The eyes have it

Jun 04 2007 by Janet Howd Print This Article

For all the ubiquity of E-mails, voice and personality remain the media of choice for communication. Which is why how we say what we say - tone of voice, stance and facial expression - is such an important management skill.

If every one of us took more care over how we say what we say, much of the organisational angst caused by vague directives could be avoided. For how we sound and how we look as we pass on information can make or break the implementation of a strategy, now matter how effective it seemed on paper.

In an ideal organisation, senior executives detail the specific requirements of a task to managers. The managers then share the information with other colleagues and encourage dialogue about the task the whole of the time it is underway.

But in the real world, disinformation and personality mismatches often cause so many glitches that sensible dialogue becomes virtually impossible.

Even the next generation of managers Ė the so-called Millenials who are so resistant to being boxed in by rules, bureaucracy and formality - are going to discover that delivering directives so that they can be acted on and implemented in a way that will grow revenue, is a critical workplace skill.

Though none of us can be liked and trusted by everyone - and despite the ubiquity of E-mails - voice and personality remain the media of choice for communication. Our tone of voice, stance and facial expression are crucial to how well any colleague who needs to be included will take instruction from us.

A simple way to observe that this is true, is to video yourself ( framed head to toe ) as you speak a few sentences of formal instruction in a friendly tone of voice. Repeat the instructions speaking insultingly, cheerily, dully, angrily, anxiously - or any other adverb you can think of that expresses mood.

As you watch and listen to the results, it shouldn't be difficult to decide which one of those modes of delivery was the most inclusive and would have best impressed the information on you as a listener.

Notice how difficult it is to say something without the musculature of your face mirroring your feelings. Notice too, that postural and hand movements vary according to your mood.

Facial and vocal expression can be trained to be fit for purpose just as the rest of our bodies can be trained to swim or ice skate or make fine lace.

If you wish to communicate well with people, there are many vocal and facial muscles to learn to control, but the expression which will benefit you most - and which I would urge you have at your beck and call at all times - is the smile.

A genuine smile, which radiates from the eyes, (no Cheshire cat grins! ) triggers endorphins - neurotransmitters in the brain - to induce a chemically charged 'high' with no downside. The prospect of fruitful dialogue with colleagues will never have seemed so rosy.

As a smile lifts and enlivens the face, so it lifts and enlivens the spaces behind the face where the tongue and other muscles which articulate, resonate, and pitch the voice are to be found. It also causes an little intake of breath to add oxygen to the energising mix.

Light up your eyes often then! for the feel-good-factor that facial expression emits can open channels of communication even where impasse had seemed inevitable.

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About The Author

Janet Howd
Janet Howd

Janet Howd is a voice coach who works with corporate, academic, legal, theatrical and private clients in the UK, North America, Australia and Europe.