Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


Speak up! We Can’t Hear You

As a young woman was leaving the office, her boss started giving her assignments. She replied, “But, I’m in training this afternoon.” He ignored her comments and continued to describe in more detail the tasks he wanted her to do. It dawned on her that he hadn’t heard her. (She had been in my class the week before.) She raised her volume and repeated, “I’m in training this afternoon.” He replied, “Oh, sure. You can do these tomorrow. Have a good class!”

Many men and women, especially women, do not speak loudly enough. And speaking too softly is a subtle nonverbal that can affect your professionalism.

Have you ever said something in a meeting and nobody responded? Yet 20 minutes later, somebody at the end of the table said exactly what you said, and that person was acknowledged for it?

It could be that by speaking softly you make it easy for people to ignore your comments. You are not being heard with what I call “substance” – so that what you say registers on others. One woman asked me for help because she had found out that she was speaking so softly her colleagues had started referring to her as Wendy Whispers. (Not a good nickname in the business world!)

Not speaking loudly enough can also invite errors. One soft-spoken supervisor was giving instructions involving numbers to two employees. One employee heard 3; the other heard 30. Big difference!

You can usually add power to your presence by adding volume. But you don’t want to shout, either. Follow these three suggestions so your professionalism is not hurt by your volume:

1. Monitor yourself. If you find yourself thinking, but I told him that the first time, it’s possible that you are not speaking with enough volume.

2. Learn your range. People who are soft-spoken usually believe that they only have their regular (soft) volume, and screaming. Not so. Everybody has a range of volume; you need to learn yours. Count slowly from one to five, and increase your volume with each number. One would be your softest volume and five would be screaming. Most people want to be between 2½ and 3½.  (Additional information on nonverbal communication can be found in my new book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.)

3. Gain an awareness of your volume. Listen to your voicemail messages before you send them. Then, assign a number to your volume, as described above. Many people find that they are barely reaching two. If that’s the case, redo the message and increase your volume. (If you don’t typically leave voicemail messages, record your voice during a phone call and listen to your volume that way.)

I post regularly on communication and etiquette.  We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and my website:

About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence. Pachter is also adjunct faculty in the School of Business at Rutgers University.

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