It's Not Your Accent or Lack of Vocabulary, It's Your Tone and Body Language Causing You to Be Misunderstood
How you say what you say is what resonates with people much more than the words you say. What in the world are you talking about Tone? Hear me out.
Human emotions are what dictate the vast majority of the actions we take. It is incredibly difficult to overcome the urges and instincts of our System 1 animal brains, which is required in order to turn on our System 2 rational, logical brains. I learned this concept from Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, and you’ll hear me babble on about it til the cows come home.
While English may be the language of the business world, human emotion is the real language of the entire world. Emotion has existed since day 1, English has not. Thus, emotional communication is programmed and ingrained much much deeper into our brains than any spoken language such as English, or [insert your native language here].
Our English knowledge is stored in our third brain, the neocortex. It is the outer layer of our cerebral brain that has only begun to develop relatively recently. This brain is our logical brain. It can compute and process complex tasks, but as nature follows the path of least resistance, it is hesitant to “kick on” (engage) because that requires work.
Our limbic brains are our emotional brains. You’ve probably heard of the saying “fight or flight.” It is the brain that has helped humans survive since the beginning of time. Our archaic brain has been tried and tested for much much longer than our logical brain, thus our archaic brain is what guides us.
Words Don’t Make Cake Taste Good, They’re Just a Small Piece of the Pie
It isn’t the words on the menu that say “intensely flavored and moist chocolate cake made with dark cocoa” that led you to order the cake as you read the menu to yourself in your head. Instead, the thought of how good a piece of cake will taste and the joy it will give us from eating it are what cause us to buy desert after our main course. It is how that cake will taste and the satisfactory feelings involved with consuming that cake that made you order it.
Likewise, the tone rhythm, and gestures that you deliver your words with are what dictate how someone understands you. Americans speak with with varying intonation and are very animated with their bodies while speaking. This is the art of speaking, not the science.
When separated, all of the ingredients of the cake alone don’t make anything special. I certainly don’t enjoy consuming raw flour, cocoa and eggs, do you? It is the whole process of combining them and baking them just right that creates a masterpiece. There are cooks, and then there are chefs. Cooks tend to follow recipes, chefs tend to follow their guts. When it comes to communicating, we’re looking to be a chef.
No One Talks Like a Book For a Reason
Now, don’t get me wrong, a cook most definitely can get the job done, just as book language can get most technical jobs done. As you climb the ranks of a company or your career path though, it is essential to graduate from cook to chef.
So, with all of this information you might be wondering “Tone, what do I need to do to improve my intonation and body language?” I’m so glad you asked, I’ll be more than happy to explain.
Daily Improv and Mirroring Exercises - 10 Minutes a Day Keeps Tone Away
By doing daily improvisation exercises and daily mirroring exercises for 5 minutes each, you will give your entire System 1 and System 2 brains a workout. I like to think of improv exercises as a bicep workout as it helps us build the skills that are very attractive on a surface level (System 1).
Click the link above to access my YouTube channel where I post improv exercises daily that you can do along with me.
Mirroring is much more like squatting, which is a full body (brain) workout. It exercises both System 1 and System 2 at the same time. Mirroring has historically been a little more difficult to do as it has requires finding a video or audio that also contains a transcript.
However, one of my amazing clients has created a solution that removes all of the friction of having to gather content that you like and has packaged it into a very easy to use app called MicMentor. It can be downloaded from the Apple iOS app store, and you can also check it out at micmentor.app. Use it to mirror your favorite speakers and any content that can be found on YouTube. In the app you can set and track goals to make sure you get your daily workouts in. Mirroring has never been easier.