In my quest to always be learning more about my own business – and other businesses in general, I’ve started reading a lot more non-fiction. One of the books that was suggested to me by some very smart business people I trust, is called Never Split The Difference (Negotiating as if your life depended on it) by Chris Voss. It’s a really interesting study in negotiation from the viewpoint of someone who negotiated hostage situations for the FBI. Each chapter has a captivating story about a particular negotiation and explains key information on how the negotiation was successfully concluded.
In the second chapter, Mr. Voss says something very insightful (really, the whole book is full of insight) – and as a voice actor, it kind of affirmed what I do every day. He says, “Smile at someone on the street, and as a reflex, they’ll smile back. Understanding that reflex and putting it into practice is critical to the success of just about every negotiating skill there is to learn.”
And it’s even more fascinating when you realize that you can *hear* a smile when someone is speaking. He continues on to say, “That’s why your most powerful tool in any verbal communication is your voice. You can use your voice to intentionally reach into someone’s brain and flip an emotional switch. Distrusting to trusting. Nervous to calm. In an instant, the switch will flip just like that with the right delivery.”
I’m really liking where this book is going.
To take that to a deeper level as it relates to voice over work, think of what you’re trying to make your listener feel, and use the tone of voice that will be most likely to get them there. Are you talking about a difficult subject? A calm, soothing tone of voice will allow the listener to relax a bit and take in the difficult information. Are you on your listener’s side and telling them about a great new product or service that could help them in their daily life? A friendly voice – that could almost shade to playful – might be more in order. Never underestimate the power of a smile. Your audience can hear it. And that reflex to return the smile, takes over.
Now of course, this is really basic information and doesn’t take into account the skill of connecting with what you’re reading (which is where the acting comes in), nor does it really get down to the nitty gritty of understanding what the writer of that copy intended. Again, that’s a skill that comes with time and experience. (And perhaps the aid of a voice acting coach.) But at its basic, lizard brain level, we humans are actually pretty predictable.
In many cases, negotiation has more to do with getting past our own biases, and understanding those of the person we’re negotiating with. We can often get overwhelmed by our own thought processes – and negotiating from a point of strength means quieting those inner voices – and helping the person you’re negotiating with, to quiet theirs. It’s a game of feeling and emotion – no matter how much we want to deny it.
I found this highly educational and entertaining TED Talk with Mr. Voss on YouTube (from March of this year) – and I really enjoyed it. (And the ending actually moved me to tears.) Negotiation techniques can make people around you feel heard. And that’s an important skill to have as a fellow human being.