“Pauses strengthen the voice. They also render thoughts more clear-cut by separating them.”
– Rhetorica ad Herennium
This is an excerpt from an old and esteemed book in rhetoric. It goes on to discuss that often a little bit of silence, an intentional pause, is all you need to make sure your next words come out strong. Besides giving you a short rest to catch a breath so your voice can come back with force, your listener will thank you for that extra second you gave them to process your words.
I love this quote because it reinforces the importance of breath in controlling not only the tone and sound of your voice, but also your speaking rate. So many people speak very fast with very little breath passing between their vocal chords, which over time is harmful to your voice.
To many it comes as a big surprise when I point out that people may hear you, but that doesn’t mean they listen and understand your message. According to the National Center for Voice and Speech, the average conversation rate for English speakers in the United States is about 150 words per minute.
It is essential that you speak with energy and clarity, so the listener is motivated to pay attention and to take in your message. Energy does not mean talking fast but rather speaking at a rate that is easily understood. Speech pros call it pacing and phrasing. The phrase is your thought and the pace is how fast you deliver those thoughts.
A quick tip for speaking more dynamically is to emphasize the words of your message by varying the pitch and/or the volume. Speaking in a flat, boring monotone voice quickly loses the listener’s attention and your message can fall on deaf ears.
Without a speedometer chip in your cheek (only joking) how can you slow your speech? BREATHE!
- Breathe between your thoughts to support and strengthen your voice.
- Breathing allows the listener to understand your deeper meaning.
- Breathing gives you a moment to find your next thought, and
- Breathing takes the place of filler words (um, OK, ah, you know )
Talking helps us to connect. In this time of social distancing and no hugging, the human voice is a powerful way to convey how we feel.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou.