Most of us instinctively do a good job of setting our volume so that it takes into account the distance between ourselves and listeners, the amount of background noise, and the degree to which we want to broadcast our message.
One client who was known as “The Megaphone” in his office, didn’t do so well at this. Ernie came to see me when he realized that colleagues were requesting the cubicle farthest from his. One pal complained that he could hear Ernie’s conversations better than his own. Ernie got the message “loud and clear” that his excessive volume was an office nuisance. He was receptive to working on his problem, though he was a little bit puzzled. He considered himself the quietest one in his family of five brothers.
To Adjust Your Volume Control
- Test it out. Since poor ability to monitor and control volume could be an effect of hearing loss, rule out this possibility first via an audiological screening. Consult your family doctor, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, or an audiologist to schedule a hearing test.
- Tune in. If your hearing is normal, ask a colleague or friend to help you discover your best conversational volume by signaling when your decibel level becomes deafening. Bring a tape recorder to a meeting and note how your volume com pares to that of others.
- Try it on. Contrast different volumes by saying words and phrases at various settings: softer than average, average, loud, and very loud. Single words: “Why, now, go, bye.” Phrases: “Is this loud? I can control my volume.” Remember that your “soft” may be everyone else’s “normal,” and so on. Your goal is to begin to develop a sensitivity to the range of volumes and an internal sense that lets you know when it’s time to tone down.
- Take it around. Use your new, softer volume in routine situations, such as answering the telephone, greeting people, making a request. Notice people’s reactions. If your listeners used to cringe and now you get no reaction, that’s an excellent sign.
For advanced volume control, choose one five-minute situation a day in which to monitor your volume. You’ll then be ready to use volume monitoring in the most stressful situations: when you’re angry, emotional, or caught off guard.