Talking so People Listen


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.‎

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