Tune Your Witness’s Tone of Voice
By Dr. Shelley Spiecker:
A few days ago I was helping prepare a successful CEO for testimony in an upcoming arbitration. The case boiled down to a dispute between two shareholders with one advocating for dissolution of their agreement and the other seeking to keep the agreement in force. My client’s testimony and credibility would be crucial to the case. A high self-monitor, he quickly picked up on my recommendations for posture, eye contact, and other key nonverbal credibility cues. One impediment remained – a tendency to end sentences with an upward vocal inflection. While infrequent, this “uptalking” had the overall effect of making him appear uncertain and less believable than desired.
Ironically, while vocal characteristics speak volumes in terms of impression formation, they can often be one of the more difficult aspects of witness presentation to change. Sager suggests that scientifically voice sounds different to the speaker than it does to the listener, a key reason it can be difficult for many witnesses to self-correct their vocal cues.
Recent research suggests that making the effort to assess vocal quality and enhance vocal effectiveness can pay off.
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