“Pauses strengthen the voice. They also make thoughts clearer by separating them.”
– Rhetorica ad Herennium
This is an excerpt from a well-loved old book on rhetoric. He goes on to argue that often a little silence, an intentional pause, is all he needs to make sure his next words come out strong. In addition to giving yourself a short break to catch your breath so your voice can come back strong, your listener will appreciate that extra second you gave them to process your words.
I love this quote because it reinforces the importance of breathing in controlling not only the pitch and sound of your voice, but also your rate of speaking. Many people speak very quickly with very little breath between their vocal cords, which is detrimental to the voice over time.
For many, it comes as a big surprise when I point out that people can hear you, but that doesn’t mean they will 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 that the listener feels motivated to pay attention and assimilate your message. Energy does not mean speaking fast, but rather speaking at a pace that is easily understood. Speech professionals call it rhythm and phrasing. The sentence is your thought and the pace is how fast you deliver those thoughts.
A quick tip to speak more dynamically is to emphasize the words of your message by varying the pitch and/or volume. Speaking in a flat, monotone and boring voice quickly loses the listener’s attention and your message may fall on deaf ears.
Without a speedometer chip in your cheek (just kidding), how can you slow down your speech? BREATHE!
- Breathe between your thoughts to support and strengthen your voice.
- The breath allows the listener to understand its deeper meaning.
- Breathing gives you a moment to find your next thought, and
- Breathing takes the place of filler words (um, okay, ah, you know)
Talking helps us connect. In this age of social distancing and no hugs, 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.