Avoiding Phoniness: A Lesson from a Classic

I don’t see why the hell they can’t talk in their natural voice. They sound so phony when they talk. Holden Caulfield, in J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye

OK, time for a short meeting of the EMS Book Club. Let’s examine a classic that most of us read in high school or college: Catcher in the Rye.

While recently re-reading Salinger’s classic book, we came across the above quote in which Holden Caulfield, the main character, discusses his thoughts about religion, and specifically his feelings about ministers and their “Holy Joe voices.” It highlights an issue that we often talk about in our seminars: how to use a voice that is CONVERSATIONAL instead of PRESENTATIONAL.

Salinger’s character, like many people we know, has a built-in radar that recognizes phoniness in people. In fact, Caulfield’s sensitivity to phoniness is a theme of the book. Later in the book, for example, he extended his feelings to actors, saying: “I hate actors. They never act like people. They only think they do.”

Yet many speakers run into this issue. For some reason, some people believe they should change their natural tone when in front of an audience. They get more serious, speak with less expression, or even change their voice to sound like a different person. (We’ve even heard of a speaker who decided to add an English accent!) Listeners sense such pretending, and it often ends up affecting the quality of the message being delivered.

Trust yourself to be yourself. That’s the core of our message, whether the speaker is a politician, the CEO of a large company, an engineer, or a young salesperson. If you feel excited about your topic, show it. If you have a sense of humor, make a joke. If you’re concerned about something serious, let people know you’re worried. But don’t try to disguise yourself by changing who you are when you approach the lectern, address a sales prospect, or talk with your work team. Above all, be authentic when communicating to your audience. The Holden Caulfields in your audience will appreciate your keeping it real.

Thanks, Holden and Mr. Salinger, for your help in conveying this message. We’ll see you at the next meeting of the EMS Book Club.

Experienced Trainers Are Just a Phone Call Away

Call (847) 504-0108 today to speak with one of our presentation experts or fill out a contact form below.

EMS Communications is very relevant to their trainees. They equip many industry types samples, each with their own culture and jargon, yet EMS cuts through it all, and contextualizes it into relevant and personable applications.

David Steuart
Quality Director, The Walsh Group

Are You Looking To Improve Your Communication Skills?