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We have four basic “voices” in our lives; our happy voice, which is a bit higher in pitch; our intimate voice which is close to if not a whisper; our angry voice, and; what I call your assertive Mommy Voice. Unfortunately, many women seem to lose this assertive voice, especially when giving a persuasion presentation.
This is not a discussion about the interplanetary communication between the sexes. That does not exist. In fact, there are men who present a non-assertive front, but not to the extent as women. Women are ‘taught” by society to be subservient, quiet and not to complain, and this training shows its ugly head when many as an organizational leader are giving a public argument.
Though many gender communication books talk about male and female speak, I do not like the terms. So let’s talk about Type A communication, which is based on physical dominance, competition, and an “I can fix anything with duct tape attitude. (Duck Tape is a brand name.) Type B communication is illustrated by cooperation, physical connections, and a “sharing” of experience, and a wanting to listen, not to fix. Men and women can be either.
Your Mommy Voice is not yelling, that is your “I’m pissed off and I don’t care if Child Services takes the kids away. I have bail money” voice. Your Mommy Voice is direct, dropped in tone by a note or two, quiet (but not a whisper), a bit slower, and with the appropriate non-verbals, such as looking directly at your target, and furled brows. The Daddy Voice is almost identical.
The persuasion presentation is characterized by an Action Statement, telling the audience what they need to do, how to do it and when it needs to be done. NOW is preferable.
As I critique Type B persuasion speakers, I find most lose their assertive voice and appear afraid to tell the audience what they must do. They are wishy-washy in their action statements and their non-verbals appear to be uncommitted to their own cause. They are not “believable” or persuasive.
There are two Rosman Rules that must be met to identify a good Action Statement; the Fly on the Wall Rule and the Dead Man Rule.
The Fly on the Wall Rule says the action must occur as soon as possible. Not “when you think about it,” or “when you speak with your teenager…,” or “the next time you see…” The action must happen NOW, ASAP, First Thing Tomorrow! The fly on the wall must see something happening now; they do not hang around waiting for the outcome.
The Dead Man Rule is simple: If a dead man can do it, it is not an action.
For example, take First Lady Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug “Just Say No” campaign. A dead man can say “No,” and when would one say “No?” If approached? A real action statement would have been “You know who is dealing drugs in your school. Pick up the telephone right now, call this toll free number, remain anonymous, possibly get a reward and get the drug dealer out of school and in jail.” Now that’s an action.
Your Mommy Voice is pointing your finger while saying “this has to happen and has to happen now.” One of the best techniques is to speak loudly in a whisper. I bet you still cower in a corner when you hear your mother’s voice drop, slow down, and say, “You did what?” In an argument or persuasion, a low calm but intense voice is more effective than yelling. Try that on your kids and watch what happens.
This holds true as well for business presentations and political speeches. The speaker who seems to be yelling all of the time does not appear as serious as those who maintain a high level of passion (Pathos for those wanting the Greek) in a controlled way. Passing passion to the audience based on anger survives for 72-hours at the most. Controlled passion lasts a week or longer.
Practice the “Voice.” Try it the next time you are running a meeting or giving a speech, I guaranty you will get the respect you deserve.
David Rosman is an award winning speaker, editor, write, and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and New York Journal of Books.com.