Body language gets a lot of press when exploring group dynamics. Voice not so much. Here’s a few random thoughts and observations about different ways we use our voice in groups, based on what I do and observations in groups.
Phatic communication: verbal ‘stroking’ (aka small talk) to establish a rudimentary relationship with strangers before embarking on further conversation
Avoiding experiencing something or doing an activity/game by abstracting, asking questions, clarifying etc – talking about the activity rather than doing it
Avoiding saying something meaningful or exposing a vulnerability by abstracting, asking questions, clarifying etc. This also includes externalising – talking about others, rather than about myself.
Filling silences. Some silences are companionable, others uncomfortable. When someone uses their voice to fill a companionable silence, it’s jarring; when they use their voice to fill an uncomfortable silence, it’s a relief. We all seem to have different tolerances for silence.
Shifting status. We can use our voice to subtly (or even not so subtly) shift our own status in a group (this usually means raising our status or making a status attack). We can also use our voice to raise or lower the status of other people.
Verbal batting, which often includes interrupting. You know the deal. I start saying something and before I’ve finished someone else jumps in by interrupting me with their idea, and then I do the same back. Backwards and forwards we go, batting ideas around.
Holding people hostage. One person talking to a large group with no obvious means of escape for the audience members (except maybe those who have embodied the Law of Two Feet).
Singing. Music can transform and when someone uses their voice to sing it can have an amazing impact on a group.