Believe it or not, the way we say our name while introducing ourselves to someone new has a huge impact on the impression we leave on them.
Have you ever thought about how you introduce yourself to others? Perhaps you’re a friendly person who shows some enthusiasm to leave a pleasant impression, or maybe you prioritize seriousness and professionalism. Or maybe you’re just like me and are the worst at meeting new people. The other day I found a very interesting Ted Talk in which the speaker explained how the way you talk and even say your name when introducing yourself has a tremendous impact on how people see you and the impression you leave in them.
Now, I just thought I was screwed since, as I just said, I’m not great at this. To start with, I’m not that good at socializing. I generally don't talk to strangers unless they talk to me. But if that wasn't enough, I also hate my name, both first and middle. That’s why since I started middle school I’ve been going by my nickname. Still, I can’t introduce myself like that to everybody. While watching this short talk, I was trying to remember how I say my name to strangers. It’s impossible actually, no matter how hard I try, I just can’t remember. But knowing me as much as I think I do, there are two options. The first one is that I say it without enunciating it as much. I just mumble it and that’s it. This might happen if the person I'm being introduced to is not of my interest. If I truly want to cause a great impression on whoever I'm introducing myself, I use a very enthusiastic voice and shout my name, which I guess that explains so many failures in my social life. Then, how to do it?
Dr. Laura Sicola has a PhD in educational linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania and is the founder and main coach of Vocal Impact Productions, a company that focuses on leadership and communication skills, so I thought, well, this is basically someone to trust on this matter. According to her, all of us, no matter what we do or who we’re talking to, have to develop what she calls our “prismatic voice.” In the same way, as the light goes through a prism, like in the iconic Pink Floyd album cover, the intonation of our voice has different variations and colors. The trick is to understand the many shades we have and which one is best for any occasion. That means, naturally, knowing which specific hue goes best with our audience, and understanding their expectations and needs.
According to Sicola, our voice has a cognitive and emotional effect on our audience and how we deliver a speech. This means that even something as short as saying our name to others can have a huge impact in our listeners. So, learning how to strategically use the intonation of our voice can have a persuasive influence on others. For instance, people who intonate the last syllable of each word, have more probabilities of giving a negative impression in others than those who know how to place emphasis on the right part of their speech. The advice she gives for introducing ourselves is to emphasize the last syllable of our first name, making a small pause, and then bring down the intonation with the last one. In that way, you create some sort of suspense and the listener puts way more attention to it, so that it becomes memorable.
Now, while she believes intonation is key to deliver a speech that causes a great impression and develop our leadership skills, vocabulary is also important to achieve that. People who add way too many fillers and interrogative phrases like you know or right? tend to leave the listener with the impression of doubt and insecurity, and thus aren’t taken as seriously as they'd like, no matter if they’re smart and reliable. Next time you meet someone new, try analyzing what’s the best intonation and word choice to make yourself a more reliable and interesting person. After all, socializing takes a huge percentage of our life's success, whether we like it or not. As for me, I know I’ll try this out!
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Images by @jethroalaba