How to Speak So That People Want to Listen

Visual Freedom

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The world is noisy. Especially during these crazy times, we are bombarded with opinions, facts, and assertions. Most people feel the need to say something, to at least share their opinion, yet hardly anyone is ready to listen carefully.

Just like the majority of the world’s population, I am in self-quarantine right now, yet, contrary to most people, I decided to make great use of my time at home.

One of the new habits I’ve established since our government declared mandatory social isolation is watching a TED talk per day, as they are a quick yet effective source of personal growth inspiration.

Most TED talks are good, but some are amazing. Lately, I had the pleasure of watching one of the most amazing speeches I’ve seen, delivered by Julian Treasure.

In his talk How to Speak so that People Want to Listen, Treasure shares why we too often fail to communicate in such a way that our peers want to listen to us.

He talks about the power of certain words and phrases and teaches us how we can ensure others carefully listen to us — not only when we are on a stage but also in meetings or private occasions.

“The human voice is the most powerful sound in the world.”

7 Deadly Sins of Speaking

According to Julian Treasure, there are seven deadly sins of speaking, which are mostly bad habits that harm our communication.

He emphasizes that his list is not exhaustive, yet most of us regularly come across or even make use of these sins ourselves.

  • Gossip. We all know people who love gossiping. And, we’ve all probably done it ourselves.
  • Judging. It’s tough to listen to somebody if you know they’ll be judging you as soon as they can.
  • Negativity. In his talk, Julian recalls a conversation with his mother. My mother, in the last years of her life, became very negative, and it’s hard to listen. I remember one day, I said to her, “It’s October 1 today,” and she said, “I know, isn’t it dreadful?”’ Even though we all fall into negativity from time to time, listening to happy, cheering people is much easier than paying attention to negativity.
  • Complaining. Julian describes complaining as “viral misery”. Instead of spreading sunshine and positive vibes, people often find themselves in a doom-loop of complaints: The weather, sports, politics, there’s always something to complain about.
  • Excuses. We all know (or even have been) someone to pass the responsibility on to others. It’s not nice to listen to these people.
  • Lying. Embroidery and exaggeration can quickly turn to lies. And we don’t want to listen to people who are lying.
  • Dogmatism. Too many people tend to mix up facts with their opinions, and it’s hard to listen to someone who is sharing his idea as if it was the only truth.

These are the seven sins of speaking that Julian Treasure suggests avoiding in our talks and speeches. Even though we often use them without being fully aware, getting rid of them can have a tremendous impact on our communication and on how people listen to us.

How to Speak So That People Want to Listen

Besides what to avoid, Treasure also shares some golden nuggets on how to speak so that people want to listen to you.

It’s about what you say…

  • Honesty. Being true in what you say. Communicating clearly. We like to listen to people who honestly and openly share their stories and opinions. This makes it a whole lot easier to create a social bond and relate to each other.
  • Authenticity. Being yourself. “Standing in your own truth.” Too many people try to imitate someone else instead of simply being themselves. However, we usually prefer listening to those who are authentic and real instead of fake.
  • Integrity. Being true to your word. Doing what you say. Walk the talk, do what you preach. Only by doing so, you will gain trust and people will listen carefully.
  • Love. Wish people well. You can’t wish somebody well and simultaneously judge them. By wishing people well, you raise your vibration and spread joy instead of hate.

But also how you say it.

Besides what we say, also how we speak matters enormously.

  • Register. We can change our voice depending on where we speak from. You can speak from your nose or go down your throat, or even your chest. At each point, your voice sounds different. For example, we usually vote for politicians with a lower voice, as we subconsciously associate depth with power and authority.
  • Timbre. Timber defines how your voice feels. Research shows we prefer rich, smooth, warm voices. And even if you feel like that’s not your natural voice, there are great ways to improve it through exercises, such as breathing and improving your posture.
  • Prosody. Treasure describes prosody, similar to tonality and rhythm, as the vessel of meaning in any conversation. He shows how hard it is to listen to monotonous speeches and how varying pitch and sound can add excitement and depth to a speech.
  • Speed. We can become excited when we say something quickly, or we can slow down to emphasize a statement. Using a variation of speed can add power and trust to any speech or conversation.
  • Pauses. When holding a speech, but also during meaningful conversations, we try to avoid silence. Yet there’s nothing wrong with a little quiet — and, if applied correctly, it can add power and gravity to your sentences.
  • Volume. How loud or silent we say something, of course, also changes our message. Varying your volume will excite your listeners and make it easier to listen carefully.

Bottom Line

According to Treasure, we don’t speak very well to people who simply aren’t listening in an environment that’s all about noise and bad acoustics.

And at the end of his speech, he asks what the world would be like if we were speaking powerfully to people who were listening consciously in environments that fit our purpose.

Here’s his answer:

“That would be a world that does sound beautiful, and one where understanding would be the norm, and that is an idea worth spreading.”

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