It isn't unusual for big men to speak quietly. There are all sorts of reasons.
I was once involved in media training with six international rugby players. I was intrigued as to why most of them spoke so quietly. They said that being sturdy (have you ever seen a cauliflower ear?) attracted ‘have a go’ attitudes from other men, so the quiet voice was a deliberate signal of non-aggression. Quiet voice, quiet life.
My most fascinating experience of ‘big man, small voice’, threw in another interesting dimension. As part of a teambuilding workshop I ran a session on voice communication. Each team member stood up and talked to the group. Feedback from the group to our tall, quiet man was that he was – a quiet man. So quiet in fact, that some members of the group admitted to rarely hearing anything he said in meetings!
I gave him some ideas for projecting his voice. And then we heard it – a deep, rich resonance, a warm authority, matched with an engaging facial expression… but he stopped mid-sentence and asked not to continue. There was a reason - he would explain to me in the break.
The reason was very moving. As he was speaking with his louder voice (I would say his natural voice) he felt his chest vibrate and the last time he had felt the vibration was as a boy, when his voice was breaking. Tall man had loved singing as a child and was in a choir. One day the teacher stopped playing and in front of everyone told the tall man-boy to stop singing because he sounded awful and from now on he had better just stand at the piano and turn the music pages. From that day onwards, tall man had associated chest vibration with humiliation and the loss of something he loved. So from that day onwards, he had never allowed his chest to vibrate during speech. Hence the quiet voice.
Armed with practical ideas to help him gradually become braver at using a more projected voice, I hope Mr Tall has moved on from his negative associations and is now using his beautiful authentic voice.
We are experts at voice communication. Sometimes how we think we are coming across to others, doesn’t match what they receive. We can help people find their natural voice to give them the presence and impact they need to feel confident.
“Working with Kate enabled me to improve my communication technique. Practising with a professional communicator makes a significant difference and her insight, tips and techniques really work, allowing me to deliver material confidently while retaining my own style.”
Duncan Rhodes, Director, Bombardier