Speaking on the phone is a skill. It takes time to master. It’s an important tool for workers to develop. But employers should understand that it’s a skill that many no longer have.
In 2007, Americans started texting more than calling. Canadians weren’t far behind. By 2012, Canadians started sending 224 million texts per day. As you probably imagine, rates of texting and other types of messaging continue to outstrip calling. Part of this is generational; Millennials and Generation Z (or iGen) prefer texting and other written communication.
But don’t mistake this article for one of those shallow Millennial-bashing pieces. The upside to the younger generations’ use of technology is better written communication skills and easy adoption of technology. And if you’re a business, you should adapt to this preference, perhaps with a chatbot for your customers.
However, the point remains that speaking on the phone is important and many new workers don’t have this skill. In this article, we’ll talk about how to speak more clearly. If this is you or someone you know, these tips can help.
In a future article, we’ll discuss what to do if your trouble stems from phone anxiety.
Sit Up Straight & Breathe Properly
Sitting up (or standing) will help you breathe properly and project your voice appropriately. Take deep breaths from the diaphragm. When you inhale, your belly should expand a bit. If you have shallow breathing, you won’t project your voice properly and may end up mumbling.
Pick a tongue twister or phrase with the sound you have trouble enunciating and speak it aloud, emphasising the sound you need to improve.
For example, if you frequently skip T sounds (perhaps you’re from Toronto), use the phrase “The tip of the tongue, the teeth, and the lips.” Speak it over and over, until you hit those Ts. More tongue twisters can be found here.
It can be helpful to practice these in the mirror. That way, you can see what your lips and tongue are supposed to be doing.
Pay Attention to Pitch
Tight throat muscles make for a high pitch and loose throat muscles lower your pitch. The easiest way to fix your pitch is just to be conscious of it. Another way is to alter the tilt of your head. Lean back to speak at a higher pitch, lean forward to lower your pitch.
Uptalk is when a sentence is spoken with an upward inflection at the end. It makes declarative sentences sound like questions. It sounds immature and unprofessional. If you notice yourself uptalking, stop and repeat what you said without uptalking. This will help break the habit.
Avoid Vocal Fry
Vocal fry is when your voice sounds a bit creaky. If you listen to a lot of NPR, you’ve definitely heard it. Beat vocal fry by speaking up and with a higher pitch.
You might be surprised or embarrassed at how you sound. However, recording your speaking voice is the only way to understand how you sound to others and fix problems that ruin your clarity.
Choose Equipment That Lets You Speak Clearly
In terms of clarity, desk phones are better than smartphones by a wide margin.