Blog > Voices in groups

March 28, 2011

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.
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