Recently, at a networking event, I met a woman who was a low-talker. I leaned close to her and repeated, “Can you say that again?” and “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you,” but I still couldn’t understand what she was saying. I assumed, sadly, that she would leave the networking event without having made any connections.
For some people, low-talking stems from physiological or psychological issues, while for others, it stems from growing up in soft-spoken cultures or families. Many people who low-talk are aware that they do it, but some are not.
When you have a diagnosed voice disorder that prevents you from speaking audibly, choose to attend small, quiet networking events, or invite your contacts to meet you one-on-one in a quiet place. During an interview, if you suspect that the interviewer can’t hear you, explain that you have a voice limitation so that your quietness isn’t misinterpreted.
If you know that others have a hard time hearing you speak, yet you find it difficult to talk louder, consult with an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor). You may have a condition that responds to medical treatment or speech therapy.
If you speak too softly because you’re shy, have low self-esteem, or lack self-confidence, you can learn to speak louder through interview coaching. You can also join a public-speaking group such as Toastmasters, where you will practice projecting your voice in a supportive environment. If psychological issues are preventing you from speaking up, find a psychologist or therapist to help you overcome these issues.
Some low-talkers come from quiet families or from cultures that value soft-spokenness. If you were raised in these types of environments, you can learn to speak more audibly through voice coaching or at a public-speaking Meetup group.
What if you’re not sure whether you’re a low-talker? If people often ask you to repeat yourself, or if they tell you that they can’t hear you, then you’re speaking too softly. Other signs of low-talking include when people talk over you, quickly lose interest in having a conversation with you, or lean close to you when you speak.
In most cases, you can learn how to speak audibly so that interviewers and people you meet through networking will be able to hear you tell your story. Your career will benefit tremendously from your new voice.