Musings and insights of a voice and speech coach on a short flight
Customer Service Manager is perhaps the new name for the Senior Flight Attendant on my British Airways flight to Dublin today. It is therefore ironic that her voice catches my attention due to the level of boredom she is communicating to her captive audience. I would love to pass on two or three techniques to help her sound engaged whist evidently reading an oft-repeated script to us.
But no one appreciates unsolicited advice, so I’ll hold my tongue and use my pen instead!
Do you ever find you struggle with your vocation when you’re in a situation where you could make a genuine difference? I’ve always remembered a phrase my older cousin uttered while I was at university in Dublin: “He was a typical lawyer; he’d examine a chair before sitting on it.” Really? Did people become their occupation? Or are we attracted to certain occupations because of our nature, or our environment?
As a then student of Marketing and Administration, I had chosen my course based on three very dubious criteria for life choices: 1) it was in Dublin, which was far from home and would allow me to spread my wings, 2) I hadn’t made the final cut for studying Drama at Trinity, and 3) Marketing was a brand-new course in the late 80’s so seemed rather sexy. Nothing like the pressure, thought and decision-making that goes into course choices today, for sure.
Going back to the occupation vs nature-nurture argument, I thrived on the course, perhaps because I had been raised by a father who ran four businesses where customer service was part of our upbringing.
Insight #1, Ms. Customer Service Manager: your audience can’t see you so you’re already without the 55% of communication that people perceive through body language.
Incidentally, whilst at university, I co-founded the college’s Drama Society. Having been raised watching four live shows a year, one could say that came from nurturing. But also nature because my two sisters did not gravitate towards drama.
Ten years in the corporate world, the latter in international marketing reinforced the rightness of my marketing course choice. Being marketing oriented, I’m intolerant of poor service and always proudly promote the services of businesses that had delivered exceptional customer service.
Insight #2: Your audience
arereceiving six times more communication through your tone of voice than your words (content). So, if your tone says, “I’m bored” that’s coming across loud and clear, drowning out the message that “we’re delighted to have you on board.”
Another memory further reinforces my cousin’s words. I was volunteering at a youth camp with a youth leader who was a microbiologist. When one young teen fell and grazed himself, I immediately expressed concern that the game being played hadn’t been
Insight #3: Sometimes it’s easy to be so experienced at what you do, you miss out on the humans you’re doing it for. As Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” I want to know that it matters that I’m on this flight.
I have failed to identify much in the way of research in the area of vocation vs. nature/nurture. The only remotely relevant writing I found on this is ‘The Nature and Nurture of Vocational Interests’ (from the book Conceptualising Vocational Interests, a chapter contributed by Linda S. Gottfredson, 1999). In terms of career coaching, I found the following interesting,
“Counselling psychology regards the individuals as active agents in their own self-development… we become who we are through our experiences, which emerge from the complex interplay between genes and our environment. The interplay is far from understood, but its very existence confirms by nature that we are active, seeking, self-creating beings, working incessantly to mold, remake and exploit environments to our needs and tastes. Our genes do not predestine who we become, but they do ensure that we will take an active hand in creating ourselves.”
It is that penultimate sentence that says the most about my argument. We do work to ‘mold, remake and exploit our environments according to our needs and tastes’. So perhaps once we are trained in the work to which we have become drawn, based on our interests, nature and environment, we tend to imprint that training back on to our world.
Insight #4: Imagine if you would, Ms. Customer Service Manager, that this is my first flight and I have never heard those words before. Now, speak to me. I’m listening. You’ve asked for my attention and I’m sitting on this flight ready to receive.
Today, I train and coach communication skills, taking the best of both my marketing background and my speech and drama training to help clients connect with their audience in a powerful, effective and engaging way. You could say nature, nurture and vocation have all come together for me. But right now, I need to get off this flight and resist talking to the Customer Service Manager!