How Loudly Should You Speak?

How Loudly Should You Speak?

Loudness

How loudly should you speak? I mention this because many people do not pay attention to how loud they are and they are so into their own noise that they do not listen to other people.

The ability to control your volume is a crucial skill in communication. The awareness to know how loudly or softly to speak shows that you are paying attention to other people and your environment.

People should speak at a volume that is appropriate for the situation and the venue.  If people were to take the advice to just “speak loudly” this would lead to more impolite and obnoxious behavior.  Noisy is neither polite nor professional even though a noisy person may be and appear confident, that person can be quite heartily resented for the lack of consideration and disruption.

The last company I worked for was so obnoxious.  Most people spoke loudly all the time as though they were on a football field.  This was not an outdoor field, it was an office.  There is no reason to be so loud and inconsiderate indoors.  It was very disruptive to my work which seemed to interfere with their wanting to loudly socialize and play.

At another office I frequently had to put a customer on hold to ask people standing all around me (which they had no reason to do) to be quiet because they were so loud I could not hear my customer.  I sometimes had to yell to get their attention as they could not hear me because they were so loud.

When you have the floor, by all means speak up.  Speak audibly, clearly and project your voice.  Speak clearly and articulately.  This is what I find most people have a problem with – they can neither project nor articulate. They have no problem being loud.

Listening & Paying Attention

People would not need to speak so loudly if other people would listen and pay attention.  I have a pet peeve about people asking me to repeat myself and to speak louder.  I am quite articulate and know how to project.  I have a soft speaking voice naturally, but a big voice “in my range”. 

I can be a low talker quite easily in order to have one person hear me and prevent others from hearing me or to keep from disturbing others.  I an also project across a room.  Even so, frequently – I would say every day, someone asks me to speak louder, and they ask again and again until I am literally yelling and they still ask me to speak louder.  This infuriates me.  I, on the other hand, must turn the volume down on phones and in face-to-face conversation back away from people because they are so loud (or too close, but that is for another article).

Most people today operate using “split attention”. This is when you are attending to more than one thing and the brain it not able to grasp any one of them fully. I know that “multitasking” is the fad and people actually believe they can do more than one thing at time, but you cannot. Someone gets dropped through the cracks. Something suffers. In this case, your social skills, communication skills, and your personal effectiveness suffer.

Improving

Know how to speak and how loudly it is appropriate to speak. If you are addressing a room, an audience or a auditorium, speak with resonance and projection so that the upper back wall could hear you. Yes, this would allow for speaking very loudly, but if you try to accomplish this with just loudness, you will wear yourself out and strain your voice. We never want to strain our voices! Instead, use technique to send your voice out. This I will discuss in another article and link to it here.

Speak only as loud as you need to in order for the person to whom you are speaking to hear you, and preferably so that those to whom you are not speaking cannot hear you, or at least not well. This means you speak so that you do not intrude on other people. You can still have a vibrant and strong speaking voice without blasting everyone within range.

On the other side of the scale is listening. People who are overly loud also typically do not listen to others because they cannot hear anything over their own voice. This means that when someone is trying to get a word in edge-wise or trying to get their attention, they are quite oblivious.

When you ask someone to speak up or speak louder, pay attention to yourself to see if you are really paying attention to that other person. Chances are you are not, and they should not have to pay the price for your inattentiveness. Are you looking at them as they speak? Are you aware of their expression, body language and emotion? If you are not, then you are not listening.

If you are asking them to speak louder pay attention to the environment. Is it a noisy place, is there background noise, is their acoustic dampening? Everyone has a different vocal instrument. Some are naturally loud and brassy and some are more soft and delicate. While the soft voice can still be quite clearly audible, it can be challenged with an environment unconducive to speaking such as the conditions mentioned above. A loud, brassy vocal instrument may have no trouble being heard over a cacophony of sound. It is not fair to expect a soft voice to strain itself under the same conditions. The right thing to do is to move to a better spot or venue, or arrange a better time and place to talk.

If you have a naturally soft vocal instrument learn resonance and projection from a vocal coach. Even so there is no way to win in an environment that is acoustically unfriendly. Try to persuade people to meet you at another time and place. It is very frustration and destructive to the voice to try to force yourself to be heard over noise or in bad conditions. Cell phones are one of these conditions. Depending on locations, networks and equipment, some people never have difficulty hearing me, and others can never hear me. I am not at all pleased by having to jump through all sorts of hoops and straining, and yelling to try to be heard when it is not at all my fault. Do not insist someone do that.

Insist – why would anyone insist? How would they insist? They do. Trust me – they do. I ask them to get on a better connection and then call me, but they want. They insist on continuing. Perhaps they need to put in their hearing aid, but they won’t. I have gotten to the point that I am just unwilling to put up with this.

I hope this short message has helped to clarify when one should speak loudly and how loudly as well as environmental constraints to be aware of.

If you have any questions for me or thoughts on this, please share.