GPS devices supply audio directions via speaker. A pre-recorded human voice announces forthcoming instructions. These voices come in a variety of languages and a choice of accents, catering to different countries. Imagine you missed the highway exit because the Texan drawl sounded like Public Address at the Super Bowl. Other options include gender; do you want hear a male or female voice? Not everyone can take directions from a woman – especially when she knows what she is talking about. Personally, I’m fed up of monotones instructing ‘in a tenth of a mile take the exit left’, I’d much prefer a zippy six-year-old telling me ‘zoom-up and then swing over left’ or better still random voices.
Technology has moved forward from basic audio instructions to Interactive Voice Response. IVR is the software that enables humans to interact with a computer generated voice. It is commonly used when calling Banks, Utilities and Airlines. Recently, it has gained prominence due to interactive smart-phone voices, such as Siri on iPhone.
Basic studies on IVR have looked at differences between male and female voices, to discover which are more usable. More research is necessary. Are sympathetic voices better than professional ones? What are the effects of tone and tempo? Do men want to listen to men, and women to women? Are there certain keywords and phrases which are attractive to the teenage ear?
My wife’s maternal grandfather, Shmuel (Rudolph) Tauber, was hard of hearing. In an effort to make ourselves heard, family members would bellow ‘Good morning’ and scream ‘How are you today?’ It felt like an odd way of exchanging pleasantries but Opa Tauber never minded. One noticeable fact was discernible in his conversations, he understood men more quickly than women, requiring them to repeat themselves less often. Perhaps, suggested my father-in-law, he has an easier time hearing the deeper timbre of male voices, than the higher female pitch.
As soon as the Jews encamped at Sinai preparations were underway for the momentous Giving of the Torah. Moshe, as leader of the nation was constantly shuttling between Hashem and the people, relaying messages from one to the other. On the second day at Sinai, Moshe ascended the mountain towards Hashem, and Hashem spoke to him:
“So you shall say to the House of Yaakov and tell the sons of Yisroel”
Why does G-d seemingly repeat Himself? Aren’t the ‘House of Yaakov’ and the ‘sons of Yisroel’ one and the same? Secondly, the verbs modifying his statement, vary: the first instruction employed the word ‘say’ while the second utilized the verb ‘tell’.
Rashi quoting the Mechilta explains:
The House of Yaakov – these are the women. ‘Say’ – in a gentle language
Tell the sons of Yisroel – explain to the men harsh punishments and detailed laws.
G-d’s precise instruction “So you shall say” meant that Moshe should provide both men and women exactly the same message. However, even though the content was identical, Moshe was to stress different angles when relaying the information to the men and women. Be’er Yitzchok explains, Moshe told the women the significance of accepting and following the Torah – he left them to deduce the depressing consequences of refusal. Whereas, when talking to the men, Moshe left nothing to the imagination, it was necessary to explain both positions, the outcome of accepting or – G-d forbid – rejecting the Torah. Thus the message was identical, but how he conveyed the content differed.
When speaking to other people we have to think how the other person would enjoy hearing it. What might sound pleasing to your ears might not necessarily be as well received by the listener. In addition to tone and word choice, we should pay attention to present our ideas with optimism and positivity.