Recommended ReadsOctober 26th, 2021

Harnessing the power of voice

A photo of Rachel Podbury
Rachel Podbury, Principal Strategic Designer

I don’t have any musical talents. I was one of those kids who played the recorder up until age nine when it dawned on me that being able to play Celine Dion’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ was unlikely to get me anywhere, so I dropped it (literally, on the school oval).

So you can imagine my delight years later when I was listening to a TED Talk by Julian Treasure on ‘How to speak so people listen’ and he opened with the thought: “the human voice, it’s the instrument we all play”. I may not have musical talent to speak of, but turns out I do play an instrument after all. Most people do. And as with all instruments there are mistakes to be made and levels of mastery to be achieved in using the human voice to communicate powerfully.

Treasure shares advice on how to communicate more powerfully through four cornerstones of speech that form the acronym HAIL. I'll dwell for a moment on the most interesting letter, L, which stands for ‘love’. Not the romantic kind, but rather the kind of love that sees us wish others well. The premise for including ‘love’ as a cornerstone of speech is that when you genuinely wish people well, it’s hard to simultaneously judge.

According to Treasure, it’s hard to listen to someone when you feel you're being judged. Most of us will likely have felt judged in a conversation, and for my part that feeling prompts defensiveness that sees me preparing my retort, rather than listening.

This talk gave me useful tips on what to say, but also how to say it, considering traditional musical concepts like vocal register and timbre. More deeply though, it prompted me to reflect on what the world would be like if we all created and consumed sound more consciously.

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