From Carol Kinsey Goman, writing in CommPro…
In a famous 2002 experiment, a Stanford University professor made audiotapes of physicians and their patients in session. Half of the doctors had been previously brought to court for malpractice. She then played the tapes for her students, who were able to determine which physicians had been sued.
But here’s the catch: The recordings were “content-filtered.” All the students could hear was a low-frequency garble. But based on the intonation alone, they could distinguish one group from the other. The doctors who had been sued had a dominant, hostile, less empathetic style, whereas the other group sounded warmer.
I use this example when I coach business professionals to remind them that whenever they are speaking to an audience (whether customers or colleagues), people won’t only be evaluating their words, they will be “reading” their voices. Listeners will be searching for clues to possible hidden agendas, concealed meanings, disguised emotions, undue stress – anything, in short, that will help them determine if they can rely on what they’re being told.
The voice conveys subtle but powerful clues into feelings and meanings. Think, for example, how tone of voice can indicate sarcasm, concern, or confidence. Or how an increase in volume and intensity grabs attention because of the heightened emotion (passion, anger, assertiveness, certainty) it signals
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