When You Speak – They Listen

When You Speak – They Listen

The LexisNexis Aspire networking and professional group facilitated by Sophie Gould met on Thursday 11th April 2019. 

The final event of the evening was a workshop by the UK’s most trusted voice and body language specialist Sylvia Cohen, and David Roylance, Europe’s number one glass ceiling smasher.

The pair highlighted the four main problem areas they see in their clients:

  • nerves
  • not being able to answer the question
  • losing connection with the people you are addressing, and
  • a lack of credibility when speaking

All four of these issues cause a lack of impact and visibility in the workplace.

Nerves can affect you negatively when they take control of your thoughts, meaning other people pick up on them. This can impact your ability to communicate successfully. The much-feared inability to find an answer is due to the two ‘brains’ we are ruled by: one is our ‘reptile brain’, which keeps us alive but does not monitor our feelings or thoughts. This brain starves your other ‘thinking brain’ of oxygen when you are stressed, which stops you being able to do what you usually can. Losing the connection with your audience means that no-one will listen and understand what you are saying; keeping and maintaining their attention is imperative. A lack of credibility could be due to using the wrong tone when speaking – you need the correct tone to project credibility and be professionally confident.

Sylvia laid out the five steps to achieving credibility: body, breath, voice, delivery, and impact. David reinforced that these five elements can only be successfully obtained through conscientiousness. This is also the key to employment success and is an example of where you don’t like doing something but do it anyway because it will make your life better.

They emphasised that no-one is born with charisma and confidence, but if you are present in yourself, you can have presence.

David went onto lay out the three circles of energy:

  • the introvert state – where the weight is in the back of your heels, you breathe shallowly into your chest as a result and no-one will take in what you are saying. This is often the natural stress state for women
  • the shouting state – where you are leaning forward, breathing is similarly shallow and is characterised by an overly-loud speaking voice. This is usually the stress state for men
  • presence – where your balance is on the balls of your feet, and your breathing is low and slow, meaning you have more energy to give to your audience. You also therefore have a regular heart rate and more oxygen, so can function naturally and with control

Sylvia demonstrated these three different types of energy and showed how the way we breathe can change the energy circle we present to others. You should aim to take a breath from your audience, rather than below or above them, to engage them better and situate yourself in the presence circle.

David went on to set out how using the many different tones available to us within our voices can affect our presence, ie no-one will engage or listen to you if you are speaking in a monotone. There are three levels of the voice we should keep in our arsenal:

  • the warrior voice: ie the lower notes, often used by groups of men when they get together, typically promotes authority
  • the harp voice: ie the centre of the voice, the element used to convey interest, should be used when asking questions about other people
  • the head voice: ie the highest notes, often used by groups of women talking to each other, has the most emotion attached to it, and should therefore be used to enthuse groups of people

A successful example of this was Margaret Thatcher: she was not able to control her Cabinet so was taught to use her ‘warrior’ voice to give herself more authority when addressing them.

David concluded by asking everyone to stand up and ‘activate’ the three elements of the voice. The different tones were affected by the body position and where we focused the origin of the sound from, eg the ‘warrior’ activation meant a low squat stance and feeling it from the stomach and lower back.

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About the author:

Claire is a paralegal is the LexisAsk and Commercial and Sectors teams at LexisNexis teams. She previously did a law conversion at BPP Law school and plans to study the LPC latterly. She is an English literature graduate and hopes to combine her studies by pursuing a career in the IP sector.

Claire is a keen member of the LexisNexis Singers and practices with them weekly. Outside of work, Claire is a keen hockey player and cyclist and brings this energy into everything she does in her job.