Speech Skill: Expression
The Speech Problem
Speaking in a monotonous voice is a real communication killer. When the variety of your voice’s pitch doesn’t vary, it’s impossible for your listener to maintain any interest in what you’re saying. He tunes out – quickly. Once again, your message falls by the wayside.
But even if he did hear it, he probably wouldn’t believe it. People who speak in a monotone or with inappropriate expression in their voices are perceived as untrustworthy, boring, or even shifty. As a business, sales or professional person, you can see why you’d want to fix this sloppy speech problem right away!
Other Speech Problems of Expression
Now, you may be saying to yourself (with a sigh of relief), “I certainly don’t speak in a monotone!” That’s excellent news, but unfortunately, the obvious monotone, where there is no variety of pitch in the voice, is only one sloppy speech habit related to expression. A far more common problem is a lack of appropriate vocal variety, or, as I call it, tired voice.
If you have tired voice, your speech just doesn’t convey the appropriate emotional shadings and vitality that make people’s voices interesting and pleasant to hear. Think of it this way; your voice is as much a part of your signature style as the color of your eyes or the way you walk. People can identify you by these signature traits. And in some cases, people have developed “signature” voices that are grating, braying, booming or otherwise just downright unpleasant for other people to listen to – because their voices are not suitably expressive.
The good news is that having a monotonous or tired voice is not a life sentence. Everyone can change their signature voice (to some degree, barring physical complications) – just as we can change the way we walk or even the colour of our eyes.
Speech Exercise: Emotion Sentences
The purpose of this exercise is to practice getting more vocal variety into your speech, so you are going to be saying these sentences in different ways.
First, say the sentence out loud as you would if you were ecstatically happy.
Then say the same sentence out loud as you would if you were extremely sad.
- I just got a call saying that I won a vacation in Las Vegas.
- I’m going to have to change that light bulb.
- Our town now has a new recycling program.
- My next door neighbour is moving out next week.
- I’ll be able to retire in only two more years.
The purpose of this exercise is to practice conveying meaning through expression in your speech, so once again, you are going to be saying these sentences in different ways.
First, say the sentence out loud as you would if you truly believed the statement.
Then say the same sentence out loud as you would if you didn’t believe what you were saying and wanted to convey your disbelief to your listener.
- You’ll never regret buying one of these.
- This extended warranty is a great deal.
- This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
- What I’m doing now is the best thing I’ve ever done.
- I am the best at what I do.
As your voice expression increases, your listeners will:
- Be more interested in what you’re saying and more attentive;
- Be more likely to be receptive to you and the message you’re communicating.
Set aside a minimum of 15 minutes a day this week to work on your voice expression.
Start by working through the exercises on and linked to this page. You will want to go through each of these speech exercises at least three times.
In addition, you’ll want to start working with other passages. As I suggest at the end of the Drama Queens and Kings exercise, published plays are an excellent source of material for improving your expression speech skill. Reading poetry out loud is another excellent practice.
Perhaps the best source of speech exercise material is children’s books. When we read one of these aloud to a child, we tend to try out a variety of different voices and exaggerate the expression in our voices in response to the child’s response as we read.
If you have no children’s books (or children) on hand, remember that any fiction will work. Use your fifteen minutes a day to read out loud. It’s best if you read to an audience, as having an audience will help you focus on using expression to interest (and perhaps enthrall) your listeners.
Over time as you consistently practice this speech skill, you’ll find your “signature” voice change - becoming both more expressive and more pleasing.