I have been on a Winston Churchill kick lately and recently found out that he had a speech impediment, something called a lateral lisp. Here we have, yet again, a story of one of the greatest orators of our time who struggled with the very thing that made him famous. Add to the list James Earl Jones, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and many others. I don’t think this is just a coincidence. Many of these men decided early on that they would be great speakers. I believe that when something doesn’t come easy, you want it all the more and care for it when you finally get it. These men made a lifetime commitment to focusing on a skill that many of us take for granted.
How we speak is part of how we carry ourselves and gives an impression to others about our personality. Jesus famously said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) While this is primarily used to point out evil speech (i.e., slander, gossip, lying, etc.) comes from the evil within the speaker, we should take note that it stands as a universal truth. That is, if a man speaks like a wimp he might just be a wimp. Or, if a man can’t be clearly heard he must not care about what he is saying. Of course that may not be the case, hence we want to make sure our manner of speaking reflects the kind of man we truly are.
Manly Speaking 101: The Basics
There are traits of speech every man should consider before speaking. Here are a few to consider.
Manly Speech has Purpose
I once heard someone say, “When the radio is always on, you miss a few songs.” This is absolutely true. If you are constantly talking, people will tune you out. While it is true that some people “think out loud”, it is something that can be controlled. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Also, ask questions rather than just giving your two cents.
A Manly Voice has Volume
I thank my days in the military for teaching me this lesson. Calling out cadence while running with 20+ men teaches you to speak up, otherwise the guys in the back of the pack can’t hear and things can get real ugly real quick. When that happens, officers tend to take notice and the whole group will catch hell for it. The problem just snowballs, because now you will be late for wherever you were bound and will catch heat there as well.
When speaking to a group, try to speak so that the person farthest from you can hear you. Speak with support from the diaphragm rather than pushing from the throat to make sure you don’t sound like you are straining.
A Man Speaks Clearly
Unless you are a rock star, rapper, or athlete, mumbling is going to turn people off and cause them to tune out. People who mumble sound as if they don’t have confidence in what they are saying. I was a pretty bad mumbler as a kid and didn’t realize it until I heard myself on a recording. It is still something I have to watch out for.
Here are a few ways to beat the mumble chatter:
- Record yourself – Hearing yourself in a recording is a humbling experience.
- Slow down – Speaking too quickly can result in a loss of articulation.
- Use Inflection – Depending on whether you are asking a question or making a statement, the pitch should change slightly at the end. Questions generally end with a higher pitch, while statements a lower pitch.
How a Man Should Sound
There are some misconceptions about what it means to have a manly voice. The manliest voice is the one that most fits the occasion. It brings fierceness and fire when inspiration is needed and is somber and soothing when we need to be consoled. The pitch of a voice really doesn’t matter as much as we might think. You don’t have to possess a booming timbre that shakes the rafters to speak like a man. Regan had a soft voice. Teddy Roosevelt had a high-pitched voice. Kennedy had a nasally, accented voice. People have reported Lincoln being quiet and having a higher pitched voice. So then, what makes a voice manly?
A Manly Voice has Character
What makes voices like Regan’s and Kennedy’s so recognizable and memorable is the character or tonal qualities. While we may never sound like Morgan Freeman, we can improve our speaking voice by adding dimensions and qualities to it that we might only think about if were professional speakers or actors.
Here are a few ways to add character to your voice:
- Mimic the voices you find appealing – In doing so you will pick up on nuances that will stick with you and become part of your speaking habits.
- Be expressive – It’s common for men to think that a stoic, unattached, and expressionless demeanor is most manly. In reality, it just comes across as pompous, boring, or even rude. Let your feelings bubble up to the surface and give some energy to your speech.
Like’s, Um’s, Uh’s, and You Know’s
When speaking with your buddies, saying “like”, “um”, or “you know”, may not be that big of a deal, at least like if it is not like every like word. It can be a tough habit to break though, because what is really going on when we use these fillers is “think time“. We commonly use these words to fill our sentences with something we don’t really have to process to buy us a fraction of a second to think about what we are going to say next. Practically we might do this in a conversation to show that we are not yet done speaking, as a pause can often be a sign that someone is finished.
When speaking publicly, or trying to lead a discussion, you have the floor already so there is no need to add filler words. The best way to break this habit is to have someone call you out on it. Make it a game for your kids or one of your friends. You’ll be surprised to find out how much “think time” your brain needs. Stripping the crutch that these words provide from your speaking habits, will make you a faster thinker and may expand your vocabulary as you begin to use real words in their place.
Also, you may have heard of Like, Um, and Uh, but many people haven’t heard of You Know. It is said so quickly we almost don’t hear it and is pretty widely accepted as a filler word that isn’t as bad as the others. The next time you listen to an interview, be on the lookout for the “You Know” filler. It happens really quickly, like a single word: “youknow“.
Don’t Sound Like SC Senator Lindsey Graham
Something has happened in the South over the last several years where the southern accent that used to be associated with rebels has been softened and comes across sounding like the stereotypical gay voice. As stated earlier, a soft voice isn’t a bad thing, but the nuances matter. There is a reason this type of speaking is considered effeminate. That being said, kudos to Sen. Graham for speaking publicly as it is something most people would not be willing to do.
Here is a video of Sen. Graham speaking:
Do Speak Like Daryl Dixon
Daryl — excuse me — Mr. Dixon speaks his mind even though he may not be as refined as the rest of the Walking Dead gang. When he speaks you know where he stands and people take note. He has a great contrasting range of emotions and while he does his best to be a loner, it’s easy to see that he is emotionally invested in every situation and decision the group makes.
Most of us rarely think about how we speak, but it is as much a part of our personality as any other area in life we want to improve. Learning to speak like a man will give you confidence in conversations and when leading others. Who knows, your voice may one day be used to further the cause of freedom, passionately plea for someone’s life, or talk down a violent thug. Until then, enjoy the benefits of clearly ordering your steak, cooked medium, and getting what you asked for.