RadioBDC Logo
Reunion | M83 Listen Live
< Back to front page Text size +

Can a monotone voice land you in jail?

Posted by Paul Hellman  May 27, 2011 11:00 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Recently, the jury in a big insider trading case delivered a "Guilty on all counts" verdict.

Later, one of the jurors told The Wall Street Journal her impressions of the defense attorney:

His voice was a "monotone." He seemed "tired."

Of course, the evidence didn't help either. But suppose the defense had hired someone more lively.

Why not Lady Gaga? She could have sung the closing arguments in a high-heeled frenzy, and then instructed the jury, "Just dance."

Maybe the defense still would have lost.

But consider:

If you're an executive pitching a business plan to other seasoned executives, what determines the outcome?

And if you're a surgeon, what determines if you get sued?

Often, it's your voice.

M.I.T. professor Alex Pentland demonstrated that you can predict winning business pitches without paying any attention to the content.

Instead, he focused on critical nonverbal behaviors, like vocal variety ("Understanding 'Honest Signals' in Business").

Similarly, you can predict which surgeons will get sued just by listening to their tone of voice for 40 seconds, even if you can't understand a word they're saying.

The worst tone for surgeons? Dominant. That's according to psychologist Nalini Ambady ("Surgeons' tone of voice: A clue to malpractice history").

How's your voice?

The lawyer in the insider trading case assumed his voice was fine. It wasn't

You're probably spending more time on conference calls and in virtual meetings these days.

As soon as you say "Good morning," you've made a lasting impression. Even if you don't sing it.

Tip: Listen to how you sound. The easiest way is voice mail. Record a new outgoing message, then critique it.

If you phone me, you'll hear, "Hi, this is Paul Hellman, the week of May 30 . . ."

I change my message weekly. Sometimes, it requires a few takes, but that's good practice. And it's good to reassure everyone that you were definitely alive on the 29th.

To sound alive is no small thing.

Copyright 2011 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article


about this blog

From looking for a job to dealing with the one you have, our Job Docs are here to answer your employment-related questions.

e-mail your question

Your question/comment:

Meet the Jobs Docs

Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.

Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.

Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.

Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.

Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.

Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.