Monday, December 6, 2010

Trust in the Workplace: It’s How You Say It

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Trust is all talk – along with the pitch, volume and emphasis of your message, according to new research co-authored by an assistant professor or organizational behavior at Cornell University’s ILR School. The research finds that the volume, pitch and tone of your speech directly correlate with how much another person trusts and understands you.

“If you trust more, you use more emphasis, which is a combination of loudness and pitch,” said Michele Williams, assistant professor in the ILR School’s Department of Organizational Behavior. “A range of volume and pitch is important – it helps the listeners by saying, ‘This is important.’ If you’re really interested, it’s very hard to speak at the same level.”

Williams and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used observation and voice recordings – sorted by computer algorithms measuring pitch and volume – to follow information transfers among 29 nurses in the break room of a 30-bed surgical unit in a New England hospital.

Trust communicated through emphasis helps drive accuracy – an important implication for hospitals, where communication breakdowns are considered the cause of most preventable errors, said Williams and MIT researchers Benjamin Waber, John Carroll and Alex Pentland.

“Few people think about the information carried in their voices,” Williams said.

What do you see in your workplace?

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