By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to enhance your persuasive skills with your tone of voice. Reading time: 3:19
You’re at a cocktail party. You scan the room. You can’t hear the individual conversations but you can infer plenty of meaning in the body language and the tone. In fact the most effective leaders religiously regard –and guard –their tone of voice as a key leadership tool.
That’s why the most effective leaders readily acknowledge the validity in the results of a Harvard study that the tone of voice between a doctor and his patient can be as telling as the words they share.
Judging only on the tone of voice and with no information on the skill level of each surgeon, the Harvard study could predict with 95 percent accuracy which surgeons got sued.
Tone is critical in communicating effectively. In fact tone can be five times more important that the words, according to a UCLA study by Albert Mehrebian. He found that communications impact was 55% visual, 38% tone and 7% verbal (actual words spoken). Some Video Gamers even speak Simlish. They can only undersand each other by the tone of voice they use.
Tone is so prevalent that leaders fully embrace and celebrate that tone can thrill.
- Maybe that’s why when President George Bush (41) began speaking to a crowd of recently liberated people in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1991, the interpreter was shouted down. The people wanted to hear the Leader of the Free World sing the song of freedom in his voice even if they didn’t understand all the words he said that day. Indeed tone can thrill.
- Maybe that’s why the audience at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City gave an understudy a standing ovation even those he forgot the lyrics. He just kept singing the title La Traviata over and over again so passionately and poignantly. Indeed tone can thrill.
However leaders also know that tone can kill.
The wrong tone caused an airplane to crash and kill 73 people. It happened on Thursday January 25, 1990 when 73 were killed and 85 injured. An airline ran out of fuel 12 miles from JFK airport in New York. Avianca Flight 52 from Columbia in South America crashed. The plane crashed because the flight crew failed to establish a tone of urgency in their voice to traffic controllers that they were running out of fuel.
Ooglah! Ooglah! Ooglah!
Leaders also know that tone can embarrass.
Consider the apocryphal story that President Ronald Reagan liked to tell of Congressman who visited some poor Native American Indian reservations where he promised better housing and more jobs. The audience interrupted him a number of times with a rousing chorus of “Ooglah, Ooglah.” And the Congressman felt good about the way his speech was connecting to his audience. The Native Americans seemed to enjoyed hearing him. He enjoyed speaking to them.
After his speech, the Congressman had to walk through a pasture to get to his car. The smell of manure was everywhere. His guide told the Congressman to be careful of stepping in the Ooglah!
The leadership lesson is clear: “In the right key, one can say anything. In the wrong key, nothing,” observed George Bernard Shaw who fashioned tone of voice in 63 plays he wrote. “The only delicate part is the establishment of the key.” And watching out for the Ooglah!
Beware of your tone of voice to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.
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