Avoiding the Monotones

Enthusiasm in our voices may come from our vocal volume and pace. But we also need tonal variety to keep our voices interesting. For instance, it’s tonal variety that makes a good storyteller, but identifying tonal idiosyncrasies in our own voices is often difficult. Listening to ourselves talk can help with this, but videotaping ourselves will be the most promising means of rating our speaking tones. 

The most easily identified issue is monotone, but we need to recognize other distracting patterns too. Often, speakers fall into sing-song tones or have incorporated “up-talking” tendencies without realizing it. (“Up-talking” is when speakers end each sentence as if it were a question—try it with the sentences in this paragraph and you’ll hear how funny it sounds.) Listening to ourselves can help us hear oddities or distracting tonal patterns. The goal is to sound conversational instead of staged, forced, or overdone. 

​Excerpted from Patricia M. Buhler and Joel D. Worden, Up, Down, and Sideways: High-Impact Verbal Communication for HR Professionals​ (SHRM, 2013).

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