[00:00:06.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Science of Success with your host, Matt Bodnar.
[00:00:12.4] MB: Welcome to The Science of Success. I’m your host, Matt Bodnar. I’m an entrepreneur and investor in Nashville, Tennessee and I’m obsessed with the mindset of success and the psychology of performance. I’ve read hundreds of books, conducted countless hours of research and study and I am going to take you on a journey into the human mind in what makes peak performance tick with the focus on always having our discussion rooted in psychological research and scientific fact, not opinion.
In this episode, we go deep on sound, we discuss how sound changes your body and affects your heart rate, breathing, brain waves and hormone secretions. The secret of cultivating soundscapes that make us happier and more productive, the incredible power of listening and how it can change your reality. How like sound waves, we are all vibrating form the smallest physical level all the way up to the macro level and much more with Julian Treasure.
The science of success continues to grow with more than 975,000 downloads. Listeners in over 100 countries, hitting number one new noteworthy and more. I get listener comments and emails all the time asking me, Matt, how do you organize and remember all this incredible information? A lot of our listeners are curious how I keep track of all the incredible knowledge you get from reading hundreds of books, interviewing amazing experts, listening to podcast and more.
Because of that, we created an epic resource just for you. A detailed guide called How to Organize and Remember Everything. You can get it completely for free by texting the word “smarter” to the number 44222. Again, It’s a guide we created called How to Organize and Remember Everything. All you have to do to get it is to text the word “smarter” to the number 44222 or go to scienceofsuccess.co and put in your email.
In our previous episode, we dug into a massive framework for answering some of the biggest questions in life. Ask if it’s possible to integrate 50,000 years of human knowledge into a single comprehensive map of reality. We looked at the greatest good that a human being can achieve, we went deep on the path of waking up, offered by thousands of years, hundreds of cultures and with the clearest and strikingly similar paths to enlightenment are across all of those.
We discussed how to integrate and understand connections between art, morality and science as well as much more with our guest Ken Wilbur. If you want to incorporate massive amounts of human knowledge into your understanding of reality, be sure to listen to that episode. Lastly, if you want to get all this incredible information, links, transcripts, everything we talk about on this episode and much more, be sure to check out our show notes. Just go to scienceofsuccess.co and hit the show notes button at the top.
[0:02:57.1] MB: Today, we have another great guest on the show, Julian Treasure. Julian is the chair of the sound agency, a consultancy firm that advises worldwide businesses on how they can effectively use sound. He’s delivered five TED Talks with more than 30 million views about listening, communication and the effect sound has on the human brain.
He’s the author of the book sound business as well as the upcoming book, how to be heard. His work has been featured in time magazine, the economist and many other publications. Julian, welcome to the science of success.
[0:03:26.1] JT: Thank you Mat, it’s a great pleasure to be here.
[0:03:28.3] MB: We’re very excited to have you on the show today. So, for listeners who may not be familiar with you, tell us a little bit about yourself?
[0:03:34.8] JT: Well, I’m a lifelong musician, I think musicians listen to the world in slightly different ways to non-musicians. Actually, the research shows that musicians have slightly larger brains which is an interesting characteristic for those of your listeners who play an instrument. That’s good for you I think.
I think musicians listen to the world in a slightly different way to non-musicians. If you’re playing in a bad or an orchestra, you have a sort of multi-track listening and I’ve always had that because I’ve played in bands all my life. I had a long career in marketing ending up with a custom publishing firm I launched in 88 and grew, it became one of the most successful custom publishing firms in the UK working for clients like Microsoft and Lexus and so forth.
Producing beautiful magazines. Long time in marketing and brands and at the same time, playing music in the evenings, in my spare time. I sold that business in 2003 and finally had the opportunity to bring the two halves of myself together really, the listening half and the half that understood the needs of brands to communicate better with their customers.
The big question which came to me then was how does your brand sound? You know, brands have a great big book, they call it a brand bible many of them. And when you say to them, okay, that defines your brand, how many pages are about sound? The answer is universally, none.
That’s a bit weird when you think about it because we experience the world in five senses, not just one, not just with our eyes. It was clear that brands weren’t thinking about the noise they were making, the sound they were making. That’s kind of why I guess we spend a lot of our time surrounded by not very pleasant noise because most of the sound that’s made in the world us is unconsciously made, it’s not planned, it’s not designed, it’s an accident, it’s a byproduct, it’s like kind of the exhaust gas of the world you know?
It just happens. We set about from 2003 where the company called the sound agency showing organizations that good sound is good business and fortunately, that’s been proved to be true. We have a business model, we have a lot of great clients, we’re doing some exciting work particularly in big spaces like airports and shopping malls.
Very often removing mindless music before any of your listeners start thinking we’re just plastering the world with music. We often remove it actually. I love music but it’s not necessarily the right sound in many spaces and instead designing acoustics and reducing noise and installing good quality sound systems and very often, creating more interesting sounds like generative sound which is like a texture.
It’s almost like white walls in a room you know, you don’t come in and go wow, look at those white walls, they just do a nice subtle job and in the same way, the sound that we make very often just does a nice subtle job in supporting people in what they’re doing in a space.
That’s really what I do in my day job now and along the way, it’s really become a big question of not just brands making sound unconsciously and not listening. I realize that we all tend to do that too as individuals. I got the opportunity to talk on the TED stage first in 2009 about how sound affects people because we’ve done a lot of research about that and then it started to morph into, considering the sounds that we all make primarily speaking of course.
And the sounds we surround ourselves with, the kind of design of our environment and also the question, why aren’t we listening.
[0:07:32.2] MB: As a starting point and this might be an overly simplified question but what is sound? How do you think about sound itself?
[0:07:40.4] JT: Well let’s define sound simply as vibration that we can hear, that’s a very practical definition. Everything’s vibrating, you know, you and I are vibrating from the smallest possible level, the strings that make up, the particles that make up the atoms that make up, the molecules and cells and so forth, every level of us is vibrating. Kind of life is vibration it’s hardly surprising the sound effects is when you think of it like that.
You’re a cord sitting there of lots and lots of vibrations all put together. Sound though is vibration we can hear, it needs a medium to carry it, that’s normally air. Although you may not know sound travels much faster through water, about twice as fast through water actually and a lot further too if we’re not making a lot of noise in the oceans.
You know whales can communicate over hundreds of miles to each other. Sound is vibration we can hear through a medium. It affects us profoundly.
[0:08:43.5] MB: What are some of the ways that sound can affect us?
[0:08:48.8] JT: I’ve distinguished four ways actually and in the last 13 years, I’ve had no need to add to any of this. I think these are pretty robust. The first is physiologically, sound changes our bodies, it affects our heart rate, breathing, brain waves, hormone secretions, all our bodily rhythms.
A very simple example is a sudden sound for example, I’ve just given you a little shot of cortisol, your fight, flight hormone, your body will do that. Any time there’s a sudden or unexpected noise or a strange unexplained noise, we interpret that as a threat.
That comes from sharing caves with tigers and bears a couple of hundred thousand years ago. You know, you had to interpret sound as threats, it was safer to do that. It’s very deep, every animal does that, hearing is our primary warning sense so we listen carefully for danger all the time.
By the same token, sound can calm you down, if any of the people listening to this have problem sleeping, my strong advice is to try the sound of gentle surf, it’s a very peaceful sound, it’s a sound which will slow the heart rate, slow the breathing and is very soporific indeed.
Sound in trains all of our bodily rhythms, if I drop you in a night club with rapid dance music, 140 beats per minute, at 90 or 100 decibels, your heart rate will immediately accelerate. We get entrained by sound around us, that’s the first way.
Second way sound affects us psychologically, of course it does. We all know that music for example can affect our feelings, our moods, our emotions. Sad music can bring us down, happy music can bring us up, we use it either to enhance a mood or to counter act a mood and it’s not the only sound that carries emotional impact actually.
Sound works a great deal of the time by association. There may be sounds from your childhood that would cause an immediate visceral, emotional reaction in you. Maybe the sound of somebody’s voice or a grandfather clock ticking or a horse clopping down a lane, these kind of sounds can mean a lot to us and at the same time, there are sounds that we all react to like bird song for example.
Gentle bird song normally means everything’s safe and sound. Most people, when they hear bird song, they feel a sense of security. Actually, we use bird song a lot in offices and other spaces. Precisely for that reason.
It’s also of course nature’s alarm clock. When the birds are singing, it’s time to be awake as anybody who has been to a very late party knows that moment when the birds start singing is a moment when the guilt kicks in, you’re thinking it really is time to be home now. Third way sound affects us is cognitively.
Nobody can understand two people talking at the same time, think about it, you really can’t. If somebody’s talking and somebody else is talking, you go, quiet, I’m trying to listen to this person. By the same token, if somebody’s talking and you're trying to work, it’s very disturbing isn’t it?
Actually, we have bandwidth for around 1.6 human conversations. That means that if there is somebody talking next to you and you are trying to listen to that interior voice which you need when you're trying to write or do number work, it’s really degrading, it can actually cut your productivity down to just one third of what it would be in a quieter space.
Very distracting sounds will affect our cognition, our ability to be productive and to think clearly and we get very irritated in those situations. Now, of course, I know many teenagers for example or kids will say, they do their homework far better with music playing.
Music is actually quite a dense sound, they may do their homework at all with music playing, they may enjoy it, they may do it for longer, it’s very unlikely they will actually be more productive with the music playing in terms of processing an amount of work per minute.
Music, human voices, ringing phones, any kind of sounds that call a lot of attention tend to reduce our productivity quite substantially. The fourth way sound affects us is behavior really, it changes what we do. Noise for example tends to make us stressed, fought, less sociable, more aggressive, more irritable in our behavior and I think a very large factor and a lot of the adverse behavior we see in big cities because the noise levels can be so intense, the sound will cause us to move away of its very unpleasant, we may not be noticing that, we may not be noticing that, we may not be conscious of the fact that we’re moving away from an unpleasant noise like a road drill or some sort of handle bars.
We will do that if we can. Now, for people who can’t move away form it, noise is incredibly damaging to the health, you know, I mentioned the physiological reactions, there’s some terrifying numbers coming after the world health organization now about noise, they rank noise now as just behind air pollution as not just an irritant but a killer.
In Europe alone, they reckon noise is resulting in the loss of a million disability adjusted life years every year, that’s a million health a year of life lost in Europe, every year to noise. It causes increased risk of heart attack, stroke, all sorts of other health issues which are related to stress arise if we’re exposed to chronic noise and one of the biggest mechanisms of course is traffic noise stopping people from sleeping or air craft noise.
If you can’t sleep, it’s really bad for your health and there are millions of people across Europe, around eight million according to the world health organization whose sleep is being disrupted night after night by traffic noise way above the recommended maximum.
That’s a little explanation of how sound affects us and how important this is. Sadly, none of us pay attention to it, we tend to, we’ve kind of gone unconscious about it I think. Because there’s so much noise around us, we’re so used to suppressing it, I very rarely — well I’ve never heard of politician say vote for me, I’ll make the world quieter, there are no votes in noise, it’s not a big public topic unfortunately but sound is such an important thing and it’s something that we can do good with just as much as its doing a lot of harm at the moment.
[0:15:33.9] MB: That’s fascinating statistic about how many health years are lost due to kind of negative noise. How can we cultivate soundscapes that make us happier and more productive?
[0:15:46.2] JT: Well, there’s a trick to all of this Mat, the secret is simply one word. Listen. You know, we’ve kind of lost our listening a lot I think in the western world in the last couple of hundred years since the world got a lot noisier with the industrial revolution, we’re now surrounded by electro mechanical noise of all kinds and we’ve kind of gone a little bit away from the ears and towards the eyes, you think about all the communication protocols that we’ve invested over the last 40 or 50 years, email, SMS, instant messaging.
These are all text based. They’ve grabbed our eyes and our fingers and it’s now the case that many people prefer to communicate in those ways than actually to talk and to listen. We’ve kind of downgraded our ears which is a real shame. You know, your ears are amazing devices, you hear a sphere all around you, 360 degrees in all directions, sight of course is a cone in front of you. You have eyelids, you can close your eyes, you have no ear lids. Your ears are working even while you sleep.
If there’s a strange noise in your house late at night while you're asleep, you will wake up, your ears are always on. They have an amazing range, you can hear if you’ve got reasonably good hearing, you can hear 10 octaves, perfect hearing that would be. We see just one octave, the entire visible light spectrum is one octave. There’s a huge amount of sensitivity and power in the ears and I think they’re an amazing instrument and then the question is, not only do we have to hear, we have to listen as well.
My definition of listening is making meaning from sound. You hear kind of everything but you don’t pay attention to much of it probably. Listening is what you choose to pay attention to and what you make it mean.
If you do that consciously, consciously making meaning from sound, you can actually change your reality. Listening is incredibly powerful. You know, of course, reality is an abstraction isn’t it? We don’t perceive everything all the time, we pay attention only to a small fraction of what’s around us and we each make it mean different things.
For example, one thing that listeners may not have thought about is that every one of you listening to this is listening in a unique way. Your listening is as unique as your finger prints, your voice print or your irises. Every human being listens in an individual and unique way. It is a grave mistake to make the assumption that everybody listens like I do.
Which is a trap we fall in to so often. Whether we’re selling or trying to influence people or just trying to get on with people, telling somebody we love them, asking if somebody to marry us, asking somebody for pay rise. Whatever kind of conversation.
We need to be aware that we’re speaking into a listening that may be very different from our own and asking the question, what’s the listening Mat, it is an incredibly powerful technique to use in improving the way that we speak and relate to the world. Listening is incredibly important and if we start listening in a conscious way, then we can take responsibility for the sound we make and for the sound that we consume, the environments we’re in, the rooms we occupy, the noise that we surround ourselves with.
We’re unconscious, there’s nothing we can do about it when we become conscious. We can simply move away from unhealthy sound and try to create healthy sound around us all the time.
[0:19:41.6] MB: how can we become better listeners?
[0:19:44.1] JT: In my third TED talk I think it was, I talked about conscious listening and I gave five exercises, simple exercises which people can do in order to improve their listening. You know, just a level of — they’re kind of listening press ups really. You can do them very easily, they cost nothing, they take very little time and they can transform your existence.
The first one is getting a little bit of silence every day. Silence is a sound I think, it’s also the context for all sound. It’s a very important thing to reset your ears. You know, we’re surrounded by noise so often that if you can just recalibrate with a little bit of silence a few times a day, just a minute or two, maybe when you wake up or maybe at lunch time, if you can’t get absolute silence then a quiet room will do or just the quietest place you can find.
You kind of reseat your base line and you can listen afresh again without the jaded tired ears of somebody who’s been surrounded by noise all day. Most of us unfortunately have to work in open plan offices. Now, open plan offices are great for collaboration but they’re terrible for concentration or contemplation, they weren’t designed for that and the people making offices have forgotten that we’ve actually got different forms of work that we all need to do.
Quiet working space is at a premium and it’s very often the case that people go and work from home or go and camp at a board room or a meeting room to try and get somewhere quiet where they can think. Well, if that’s you, my advice is do try and find a few minutes of silence even if it means going to a restroom or a broom cupboard even, just finding that little bit of silence, it will really help you to listen afresh again.
Second exercise is one I call the mixer. This is kind of a fun thing to do if you’re in a café let’s say and you’re surrounded by a lot of different noise sources. Ask the question, how many individual tracks am I listening to? Just imagine you’re in front of a mixing desk like a sound engineer and start asking, it’s not just a mush, there are individual sound sources here.
What am I actually listening to? You can do it in beautiful natural places, you can do it in shops, you can do it any way you like. If you do it quite a lot, it will really improve the quality of your listening. Make you more acute listener, more sensitive.
Third exercise, I suggest is called savoring. Savoring is kind of unlocking the hidden choir in the good sounds around us and also becoming more aware of the bad sounds around us. There are even mundane sounds that can be incredibly beautiful that we dismiss as meaningless or try to abhor in. I remember, every sound has harmonics in it. Sound is made up of a fundamental and lots of harmonics and that’s why my voice sounds different from yours, it’s why a trumpet and a flute playing the same notes sound different, they have different harmonics.
Now, those harmonics exist, we just don’t hear them very clearly. I remember after doing a workshop on harmonic singing, I turned on the car engine and suddenly I could hear all the harmonics in the car engine, it was like suddenly seeing a rainbow. These things exist and if we become more attuned to listening carefully, we can actually unlock the hidden choirs I say and lots of different sounds.
Turn on the kettle and listen to it closely with your ear, near the base, not the spout, you’ll get rather hot if you're near the wrong end but the sound of a kettle I think is a really beautiful powerful exciting sound if you pay attention to it. There are many sounds around us that we can really relish and enjoy and savor in that way.
The fourth exercise is quite a powerful and quite a subtle one actually. Let me explain it. I call it listening positions. Now this comes from that observation that everybody who is listening is unique, we all listen through a set of filters, that’s why your listening is different from mine. You’ve come a different road to this conversation today for my road. We have the same language roughly, we have different cultures and we have different sets of mentors.
Different parents, different role models throughout our lives where we accreted different values, attitudes, beliefs, you know, we have a different set of filters that we listen through and in any given situation of course, all of us also have probably expectations, intentions, we might have emotions going on, we might have assumptions about the world and about people, these things all filter our listening.
They change what we pay attention to and they change what we make it mean. If that’s the case, we’re listening from a particular position. I don’t mean a physical position. Imagine there’s a house on a hill and if you don’t like it, the way it looks from here, you can walk around the other side of the hill can’t you? See if it looks better form the other side. That’s the kind of metaphor I’m talking about.
Most people are listening at the bottom of that hill from a concrete bunker they created years and years ago. Probably listening through a little slit in the front of the concrete bunker to just a very small part of what’s going on. They’ve forgotten that there is actually a door in the back of the bunker, they can exit the bunker and walk to somewhere else and listen from a different position.
Maybe a couple of examples would make this clear. Let me give you a scale from critical for example to empathic. Now, critical listening is what we tend to do a great deal in our lives. In business particularly, it’s very useful, it’s extracting what’s particularly useful and relevant right now, discarding what isn’t, judging, evaluating, weighing up and saying, this is useful stuff or it’s not, I agree with this, I don’t agree with that. That’s what the listeners have been doing to me pretty much since we started this interview I imagine.
Empathic listening on the other hand is very different. That’s going on to the other person’s island, feeding their feelings and leaving them feeling not just heard but understood. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this one but I think this is very true. It said that there are three things we desire in any relationship. To be heard, understood and valued.
Well empathic listening goes two of those in one, it’s a very powerful way to listen to somebody and of course, you know, critical listening, very useful but if somebody comes to you asking for time off for bereavement then you don’t want to be marking them out of ten and how well they’re doing this. You want to be with them on their island, feeling the feelings and showing them that you're connected at a heart level.
That’s the kind of difference I’m talking about in listening positions and I guess I’ll give you one other scale, this is a slight gender stereotype but it may be useful particularly since I think this podcast has a largely male audience, it may be useful to understand that genders tend to have different habitual listening positions.
Now, this isn’t a universal truth, I’m not saying everybody’s like this but men, tend to listen in a way I call converging, that is to say for a point, for a solution, listening to get to the end of the road, there’s a place to be, there’s an end this, there’s a point, there’s somewhere to go that’s made it worthwhile.
You know, I have a problem, I say this is the problem, you say here’s the solution, thanks. You know, that’ show we tend to converse, males. Females on the other hand tend — and I’m only saying not all females but they tend to listen in a different way and that is diverging, that is to say it’s not about a point, there isn’t a solution, it’s about enjoying the journey with the other person, going with the flow and it may expand as the conversation goes on and cover more points.
It’s not trying to focus down. We need to understand that because otherwise, she comes home and says I’ve had a dreadful day, this happened, he looks up from the football game and says, have a bath, you’ll feel much better. Now, in the male world, that’s problem solved, back to the football, in the female world, perhaps that wasn’t quite what she was looking for.
She was looking for, you poor thing, sit down, have a glass of wine, tell me all about it and that’s divergent listening, changing your listening position can be very powerful and just realizing that you can do it, that can be transformational.
The final of the five exercises I gave for improving listening is a simple little pneumonic, Rasa. Sans script word for juice, actually rasa. But in this context, it stands for receive, appreciate, summarize, ask. Little pneumonic that’s very useful to using conversation with other people, receive means pay attention.
Look at them, eye contact when you're listening, its’ very important. You know, I think M. Scott Peck said, you cannot truly listen to another human being and do anything else at the same time. I so agree with that. I think there are probably billions of people on this planet who have never had the experience of being truly listened to.
They’ve been partially listened to while people are doing something else, partly paying attention, we’re all so guilty of doing that, giving somebody your full attention and really listening to them is a great gift, it’s such a generous thing to do and it’s amazing if you do that in a relationship.
Rasa receive, that’s lean forward, look at them, you know, be it paying attention. A is appreciate little noises like really, okay. Which you’re not making right now because we’re on a podcast and you’re interviewing me and it would be interrupting me all the time but on phone calls, it’s natural to do that kind of thing because otherwise people will say, “You still there?” I get that quite often because I am intensely listening but I have forgotten to make those little noises. It summarizes the word “so” an important word. If you have a so person in the meeting it goes pretty well.
If you don’t it could be a very long meeting. So what we’ve all agreed is this: Now we can move on to that. Without that kind of summarizing you can go round and round in circles and we all know those meetings and then asking questions of course at the end. Throughout asking questions shows that you are actually paying attention and you are interested. Rasa. So those are five simple tools and techniques that listeners can put into practice in their daily lives.
And I promise you, they really do improve your listening skills, your conscious listening and can even change your outcomes dramatically.
[0:30:59.3] MB: Those exercises are great and many way remind me of mindfulness for the ears and especially the distinction between convergent and divergent listening I absolutely listened to a point and try to listen to okay, what’s the next action step that we need to take as a result of this information. So the idea of listening for the journey and going along with the flow is something that I’ll absolutely implement in my own listening practices.
I’d love to transition into another topic that you’ve talked a lot about which is the power of the human voice, tell me a little bit about that.
[0:31:36.6] JT: Yes, the human voice is the instrument that we all play if you think about it. It’s an amazing instrument, very complex, incredibly versatile, you think of opera singers, you think of heavy metal singers, you think of town criers or great artists, people who can make you weep or laugh with their voices. It is an incredible instrument and yet we are not trained in using it. We are just expected to pick it up as we go along.
I mean I would say the same is true incidentally of listening. When you think about it, we have four communication channels, reading, writing, speaking, listening and we teach two of them. We test two of them. Very few schools teach speaking in a serious way more in your country than mine by the way. I think Americans do get taught a little bit of public speaking. It’s expected that people can stand up in front of people and talk a bit but not in a really profound way.
And most countries don’t even teach that and then think about do we teach listening? Not at all. It’s a silent skill, we don’t teach it, we don’t test it and we don’t test speaking in general as far as I know. So we’ve got these two very important skills which are the most natural ways that human beings can communicate. They’re the oldest ways, you know we only invented writing what 4,000 years ago? Something like that and for 200,000 years before that, we have been speaking to each other.
Language is very, very old and so all the ways that we use our voice and yet we’ve lost contact with that as well just in the same way that we’ve lost contact with listening skills. So this voice is incredible. You have a vocal tool box, most people are not conscious of that at all and there are lot of things in the vocal tool box that we could explore and have a little rummage about plus of course it’s what you say and they say a massive amount that if you mentioned the book I’m writing at the moment.
A lot of the section I am writing right now is about how to decide what to say because to paraphrase the old song, it is what you say and the way that you say it. Mind you, if I had to choose between those two things I would say the way that you say it is probably the most important thing of all and so shall we open the vocal tool box Matt? Do you want to have a rummage through there?
[0:34:09.8] MB: Absolutely.
[0:34:10.9] JT: Okay, well there are all sorts of tools in your vocal tool box and some of them aren’t things that you might think of as associated with the voice. For example, we could start with posture. Now most people wouldn’t think of posture when it comes to the voice but if you’re listening to this wherever you are and you lean your head right forward and stretch your throat out, you’ll find your voice become really quite strained like this.
Or if you put your head right back into your shoulders, you’ll find your voice rather odd like that. Now that’s because you’re compressing or stretching your vocal chords and they don’t work very well under those situations. In order to use your voice effectively our head needs to be vertically above our shoulders and yet how often are we sitting at our desk leaning forward, peering at our screen, stretching our vocal chords when we’re trying to have a really important conversation with somebody.
So posture does matter. It matters a lot then the next thing of course is breathing. Now if you ever go to a vocal coach they’ll deal with your breathing first because you voice is just breath when you come down to it. It’s breath going through your vocal chords and you can modulate that breath. You can learn how to breathe more deeply. I’ll give you a simple breathing exercise that anybody can use. Lie on a bed or lie on the floor and breathe in with your hands in your stomach.
And start to concentrate on raising your fingers, your stomach up to push your fingers up. We tend to think of breathing is happening on our chest but actually if you watch a baby breathing, the stomach is what goes up and down. The chest hardly moves at all so you need to think about breathing right down into your stomach and right out from your stomach. It’s like a wheel going in, down to the stomach in and out from the stomach to the mouth.
If you practice that more and more, you’ll become better and better at really correct breathing. We tend not to breathe much at all. We’re like little birds, we breathe just at the top of our lungs most of the time and without breathe it’s very hard to speak effectively. Incidentally for anybody who gets nervous, walking on stage in front of a lot of people breathing is also the best antidote to nerves. You know that thing when your voice goes a little bit quivery when you’re walking on?
You’re a little bit nervous but if you take a deep breath before you go on stage that tends to go and you get calmed down and your voice stabilizes. So it’s a great antidote to nerves. So posture, breathing, the way you stand as well of course in front of people matters. Try not to fidget. Try to stand equally on both feet with everything stacked vertically above everything else, hands by your sides or hold a thumb in front of you if you don’t feel comfortable with hands by the sides.
It’s less distracting that way and I am talking here principally if you are on stage or presenting to a room, you don’t want to be shifting your weight from side to side or walking around in that little aimless walk or any kind of physical twitch which tends to be off setting and distracting. So just being very intentional in the way you stand and in the way you move is a very powerful thing. So let’s move onto the voice itself, now there are four registers that we can speak in.
Some people can speak in the top one, I can’t. It’s called the whistle register. Mariah Carey is very good at singing right up there. It’s very, very high indeed not very functional. The next one down, falsetto. Well I wouldn’t suggest using that if you’re trying to speak powerfully to anybody. Falsetto sounds like this, it’s the gear above where we normally are. Anybody who knows Monty Python will know falsetto, he’s a very naughty boy.
It’s men imitating women or it’s women trying to be very, very unthreatening so it is not a very powerful place to speak from and although many singers use it, think of the Bee Gees or Chris Martin from Cold Play, I mean people singing falsetto very powerfully a lot. Nevertheless I wouldn’t suggest that it’s a great place to speak from. So onto the most common register that we use and it’s called the model register and this covers three important areas, our head, our throat and our chest.
So you can speak with a head voice, right now I am speaking from my nose. You could probably hear it’s a little bit more nasal or I can move down to my throat here and you get a slightly harsher sound or I can move down into my chest here and resonate from my chest and then suddenly, you get the depth of the voice. You get the full range of the voice and that is much more powerful to use. So it’s a really good exercise to move your voice from head to throat to chest and back up again.
It’s like visualizing it comes from there, it will become natural and if you want to speak in power, you want to resonate from the chest. I strongly suggest that. We tent to vote for politicians with deeper voices, that’s true. It’s been shown by the research and that’s largely because I think we associate size with importance. Big things more dangerous or more significant. Big things have lower voices. A mouse has a voice that’s so high we can’t hear it.
A cat can’t but its way above like 40 kilohertz, way above our hearing range. Elephants on the other hand, very deep voices. So big things, deep voices, importance-deep voices so we have that association. Now there is one other register which sadly is becoming more and more popular and common and it’s called vocal fry and if you want a good laugh, you could look it up on YouTube. There are a lot of videos on YouTube of people being unkind about vocal fry and I’m not surprised.
It’s not particularly pleasant at all, it’s kind of speaking like this, it’s very lazy. It’s not really speaking at all and it tends to unfortunately be used particularly by younger people now already. We at least talk about this, it’s so exciting, you know I am putting on an American accent because unfortunately that is largely where it comes from. Your country is specializing in vocal fry. Please, please, please anybody listening to this, try not to go into vocal fry.
You have this amazing instrument, this voice and it’s very, very sad to be just stuck in this croaky place. It’s using the full richness of the voice that we’ve all been blessed with. So that’s register, something to pay attention to, maybe we could move onto talk about tamba. Tamba is the feel of a voice. We use feeling words, touching words to describe tamba. Most people prefer voices which you would describe in the same way that you would describe a hot chocolate.
Rich, warm, dark, sweet, smooth and so forth, those kinds of words. Now if that’s not you, if you have a voice that’s thin or squeaky or scratchy or in any way not like that don’t despair. My advice, go get a vocal coach, a singing coach or drama coach. They would be able to help you enormously just with some simple exercises they can transform tamba and it’s amazing what you can do to improve the weapon that you have been given, the tool that you have been given.
It can be transformed with simple exercises just as you can transform your physic with simple exercises. Then I think we should talk about pace and pitch. Now people tend not to think about these so much but if you get conscious with it, you can get really excited and go really, really fast. Some people are like that all the time and it gets to be gabble. If you get nervous, anybody listening to this, it can result in gabbling at pace and getting really, really excited and nervous.
Now that’s not so good so be conscious of the pace you’re speaking at and sometimes, slow right down and you can make powerful points by giving it a little bit more air and slowing. The important thing actually is to vary the pace because if you are the same all the time and I’ll talk about tone right now, pitch for example can be varied enormously and I’ve just mentioned that deeper pitch tends to be associated with authority. If you vary pitch, you can vary what you’re communicating.
The level of excitement for example so if I say, “Where did you leave my keys?” that sounds very calm. If I say, “Where did you leave my keys!” immediately there’s a different communication taking place. I’ve communicated some anxiety or some upset there just by changing the pitch. I didn’t change the pace of that delivery. So pitch and pace together can really deliver a huge amount of emotional impact and by varying them, then you make sure that you’re not being monotonous.
Now what does monotonous mean? Monotone, one tone, if I speak on one note the whole time it’s extremely boring and robotic and I’ve lost everything there is about being a human being and communicating powerfully. I’ve lost something else as well which is prosody or intonation. The wonderful singing song of speech and again, something we can practice, it’s incredibly powerful. This is root one for emotion.
This is why listening to a play or watching a play is so much more powerful than reading a play because you get all of that prosody, the pace pitch and so forth that you’re involved in creating prosody. Now it is cultural. Different cultures have different prosodies. Scandinavians for example have a very restrained prosody in general. “Yes, we are very excited about this project” you know? And most people would say they sound bored but they’re not.
It’s just that they have a very restrictive prosody. I’ve done talks in Finland where at the end of the talk is a very, very muted level of applause going on. I thought oh no, I’ve tanked it. This is going really badly and people come up to me afterwards and say, “That was the best talk we have had this year” and it’s just a different way of expressing yourself. On the other hard entirely, “John all go, like this” in a huge amount of prosody going on.
To the point where I just bang my head doing that so it is cultural and within your cultural norms it’s a great idea to work on your prosody. Practice exaggerating it if you like so that you can come across as alive and interested and interesting. So those are just some of the important aspects. I’ll mention just one more which is silence. Now you can leave great big porter. Not something that people on the radio or in podcast like doing.
It’s called dead air and radio people get very nervous about it because they think everybody’s going to reach for the radio or whatever they’re using to listen to this piece and turn it off because they think it’s broken. Sometimes it’s a good thing but if you’re on stage let me tell you, you do not have to fill the air with “ums" and “uhs" and “ahs" and noise. You can stop for the longest time and people will stay with you. It’s fine and actually silence can be an enormously powerful way of delivering impact in any kind of speech.
So that’s a little rummage through some of the things in the vocal tool box. I think the voice is absolutely amazing and I hope very much that I have given some pointers to ways in which everybody listening to this can work on their own voice and take on sounding even better than they do. By the way, a very good exercise is to record yourself. Get a little digital recorder or just use your phone and record yourself and listen to this on headphones.
Most people don’t like it. You will be a bit shocked at first, “that’s not me” why? Because we hear ourselves mostly through bone conduction. So I am listening to my voice now coming through the bones of my skull and that automatically makes it sound deeper and more resonant than what goes out into the world and is broadcast by air vibrating and reaching somebody else’s ears. Pretty important to understand the way you actually sound.
So that you can moderate that and work on it. It may not be the way that you think you sound so I hope that’s useful.
[0:47:10.4] MB: Silence is such a powerful tool and something that I’ve used again and again in things like business negotiations and meetings. Often times people get so uncomfortable with silence that they end up or feel this need to almost fill the void and continue to divulge information in many cases. So I love that as one of the tools of the vocal tool box. Could you also share another concept you talk about as the four corner stones of powerful speech. I’d love to hear those kinds of cornerstones.
[0:47:43.7] JT: Absolutely and this is where you speak from. I spoke earlier about speaking into and listening. You also speak from somewhere, it’s kind of a spiritual place I suppose and the four cornerstones that I believe are very powerful to stand on spell a word, the word is HAIL. So it’s nice and easy to remember. It also means to greet or acclaim enthusiastically or one meaning of it so it’s a nice word to use for this.
The H stands for honesty. Most people can spot it when people are lying, bullshitting, when you are not getting the straight story. Being honest simply in this context means being clear and being straight with people. It’s a very powerful way to be and it goes down very, very well. The A stands for Authenticity, being yourself. Just being yourself, we don’t have to pretend all the time. People pleasing can work to a degree but again people can detect it if we are denying our own truth and denying our own values in order to be liked.
In order to be agreed with, in order to look good whatever it may be, it’s so much more powerful to be yourself whatever stage you step onto. If you can just be yourself its natural, it’s easy and it goes down well. The I is integrity and that is being your word. So if you say it and it happens, your words have power whereas if you say it and it never happens, people just stop listening to you. You lose all the power. “Yeah I’ll be there” and then you’re not or “Yes I will do that” and it happens.
It’s a very, very different way of having your words over a period of time you generate a thing that I call “a listening for yourself”. So not only are there other people that is listening out that you speak into that listening but you also create. You co-create that. If you’re late to every meeting, people listen to you as late. “I’ll be there at two” “Yeah, yeah he won’t. He’ll be there at ten past two if we’re lucky” so you create a listening and having integrity is about being your word so you create a listening that is accurate and precise and reliable.
And the L of HAIL, well maybe surprisingly that’s love. Now I don’t mean romantic love obviously. I’m talking here about a kind of well-wishing. A straight forward wishing people well which is a wonderful thing to do especially if you remember that when you’re speaking to a group of people may be giving a talk or presentation or with a group of friends, it’s not about you. It’s about what you are giving to them.
If you’re wishing them well it makes so much easier that you can look them in the eye and feel good about that the fact that you are giving them something of hopefully some value. So HAIL the four cornerstones I think is an extremely potent place to stand and to speak from and if there’s one thing to take out of that is that it’s not about you, it’s about giving people a gift and therefore, that’s what’s going to create the connection with them and have them listen to you much more attentively.
[0:50:59.4] MB: For listeners who want to put some of these ideas into practice, what would one piece of homework be that you would give them as a starting point?
[0:51:07.4] JT: Well you know it all comes down to listening fundamentally and I think the understanding of listening positions is probably the most important of all of these things. To understand that different people have different listening positions and so asking yourself the question “what’s the listening?” is an amazingly transformative practice whether you are speaking to one person, 10 people or a thousand people, what’s the listening?
Every time you go into a conversation what’s the listening, asking that simple question I think is so powerful and so transformative people well may find that they get very different results pretty quickly by paying attention to that one thing.
[0:51:49.1] MB: And where can listeners find you and your books online?
[0:51:54.2] JT: Well I’m excited to be writing this new book, “How to be Heard” because the old book was about using sound in business and it’s kind of a textbook for that. Nevertheless I think right now I am very passionate about the idea of speaking and listening powerfully and that’s what this new book, “How to be Heard” is all about. That’s going to be coming out at the end of 2017. I’m writing it right now so watch out for that.
My website is juliantreasure.com and I should say also anybody who’s interested in these topics of powerful speaking and conscious listening, do stop by my website a couple of times in the coming months because we are about to launch a thing called The Communication Academy which is going to be a really big body of wisdom, not just from me but for other people, resources, teachings about these very, very important topics.
It’s all the stuff that we should have been taught in school and we didn’t get it. So I’m really keen to get it out there in the world and help people to become brilliant listeners and superb speakers. Incidentally I think Matt one thing that’s worth mentioning is that this is going to become increasingly important. Technology has been working against speaking and listening for the last 40 years or so pretty much but it’s about to start working for it.
You know there have been billions invested in speech recognition and voice synthesis and we are at a stage now where this year we are going to have some artificially intelligent avatars which we can speak to in ways that really we couldn’t imagine a couple of years ago which leaves Siri in the dust way behind. There’s a thing called Viv coming out from the guy who invented Siri which is incredible. It writes code in real time to answer your queries.
So this is a different kind of beast all together and I think as we start speaking and listening to our own avatar or intelligent agent a little bit like Jarvis in Iron Man, we won’t be using apps so much in the future. We’ll just tell our intelligent agent it will deal with all the apps. It will deal with all the remembering the passwords and doing stuff and we’ll be back in to having conversations and whisper it maybe even to each other.
So I think the voice and the ears are going to be coming back into fashion over the next couple of years big time so it behooves anybody who cares about making a difference in the world, being a great parent, being a great friend, being a great leader, whatever it is you want to achieve, your voice and your ears are going to be ten times as important.
[0:54:27.6] MB: Well Julian thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all of your wisdom. This has been a great conversation and I’ve really learned a tremendous amount.
[0:54:35.7] JT: Matt it’s been my great pleasure and I hope I’ve been able to give something of value to the people listening. So thanks so much for the opportunity.
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