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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #41
(September 10, 2019)

Cadence-Matching (or ... Should you have a different metronome for each employee on your team?)

If the purpose of your communication is to assert your hierarchical position or to remind your team who's boss, you can stop reading now; this CORE Bites isn't for you.

Great! You're still here!

This week I'm tackling a critical component of communication that doesn't get the level of airtime it warrants. I'm talking about the fact that employees may listen to your words, but they react to your cadence, inflection, pace and tonality (and this is also true for customers if you're customer-facing).

Have you ever noticed best friends interacting? They tend to act and even sound alike. This is often referred to as 'good chemistry' but there's a powerful anthropological mechanism behind this phenomenon. People tend to feel most comfortable around those who are most like them and, consistent with the focus of this CORE Bites, they feel that their point of view is understood (making it easier to develop trust and rapport at both a conscious and unconscious level).

The very best leaders pay attention to the paralanguage of the people who they're communicating with—the nonlexical (nonverbal) qualities of speech such as intonation, pitch, amplitude, rate, and voice quality, as well as the pauses and hesitations between words. Why is this important? If your speech patterns are out-of-sync with a person you're speaking with, you're at risk of not being heard; not being fully understood; and—if the difference is extreme—you may not even be believed ... or trusted.

Effective communicators have learned the nonlexical language skills that help them appeal to a wide cross-section of different personalities. I refer to this capability as being chameleon-like because they can change their 'color or stripes' at will to approximate the tone and cadence of the current conversation. It's almost like they use a metaphorical metronome to help them match the pace and timing of the person they're speaking with.

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

Here are a few 'cadence-matching' HVA TIPS to help you improve your ability to communicate more effectively, build rapport, and earn trust and confidence:

  • Vocal Rate/Pace: If an employee speaks in a relaxed and deliberate way, the quickest way to lose rapport is to speak to them at a staccato pace. Cadence-matching is a method to match the pace and 'energy level' of the person you're speaking with to create a sense of alignment. Cadence-matching should be subtle and genuine. For example, if you're naturally a fast-talker (barely breathing between bursts), you might consider dialing it down a notch (or two) to narrow the gap between yourself and a much more easygoing and deliberate speaker. In most situations, I recommend not speaking faster than the other person—this can have the unintended consequence of making him or her feel pressured. The best idea is to speak at the same pace, or a slightly slower pace than the person you want to build rapport with.
  • Tone/Intonation/Inflection: In a similar way to vocal rate and pace, cadence-matching for tonality, intonation, and inflection is most effective when done indirectly. If it's too direct or too obvious it becomes more like parroting or mimicry (not good). Making subtle and respectful adjustments to your normal voice so that it's more like the person you're speaking with—but still essentially 'you'—is all that's required. Each of us can vary specific aspects of our voice and still be in a comfortable range. (Note: There may be situations when this is not appropriate. For example, if someone is upset and speaking in a loud and angry tone, cadence-matching would not be appropriate because you don't want to appear to be louder and angrier than he or she is.)
  • Body Language/Gestures: Like a professional dance couple who dance in perfect cadence, displaying similar postures, gestures, movements, expressions (especially eye movements) ... even the use of analogies and metaphors, is a great way to build rapport. This happens very naturally (and unconsciously) when people are speaking. The trick, again, is to not overdo it. While imitation may be the "sincerest form of flattery," this needs to be done subtly and naturally to have the positive impact you desire.

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning."

— Maya Angelou —