of a voice, however the main thrust of communication in talking radio is through the use of words.
With non-verbal communications, including gestures, facial expressions, body posture, tone of voice, conveying 93 % of meaning, this means that just 7% of human communication is due to the power of words.
The behaviour of dogs can provide a good illustration of the power of body language in action. For example, try directing your dog with a complex set of verbal instructions, delivered in a relaxed and polite manner -you’ll soon give up on that and revert to issuing basic commands and pointing to get your dog to do what you want!
Dogs tune into the tone of voice and body stance, in essence they sense the ‘energy’ of the communication – they assess the (lack of) urgency of the communication and act accordingly. If I just calmly ask ‘who’s there?’ my lazy Labrador will barely stir; however if I raise my voice and make the phrase sound more urgent, his head will jerk suddenly upwards, his floppy ears go ‘on alert’ mode, and if I move, he will run towards the door, barking a warning.
And despite having the facility of language, humans also use this non-verbal communication system for many of their interactions. If we pretend we are not emotionally affected by something; or we make a statement that we know isn’t true, our body will in some way convey the true message, thereby contradicting our words. We look for these sorts of verbal cues in others when we are trying to determine whether or not someone is telling us the truth.
So this got me to thinking as to the great power potential of words; and how focussing on the words alone can only make them more powerful, whether in a negative manner or in a positive, constructive way.
I spend most of my working life reading and listening to words; and writing and speaking words in return by way of letters, faxes, email, by telephone and face –to- face meetings.
The accuracy and clarity of meaning conveyed by these words are largely my main concerns.
The content of letters and emails is so easily misconstrued as there often is no ‘context’. As such, the reader will assume (and often wrongly so!) the emotion and/ or intention behind the message.
We have all read or heard words spoken by others that have become embedded in our memories.
Whether we perceived words spoken by others to be of a positive or negative nature, is the result of the interpretative slant we choose to place on the words.
So to make your words more potent and your verbal communications more effective I would suggest carefully evaluating the words you choose; focusing on the intention of the communication in hand; and assessing the overall success or failure of your communication. This way you can implement changes if you need to improve your success rate And when it comes down to receiving a message, always look for additional non-verbal cues, which will help you assess the communication more accurately. If you have only words, assume nothing and if necessary, ask for clarification!