Code Switching – How To Use Your Voice To Get What You Want

Let’s take code switching a step further! In my last video, we learned that code switching is all about knowing your audience and adapting how you speak in those circumstances. Now, let’s talk about how to use code switching to your benefit to get what you want!


In my last video, I spoke to you about code switching. And what is code switching? Code switching is when we change the way we speak depending on the circumstances. So that is, we use different words, different tone, maybe even a slightly different accent, depending on that situation that we find ourselves in. A lot of you do it naturally. When you’re a kid, you want a PlayStation, so you talk to your parents in a certain way, and you’re able to get them to get you that PlayStation. You do it naturally. It’s part of who you are.
Well today, I want to speak about using code switching to get what you want and what you need. Another example of it is maybe when you were in high school, and you wanted a car, and you asked your parents, and again, when you were a child, you did it in one way. Now, as a teenager, you were doing it in a different way, using a different tone, different words, trying to get into … get what you want, and you really had to change it because your parents were the gatekeepers, and consciously or unconsciously, you changed the way you spoke. You changed the words you used so that you would get what you want.
In my own business, I code switch because I work with a variety of clients. Some of my clients are Fortune 500 executives. Some of my clients are eight year olds on the set of Disney Channel. So if I speak the same way to all my clients, I’m kind of getting in the way of what I want for them, which is to be the best speakers they can be.
If I were to go on set on the Disney show, on any of the Disney shows that I coach on, and I were to work with an eight year old, and I were to be very reserved and professional, I don’t think that that student, that client, that actor is going to respond to what I’m saying. Conversely, if I were with a Fortune 500 exec, and I walked in very casually, and I was trying to have fun … I try to have fun with my executives, but I was working in a way that I treat the eight year olds, I don’t think I would get my message across. They might not take me as serious, or as professional, or as authoritative. So I switch the way that I speak because I, as a voice and speech coach, want to meet my clients where they are.
And that’s what I’m asking you to do today, is to meet your client, meet your gatekeeper, where they are. So, for instance, if you have a team member, and they’re very quiet and reserved, and your natural way of being is strong, and loud, and intense, maybe by using some code switching, by simply alternating, or changing, or modifying the way that you speak, the words you use, the tone you use, you’ll be able to get from your employee what you want. It’s key. Being able to adapt, being able to change, being able to use different words and different tones, under different circumstances, is key.
Another example that I’ve used in one of my earlier videos is when I work with call center employees, working on their tone, a tone of empathy, a tone of understanding. They can’t go into a conversation and carry whatever they have going on with them into that conversation. They have to adjust their tone.
How adaptable are you at changing your tone? That’s a question I have for you. When do you find yourself changing your tone? Are there moments in your life when you feel like you’re not getting what you want, and you can’t figure out what it is that’s getting in the way? Perhaps it’s the way that you’re conducting yourself, the way that you’re comporting yourself, again, the energy you’re bringing in, the words you’re using, and the tone of speech you use. All of these things make a difference.
I’d love to hear from you about successful times in your life when you’ve actually alternated the way that you’ve spoken and approached a situation to get what you want, and perhaps a time in your life when you’ve not been successful in code switching, and not gotten what you want, and realized on further reflection that if you had only adapted yourself to the situation, you could have achieved what you wanted.
I always encourage you. Everything is an opportunity. Does that make you an opportunist? No. Use things as an opportunity to get what you want. Know yourself, know the gatekeeper, know what you want, and use all that you have as a speaker, as a person, to get what it is that you want.