Loud Voices

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by Greg Henderson

If my house is on fire I would appreciate it if you would yell loudly at me that I am in danger. Otherwise, please tone it down a bit.

My neighbor lives about a hundred yards from me. To hear him talking in his front yard you would think he lived about two feet away. He can’t speak softly or at a volume that is not painful to my ears. He’s a person who could have something important to say that I would ignore because his voice is painful. Too bad, he’s probably a nicer guy than I think.

Our association with loud voices comes from learning that getting yelled at is something to avoid. It’s a signal that we’ve done something wrong and should apologize or fix it immediately. Its punishment that we rarely appreciate. But there are some who speak loudly anyway. Loud voices are gender neutral and don’t care about age either.

Some politicians are that way. They don’t realize how many votes they lose because of loud speeches.

You must know someone who speaks only one language but thinks speaking to a non-English speaking person can be accomplished if they speak slow and loud? Its silly, and pitiful. Wrong. And highly degrading, an insult.

Its okay to cheer for your favorite sports team – outside, loud is okay. Please be quiet during solemn occasions, like funerals. Speak at a decibel level appropriate for the time and place. If you don’t know how loudly you speak, try recording yourself in different settings. Then play it back when you are alone and compare your voice to others on the recording. It might be a good learning experience worth celebrating.

Maybe our society has taught us that being an extrovert is preferable to being an introvert and that extroverts are supposed to be outspoken, and loud. Mostly loud. But that isn’t so. Erase that notion.

Being loud has nothing to do with being right or most important. Being loud can be a bad habit or something we learned in our childhood home, even blaming it on our nationalities. Do the softspoken people in your lives a favor by turning down the volume a little. Trust me, they will appreciate it.

Our world today seems to be filled to the brim with people who speak loudly, too loudly, most of the time. It isn’t even being an extrovert, as much as it is purely aggression. Aggression can become violent, and violence can become deadly. Be careful when speaking loudly.

If you were raised in a household, like mine, that was rarely loud and yelling was immediately shushed, then you recognize what I say. On the other hand, if your home was usually set at noise levels just short of glass-shatteringly piercing, then you’ve likely learned to deal with it and found out what level of loud was serious or important and which levels were the common way of speaking. We adjust.

But, adjusting shouldn’t be necessary.

Speaking is about communication. If your audience turns you off, your communication ends.


Greg Henderson

Greg Henderson is the retired founder of the Southern Oregon Business Journal. A University of Oregon graduate and a six- year U.S. Air Force veteran.

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