Of all the recognition behaviors or practices I have studied, it amazed me that one’s voice ranked as the most important behavior in conveying authentic and effective recognition.
But we couldn’t argue with the content validation exercise conducted with employee recognition experts.
That’s why I want you to learn to better use your voice to communicate more meaningful recognition.
Conveyer of Emotion
It is your voice that carries the positive emotion you feel about someone’s actions and the contributions they’ve made as you speak your words of recognition.
Scientific research shows that our sense of hearing for voice is probably stronger than sight in accurately detecting emotion. Dr. Michael Kraus at the Yale University School of Management found that we are more accurate hearing someone’s voice than when we look only at their facial expressions, or even when we see their face and hear their voice.
This means you can probably sense someone’s emotional state even better over the phone than when you are in person. I know I have been able to detect from colleagues vocal tone on the phone when they are not well. Years ago, they told AT&T phone operators to focus on the callers’ tone of voice so they could better empathize with them and provide improved customer service.
Detecting Emotion in Voice
You and I can easily detect enthusiasm and excitement when someone is speaking to us because they speak with a high-pitched voice and with a more rapid rate of speech.
The more you stop to think about it you realize that all of us can determine basic emotional tone of voice such as positive vs. negative feelings, or excitement vs. calm. However, you might not have known that you can also detect fine nuances of emotion.
For example, brain studies show you can distinguish anger from fear and sadness; awe from compassion, and interest,
It gets even more interesting. The act of Vocal EmotionRecognition lights up a separate region of the brain than for Facial Emotion Recognition. When two people talk, and they truly understand each other, brain-imaging studies suggests something spectacular happens.
Their brains literally synchronize. It is as if they are dancing in parallel. The brain imaging scans done through functional MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) shows that the listener’s brain activity mirrors that of the speaker’s voice, with just a short delay in time.
I feel that this is the kind of communication we should all be aiming for. It would enhance the quality of the appreciation and recognition we express verbally to people. It’s the communication that leads not only to better relationships but also more compassion.
Improving Your Voice with Recognition Giving
Here are some quick pieces of advice for improving your vocal tone when recognizing the people you work with.
1. Start by breathing properly. Learn to breathe using diaphragmatic breathing where your stomach inflates as you inhale and deflates as you exhale. It allows you to be more calm and in control of your voice. By breathing the right way you will gain more power behind your voice. A strong voice automatically shows more positive emotions.
2. Check out your intentions. When expressing recognition your authenticity and intended meaning behind your words comes across loud and clear through your voice. Are you in a good place, mentally and emotionally? Do you really mean what you will say? Your real emotions, whatever they are, will always come across through your voice.
3. Get excited to recognize. Your voice should be a whole body experience. When you are positively minded and excited you naturally smile. So smile when expressing gratitude to people. Your body will get all tingly when you’re enthusiastic and your voice reflects this. Never dread giving recognition. Get excited about it.
4. Vary your vocal tone. As mentioned earlier, people associate a higher-pitched tone of voice with positivity and excitement. If you have a deeper tone of voice by nature try to get your voice away from the deeper chest sound, and more to the middle between chest and head. Shoot for a middle to high frequency tone of voice.
5. Open your mouth. Loosen your jaw and relax your body to make for good resonance. Enunciate the words of your recognition message using the tip of your tongue behind your teeth and using your lips. All of this lends itself to good vibration and vocal frequency.
6. Pick up the pace. Work on speaking with a steady and even pace of speech. If you are genuinely excited, you’ll automatically speak with a faster rate of speech. This will get the genuineness of your recognition message across. But slow down if you need to make sure your listener has understood your message.
Recognition Reflection: How well do you monitor and adjust your tone of voice when recognizing people?
Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.