By Nancy Daniels Are you asked to repeat yourself a lot? Do people often interrupt you? If you want to be successful, if you expect to be taken seriously, you must learn how to increase your volume to a level that is comfortable for your listener or listeners. Those of us with larger voices tire of straining to hear you, tire of asking you to repeat yourself, and we will take over the conversation.
Aside from the fact that you are not being heard, one of the drawbacks to being soft-spoken is often lower self-esteem. “If people don’t listen to me, then what I am saying must not be important.” That is a mistake. People are not listening to you or are interrupting you because they can’t hear you!
You need to learn how to increase your volume to a normal level of sound. Notice that I said normal, not louder. Loud hurts the listeners’ ears. In working on volume, I teach people how to speak with a bigger voice, not a louder voice. A good example of this is symphonic music versus heavy metal. Increase the listening level of both types of music, and I guarantee you will go much further with the former than with the latter before hurting your ears. Symphonic music is primarily resonant; heavy metal is not.
If you are soft-spoken, you have spent your entire life speaking at a particular volume level with which your inner ear is very, very comfortable. Increasing your volume, even just a bit, will be difficult because your inner ear will not like it; your inner ear will think you are shouting. If you learn how to increase your volume properly, you will not be shouting, just speaking with a larger volume of sound.
When I work with clients, I teach them how to find the optimum pitch of the speaking voice, in which their chest becomes their major amplifier. By changing the placement of the voice — by allowing the chest to power the voice instead of just the throat, mouth, and/or nose — they discover a voice that is larger in volume. If they are soft-spoken, however, that increase in volume may not be enough to bring them up to what I call Volume Level 1, our normal everyday volume level of voice — the amount of sound we use on the phone, at the dinner table, in the car, and, in many cases, at the office.
We then work on learning how to distinguish a true Volume Level 1. In recording the soft-spoken individual, I will ask him/her to speak with more volume. All with whom I have worked (and there have been thousands) have told me that when asked to increase their volume, they thought they were shouting. Upon listening to themselves on the recording, each and every one has said that indeed their increase in volume sounded normal. Not loud. Just normal.
Learning how to increase your volume takes practice. As much as your inner ear loves your “new voice,” it is not quite as happy with your new volume. I tell my clients to trust me and not what their inner ear is telling them. In addition, I assure my soft-spoken people that they will never be too loud. Indeed, many of us can be loud, but not those on the softer side. It just doesn’t happen.
So stop repeating yourself, stop being interrupted, and learn to be heard the first time you say it. With a little time and some practice, you can discover the value of being heard every time you open your mouth to speak.