Watch Your Tone (and Then Watch Meryl Streep’s…)

As those of you know who have read How to Wow, according to Albert Mehrabian’s UCLA study, 38% of your impact comes from your tonal quality: what your voice is doing while you are speaking.

This is something I speak about quite a bit with my clients. For example, something as seemingly innocuous as having a voice mail greeting that says, “I’m sorry I missed your call,” while sounding like you’ve stepped away from your desk to jump on a ride at Epcot, is going to make callers suspicious.

This week, I have the pleasure of including a marvelous clip that demonstrates how tone impacts what is said: Meryl Streep reading a recipe for oatmeal while sounding sexy, reading a traffic report while ostensibly in labor, and reading a Wikipedia entry like a disgruntled teenager. Personally, the traffic report is my favorite, but in every case what she is saying has far less impact than how she is saying it.

So, the next time you contemplate recording your voice mail greeting (FYI: do it standing; inhale then hit the record button and speak on an exhalation; speak from your diaphragm) or are on an important conference call (FYI: do it standing and looking in a mirror—your voice will be far more animated) watch your tone.

Frances Cole Jones