TEDGlobal 2013

Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen

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Have you ever felt like you're talking, but nobody is listening? Here's Julian Treasure to help. In this useful talk, the sound expert demonstrates the how-to's of powerful speaking — from some handy vocal exercises to tips on how to speak with empathy. A talk that might help the world sound more beautiful.

- Sound consultant
Julian Treasure studies sound and advises businesses on how best to use it. Full bio

The human voice:
00:14
It's the instrument we all play.
00:16
It's the most powerful sound in the world, probably.
00:18
It's the only one that can start a war
00:20
or say "I love you."
00:22
And yet many people have the experience
00:24
that when they speak, people don't listen to them.
00:25
And why is that?
00:28
How can we speak powerfully
00:29
to make change in the world?
00:31
What I'd like to suggest, there are
00:33
a number of habits that we need to move away from.
00:35
I've assembled for your pleasure here
00:37
seven deadly sins of speaking.
00:39
I'm not pretending this is an exhaustive list,
00:41
but these seven, I think, are pretty large
00:43
habits that we can all fall into.
00:46
First, gossip,
00:49
speaking ill of somebody who's not present.
00:52
Not a nice habit, and we know perfectly well
00:54
the person gossiping five minutes later
00:56
will be gossiping about us.
00:58
Second, judging.
01:01
We know people who are like this in conversation,
01:03
and it's very hard to listen to somebody
01:05
if you know that you're being judged
01:07
and found wanting at the same time.
01:09
Third, negativity.
01:12
You can fall into this.
01:14
My mother, in the last years of her life,
01:15
became very, very negative, and it's hard to listen.
01:17
I remember one day, I said to her,
01:19
"It's October 1 today,"
01:21
and she said, "I know, isn't it dreadful?"
01:22
(Laughter)
01:25
It's hard to listen when somebody's that negative.
01:27
And another form of negativity, complaining.
01:30
Well, this is the national art of the U.K.
01:33
It's our national sport. We
complain about the weather,
01:37
about sport, about politics, about everything,
01:39
but actually complaining is viral misery.
01:42
It's not spreading sunshine
and lightness in the world.
01:44
Excuses. We've all met this guy.
01:48
Maybe we've all been this guy.
01:51
Some people have a blamethrower.
01:52
They just pass it on to everybody else
01:55
and don't take responsibility for their actions,
01:57
and again, hard to listen to
somebody who is being like that.
01:59
Penultimate, the sixth of the seven,
02:02
embroidery, exaggeration.
02:04
It demeans our language, actually, sometimes.
02:08
For example, if I see something
02:10
that really is awesome,
02:12
what do I call it?
02:14
(Laughter)
02:15
And then of course this exaggeration becomes lying,
02:17
out and out lying, and we don't want to listen
02:20
to people we know are lying to us.
02:22
And finally, dogmatism,
02:24
the confusion of facts with opinions.
02:27
When those two things get conflated,
02:31
you're listening into the wind.
02:33
You know, somebody is bombarding you
with their opinions as if they were true.
02:34
It's difficult to listen to that.
02:38
So here they are, seven deadly sins of speaking.
02:40
These are things I think we need to avoid.
02:43
But is there a positive way to think about this?
02:46
Yes, there is.
02:48
I'd like to suggest that there are four
02:50
really powerful cornerstones, foundations,
02:52
that we can stand on if we want our speech
02:55
to be powerful and to make change in the world.
02:58
Fortunately, these things spell a word.
03:01
The word is "hail," and it has
a great definition as well.
03:04
I'm not talking about the stuff that falls from the sky
03:07
and hits you on the head.
03:09
I'm talking about this definition,
03:10
to greet or acclaim enthusiastically,
03:12
which is how I think our words will be received
03:14
if we stand on these four things.
03:17
So what do they stand for?
03:18
See if you can guess.
03:20
The H, honesty, of course,
03:21
being true in what you say, being straight and clear.
03:25
The A is authenticity, just being yourself.
03:28
A friend of mine described it as
03:32
standing in your own truth,
03:33
which I think is a lovely way to put it.
03:35
The I is integrity, being your word,
03:37
actually doing what you say,
03:40
and being somebody people can trust.
03:41
And the L is love.
03:44
I don't mean romantic love,
03:47
but I do mean wishing people well, for two reasons.
03:49
First of all, I think absolute honesty
03:52
may not be what we want.
03:55
I mean, my goodness, you look ugly this morning.
03:56
Perhaps that's not necessary.
03:58
Tempered with love, of course,
honesty is a great thing.
04:02
But also, if you're really wishing somebody well,
04:05
it's very hard to judge them at the same time.
04:08
I'm not even sure you can do those two things
04:11
simultaneously.
04:13
So hail.
04:15
Also, now that's what you say,
04:17
and it's like the old song, it is what you say,
04:18
it's also the way that you say it.
04:20
You have an amazing toolbox.
04:22
This instrument is incredible,
04:24
and yet this is a toolbox that very
few people have ever opened.
04:26
I'd like to have a little rummage in there
04:29
with you now and just pull a few tools out
04:31
that you might like to take away and play with,
04:33
which will increase the power of your speaking.
04:35
Register, for example.
04:38
Now, falsetto register may not
be very useful most of the time,
04:40
but there's a register in between.
04:44
I'm not going to get very technical about this
04:46
for any of you who are voice coaches.
04:47
You can locate your voice, however.
04:49
So if I talk up here in my nose,
you can hear the difference.
04:51
If I go down here in my throat,
04:53
which is where most of us
speak from most of the time.
04:55
But if you want weight,
04:58
you need to go down here to the chest.
05:00
You hear the difference?
05:03
We vote for politicians with lower voices, it's true,
05:04
because we associate depth with power
05:08
and with authority.
05:11
That's register.
05:14
Then we have timbre.
05:16
It's the way your voice feels.
05:17
Again, the research shows that we prefer voices
05:19
which are rich, smooth, warm, like hot chocolate.
05:21
Well if that's not you, that's not the end of the world,
05:26
because you can train.
05:30
Go and get a voice coach.
05:31
And there are amazing things you can do
05:32
with breathing, with posture, and with exercises
05:34
to improve the timbre of your voice.
05:37
Then prosody. I love prosody.
05:39
This is the sing-song, the meta-language
05:41
that we use in order to impart meaning.
05:43
It's root one for meaning in conversation.
05:45
People who speak all on one note
05:48
are really quite hard to listen to
05:50
if they don't have any prosody at all.
05:52
That's where the world monotonic comes from,
05:54
or monotonous, monotone.
05:57
Also we have repetitive prosody now coming in,
06:00
where every sentence ends as if it were a question
06:03
when it's actually not a question, it's a statement.
06:06
(Laughter)
06:08
And if you repeat that one over and over,
06:11
it's actually restricting your ability
06:12
to communicate through prosody,
06:14
which I think is a shame,
06:15
so let's try and break that habit.
06:17
Pace. I can get very, very excited
06:20
by saying something really, really quickly,
06:22
or I can slow right down to emphasize,
06:24
and at the end of that, of course, is our old friend
06:28
silence.
06:31
There's nothing wrong with a bit of silence
06:34
in a talk, is there?
06:36
We don't have to fill it with ums and ahs.
06:38
It can be very powerful.
06:41
Of course, pitch often goes along with pace
06:43
to indicate arousal, but you can do it just with pitch.
06:46
Where did you leave my keys?
06:48
Where did you leave my keys?
06:50
So slightly different meaning
06:52
in those two deliveries.
06:54
And finally, volume.
06:56
I can get really excited by using volume.
06:58
Sorry about that if I startled anybody.
07:01
Or, I can have you really pay attention
07:04
by getting very quiet.
07:06
Some people broadcast the whole time.
07:08
Try not to do that.
07:10
That's called sodcasting,
07:12
imposing your sound on people around you
07:15
carelessly and inconsiderately. Not nice.
07:17
Of course, where this all comes into play most of all
07:21
is when you've got something really important to do.
07:23
It might be standing on a stage like this
07:25
and giving a talk to people.
07:27
It might be proposing marriage,
07:29
asking for a raise, a wedding speech.
07:31
Whatever it is, if it's really important,
07:34
you owe it to yourself to look at this toolbox
07:36
and the engine that it's going to work on,
07:40
and no engine works well without being warmed up.
07:42
Warm up your voice.
07:45
Actually, let me show you how to do that.
07:47
Would you all like to stand up for a moment?
07:49
I'm going to show you the
six vocal warmup exercises
07:52
that I do before every talk I ever do.
07:55
Anytime you're going to talk to
anybody important, do these.
07:59
First, arms up, deep breath in,
08:01
and sigh out, ahhhhh, like that.
08:04
One more time.
08:07
Ahhhh, very good.
08:09
Now we're going to warm up our lips,
08:12
and we're going to go ba, ba, ba, ba,
08:14
ba, ba, ba, ba. Very good.
08:16
And now, brrrrrrrrrr,
08:19
just like when you were a kid.
08:22
Brrrr. Now your lips should be coming alive.
08:24
We're going to do the tongue next
08:26
with exaggerated la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.
08:28
Beautiful. You're getting really good at this.
08:32
And then, roll an R. Rrrrrrr.
08:34
That's like champagne for the tongue.
08:38
Finally, and if I can only do one,
08:40
the pros call this the siren.
08:42
It's really good. It starts with "we" and goes to "aw."
08:44
The "we" is high, the "aw" is low.
08:46
So you go, weeeaawww, weeeaawww.
08:48
Fantastic. Give yourselves a round of applause.
08:54
Take a seat, thank you. (Applause)
08:56
Next time you speak, do those in advance.
08:59
Now let me just put this in context to close.
09:02
This is a serious point here.
09:05
This is where we are now, right?
09:07
We speak not very well
09:09
into people who simply aren't listening
09:10
in an environment that's all
about noise and bad acoustics.
09:12
I have talked about that on this stage
09:15
in different phases.
09:17
What would the world be like
09:18
if we were speaking powerfully
09:20
to people who were listening consciously
09:22
in environments which were actually fit for purpose?
09:24
Or to make that a bit larger,
09:27
what would the world be like
09:30
if we were creating sound consciously
09:31
and consuming sound consciously
09:34
and designing all our environments
09:36
consciously for sound?
09:38
That would be a world that does sound beautiful,
09:39
and one where understanding
09:42
would be the norm,
09:44
and that is an idea worth spreading.
09:46
Thank you.
09:49
Thank you. (Applause)
09:51

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About the Speaker:

Julian Treasure - Sound consultant
Julian Treasure studies sound and advises businesses on how best to use it.

Why you should listen

Julian Treasure is the chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses -- offices, retailers, hotels -- on how to use sound. He asks us to pay attention to the sounds that surround us. How do they make us feel: productive, stressed, energized, acquisitive?

Treasure is the author of the book Sound Business and keeps a blog by the same name that ruminates on aural matters (and offers a nice day-by-day writeup of TEDGlobal 2009). In the early 1980s, Treasure was the drummer for the Fall-influenced band Transmitters.

More profile about the speaker
Julian Treasure | Speaker | TED.com