Are You Using Your Inside Voice?

Inside Voice

If you have children, you know the language for helping them learn to modulate their voices according to the situation.   An “inside” voice is the opposite of an “outside” voice, which is used on the playground.  

Recently, I had occasion to hear my own laugh on a recording of a family conversation.  I was obviously happy, but I noticed it wasn’t a part of what I’d describe as my best “inside” voice laugh.  It was a bit much.  

Being self-conscious is not a part of self-respect, but what self-respecting person wouldn’t want to modulate her own laugh if she decided upon hearing it that it was too goofy or loud?  The same goes for loud voices.

Two Types of “Loud Talkers”

Has anyone ever asked you to use your “inside” voice?  What they mean is that you are talking too loudly.  It’s a not-too-subtle request to speak more quietly.  And no doubt you tried to modulate your voice to meet the request. 

But at the time, you weren’t aware that you were not using your inside voice.  You didn’t mean to be talking too loudly, perhaps you were just excited.  This is an example of a Type 1 loud talker.

On the other hand, if you’re very aware you tend to have a loud voice, as you’ve been told this forever, you would be a Type 2 loud talker.

Type 2 loud talkers tend to be fairly consistent with their habit and there are reasons they do this:

  • Hearing loss (at any age).
  • They may have a large physique, including larger vocal cords and larynxes.
  • Some people simply speak louder than others.  They know they do.  They’ve been told.
  • They may have grown up in a loud environment where they had to shout to be heard.

Regardless of the reason, patience, tolerance, and kindness are in order.  While it’s not appropriate to abruptly correct someone, or to be condescending in your correction, a gentle reminder to a loud talker may be called for in some environments.

When an Inside Voice is Needed

There is a time and place for everything, but an inside voice is appropriate when:

  • You work in an open space environment.  Voices that resonate loudly can be a problem if you are in a meeting or on the phone.
  • In an office waiting area, hospital, church, theater, or any place others expect quiet.
  • At dinner with a date, your spouse, or others.
  • In stores, museums, or other public places where waiting or viewing is going on.
  • At home or when visiting someone’s home.

If you are in need of someone lowering his or her voice because you are on the phone, with a client or customer, working intently, reading, etc., you can kindly take charge of your situation.

  • Tell the person politely that your situation necessitates asking for a lowered volume.
  • Because the person will likely go back to his normal volume, ask up front if it’s okay if you send a signal that it’s happening again.  “Sasha, if when I am in this situation again, would you recognize my cupping my ears as a signal that you need to lower your voice?”

One thing to keep in mind when asking someone to use an “inside voice” is that Type 1 loud talkers generally are not sensitive to a little humor.  Whereas, some report that Type 2 loud talkers are sensitive about their natural volume.

Respect is always a top priority, especially when asking someone to do something that doesn’t come naturally to them.

If you happen to be the loud talker, and know that you are, take the initiative to remedy the situation before anyone else mentions it:
“Sally, from the look on your face, I’m wondering if I need to exercise my ‘inside voice’?”

Regardless of the time and place, being sensitive to your own needs while remaining present and aware will give you pause as you notice a rise in the volume of your voice.

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