Julian Treasure, a sound consultant and chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses — offices, retailers, hotels — on how to use sound, discusses on how to speak so that people want to listen. Following are the MP3 and the associated transcript of the TED Talk presentation.
Julian Treasure – Sound consultant
The human voice: It’s the instrument we all play. It’s the most powerful sound in the world, probably. It’s the only one that can start a war or say “I love you.” And yet many people have the experience that when they speak, people don’t listen to them. And why is that? How can we speak powerfully to make change in the world?
What I’d like to suggest, there are a number of habits that we need to move away from. I’ve assembled for your pleasure here 7 deadly sins of speaking. I’m not pretending this is an exhaustive list, but these seven, I think, are pretty large habits that we can all fall into.
First, gossip. Speaking ill of somebody who’s not present. Not a nice habit, and we know perfectly well the person gossiping, five minutes later, will be gossiping about us.
Second, judging. We know people who are like this in conversation, and it’s very hard to listen to somebody if you know that you’re being judged and found wanting at the same time.
Third, negativity. You can fall into this. My mother, in the last years of her life, became very very negative, and it’s hard to listen. I remember one day, I said to her, “It’s October 1 today,” and she said, “I know, isn’t it dreadful?” It’s hard to listen when somebody’s that negative.
And another form of negativity, complaining. Well, this is the national art of the U.K. It’s our national sport. We complain about the weather, sport, about politics, about everything, but actually, complaining is viral misery. It’s not spreading sunshine and lightness in the world.
Excuses. We’ve all met this guy. Maybe we’ve all been this guy. Some people have a blamethrower. They just pass it on to everybody else and don’t take responsibility for their actions, and again, hard to listen to somebody who is being like that.
Penultimate, the sixth of the seven, embroidery, exaggeration. It demeans our language, actually, sometimes. For example, if I see something that really is awesome, what do I call it? And then, of course, this exaggeration becomes lying, and we don’t want to listen to people we know are lying to us.
And finally, dogmatism. The confusion of facts with opinions. When those two things get conflated, you’re listening into the wind. You know, somebody is bombarding you with their opinions as if they were true. It’s difficult to listen to that.
So here they are, seven deadly sins of speaking. These are things I think we need to avoid. But is there a positive way to think about this? Yes, there is.
I’d like to suggest that there are four really powerful cornerstones, foundations, that we can stand on if we want our speech to be powerful and to make change in the world. Fortunately, these things spell a word. The word is HAIL and it has a great definition as well. I’m not talking about the stuff that falls from the sky and hits you on the head. I’m talking about this definition, to greet or acclaim enthusiastically, which is I think how our words will be received if we stand on these four things.
So what do they stand for? See if you can guess. The H, honesty, of course, being true in what you say, being straight and clear. The A is authenticity, just being yourself. A friend of mine described it as standing in your own truth, which I think is a lovely way to put it. The I is integrity, being your word, actually doing what you say, and being somebody people can trust. And the L is love. I don’t mean romantic love, but I do mean wishing people well, for two reasons. First of all, I think absolute honesty may not be what we want. I mean, my goodness, you look ugly this morning. Perhaps that’s not necessary. Tempered with love, of course, honesty is a great thing. But also, if you’re really wishing somebody well, it’s very hard to judge them at the same time. I’m not even sure you can do those two things simultaneously. So HAIL.
Also, now that’s what you say, and it’s like the old song, it is what you say, it’s also the way that you say it. You have an amazing toolbox. This instrument is incredible, and yet this is a toolbox that very few people have ever opened. I’d like to have a little rummage in there with you now and just pull a few tools out that you might like to take away and play with, which will increase the power of your speaking.