Your Spoken Image
Your Spoken Image
Image, according to one dictionary definition, means “the concept of someone held by the public or the character projected by someone to the public.” Very simply, our image is the way other people perceive us.
Our image at times can depend on the labels others attach to us because of our occupation, income level, marital status, age, nationality, gender, etc. While we can’t control the preconceived image other people have of us based on those labels when we meet another person we can immediately project an additional impression – our visual image.
We exercise a great deal of control over our visual image because it’s determined by much more than our physical features. It’s driven by the way we dress, move, and groom ourselves our physical conditioning, our posture, and our facial expression.
Advertising leads us to believe that we make conscious decisions about how we present ourselves – whether we know it or not. “Not caring” about what we wear or choosing clothes for comfort rather than style are also image-conscious choices. We are simply choosing a different image.
Those choices about our visual image determine how other people perceive us – until we open our mouths and speak.
It is at that moment that many of us destroy our carefully constructed facade because it’s rare to be as completely in control of our spoken image as we are our visual image. The minute we begin to speak, our spoken image becomes dominant, overriding our visual image and all our other images based on preconceptions about our job, age, gender, class, or nationality.
Our spoken image is powerful, and it consists of much more than the words we say. It is how we say them, the sound of our voice, the way we use our body as we speak – all of which determines how we convey our messages and whether others connect with it.
The way we interact with other people – both personally and professionally – has very little to do with the written word. It’s almost totally based on speaking. We invest years of training and education into our relationships but rarely invest any time in improving our spoken image. Yet, all the while, our success in our work and our personal happiness depend greatly on our speaking abilities. Sure, other things are important too, but what happens when we talk to people exerts such a powerful influence that it can destroy – or reinforce – all our other positive attributes and achievements.
What qualities do YOU think an effective speaker should have? Which of these do you have? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What kind of impression do you leave with others and what would you be willing to work to change it.
Effective speakers are not necessarily polished and perfect. They are “real” because they are using what works for them. They are energetic, involved and willing to be a direct, open human being. And the same principles apply whether talking to a close friend or an audience of five hundred.
Improving your spoken image doesn’t require following some academic method or predetermined style guide. It only means developing a speaking style that works for you. It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as it’s effective and you can determine what is and isn’t working.
What qualities do YOU think an effective speaker should have? Which of these do you have? What kind of impression do you leave with others and what would you be willing to work to change it?