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Business And Personal Etiquette:
Habit That Annoy
Personal Appearance
Faring Forth To A Tea
At Dinner
Voice And Conversation

Voice And Conversation

( Originally Published 1940 )

The outward appearance first attracts or repels others, but it is the voice and what is said that actually reveal true personality. This is one reason why so much importance is attached to the personal interview.

Young persons' voices are usually brisk, animated, and full of life because the world is ahead of them. Older persons should attempt to retain some of their youthful enthusiasm instead of letting defeat and disillusionment show in flat, monotonous voices.

Qualify and Pitch

The world is ready to take you at your own evaluation; and the voice, by its quality and pitch, reveals much to others. If you have confidence in yourself, show it in your voice; and others will be inclined to have confidence in you too. If your life is without purpose, this fact will be reflected in your voice.

A high, shrill voice is irritating to the listener; and so is the low, mumbling monotone. The lazy person or the timid, self-conscious person often speaks in such a low, lifeless tone that he is not understood at all. A conversation consisting mostly of, "I beg your pardon; I didn't understand" (never say, "What?"), takes so much effort on the part of the listener that he terminates the conversation as quickly as possible. Move the upper lip when you speak; don't talk under it, for that habit makes your speech indistinct and your face appear stolid and expressionless.

Listen to those around you. Notice how many talk too fast and too loud, how many pitch their voices too high, and how many talk unceasingly in a lifeless monotone. Then try to analyze these persons. Why do they talk as they do? Some are nervous and high-strung; others are discouraged or ill; and still others, by means of their loud laughter and conversation, are simply trying to attract attention to themselves.

What a contrast is the low, well-modulated voicethe voice of the person of poise. Instead of shrieking with laughter at a humorous situation, this person shows his appreciation by a laugh, surely, but more by the animated face and sparkling eyes. The forced laugh or smile doesn't deceive many, for the face and eyes reveal the true feeling.

The Telephone Voice

Since so much business is carried on by means of the local and long-distance telephone, it is especially important that the telephone voice and manner be courteous at all times. Speak into the transmitter and use a clear, slow, conversational tone; a low-pitched voice carries better even over the long-distance wires. Never shout or yell.

It is a waste of time to answer the telephone by saying, "Hello." If the call is an office call, say, "Mr. Day's office, Miss Williams speaking," or, "This is Mr. Day's secretary speaking," or, simply, "Mr. Day's office:" If the call is to a department, say, "Accounting Department, Miss Grant speaking." The one making the call should say, "This is Mr. Green of Sterling & Sons," then tell the purpose of the call. If the telephone has been answered by a man, the one calling may omit his title and say, "This is Green of Sterling & Sons:" A woman always uses her title, as, "This is Miss Brown of Sterling & Sons:"

The one answering the call then gives the desired information if it is ethical to do so; or, if the caller is known and has asked for a definite person, says, "Mr. Brown is not in; may I take the message?" or, "Mr. Brown is in and will speak with you immediately:" If the one calling does not give his name, the secretary may say, "May I tell Mr. Day who is calling, please?" In this way, the business of the call is taken care of in a courteous, effective manner, in the minimum time.


Don't take either life or yourself too seriously. Turn an embarrassing situation into a humorous one, if possible.

Everyone has his embarrassing moments; yours are not unique. If you have mispronounced a word and later learn that you have, profit by your experience. Don't mispronounce the word again. Every time that you hear a word pronounced in a way different from what you are accustomed, look it up to see if you are using a pronunciation that is not preferred. If you are, change.


Don't be self-centered; don't talk about yourself all the time. In answer to a, "How are you?" don't tell how hard you've had to work all week; how everyone imposes on you; and how, as a result, you've been taking treatments, and so on. Others may get the idea that you are a poor manager, non-co-operative, just a little weak mentally, or something else equally bad.

Don't talk about your indigestion, "How are you?" is a greeting-not a question.

What we say and how we say it! Volumes may be said in just a few words. Think before you speak rather than afterward. Be tactful in your remarks. Think of the effect on those who will hear what you say. Many things are better left unsaid.

Be Interested

Be interested in things and people. Listen, really listen, to what others have to say. Don't be thinking of what you are going to say next and be so intent on it that you interrupt the one who is speaking. This is one of the rudest habits that a person can have. If this habit is yours, attempt to conquer it at once.

If you are interested-sincerely interested-in things and people, you will have much to talk about, and there will be much that you will learn from others, for the wise person seeks the company of those who can supplement his knowledge. There is great value in a mutual exchange of ideas when each one has the experience of clarifying his thoughts by putting them into words.

Be Interesting

Know something, something worth while; know the meanings of words and be able to express yourself in an unhampered manner; listen to the other person; and, above all, recognize the value of humor in a situation. Then people will say of you, "What an interesting personality!"

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