How to speak so that people want to listen

Transactional communication model ©JasonsWrench

Transactional communication model ©JasonsWrench

Many people have the experience that when they speak, people don’t listen to them. Why is that? There are a number of habits that we need to move away from.  Here you find a list of six habits I think we need to avoid.:

  1. Gossip: speaking ill of somebody who is not present.
  2. Judging: it’s hard to listen to somebody if you know that you’re being judged.
  3. Negativity and complaining: we complain about the weather, about sport, about politics, about everything, but actually complaining is viral misery.
  4. Excuses: people that don’t take responsibility for their actions
  5. Exaggeration: exaggeration becomes lying, out and out lying, and we don’t want to listen to people we know are lying to us.
  6. Dogmatism: the confusion of facts with opinions.

But here are four really powerful cornerstones that we can stand on if we want our speech to be powerful:

  1. Honesty: being true in what you say, being straight and clear.
  2. Authenticity: being yourself.
  3. Integrity: being your word, actually doing what you say, and being somebody people can trust.
  4. Love: wishing people well.

Other 5 things to keep in mind in order to increase the power of your speaking:

  • Register: you can locate your voice in nose, throat, and chest. We vote for politicians with lower voices, it’s true, because we associate depth with power and with authority.
  • Timbre: the way your voice feels. Researches show that we prefer voices which are rich, smooth and warm. There are amazing things you can do with breathing, with posture, and with exercises to improve the timbre of your voice.
  • Prosody: the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech. People who speak all on one note are really quite hard to listen to if they don’t have any prosody at all.
  • Pace: I can get very excited by saying something, or I can slow right down to emphasize, and at the end of that, of course, is our old friend silence. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of silence, we don’t have to fill it with ums and ahs. It can be very powerful.
  • Volume: it is not nice to impose your volume on people around you. You can get people pay attention by getting quiet.
Rajagopal speaking to 25,000 people, Janadesh 2007, India ©Ekta Parishad

Rajagopal speaking to 25,000 people, Janadesh 2007, India ©Ekta Parishad

Anytime you’re going to talk to anybody important, or to perform public speaking you need to warm up your voice. How to warm up your voice? Here are four vocal warmup exercises:

  • Arms up, deep breath in, and sigh out.
  • Warm up your lips, and say “ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba”. And “brrrrrrrrrr”, just like when you were a kid.
  • Exercise your tongue with exaggerated “la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la”. And then, roll an R. “Rrrrrrr”.
  • It starts with “we” and goes to “aw.” The “we” is high, the “aw” is low. So you go, weeeaawww, weeeaawww.


What would the world be like if we were speaking powerfully to people who were listening consciously in environments which were actually fit for purpose? Or to make that a bit larger, what would the world be like if we were creating sound consciously and consuming sound consciously and designing all our environments consciously for sound? That would be a world that does sound beautiful, and one where understanding would be the norm, and that is an idea worth spreading.

What else, what are other important tools to make communication more efficient? For example, what about eye contact, movement and smiling?

This post was inspired by Julian Treasure’s TED conference.


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