What They Hear Is Related to What They See

Aug 19, 2009

Do you see what I see?
A star, a star
Dancing in the night,
With a tail as big as a kite.

–Do You See What I See, song lyrics

I was watching a movie a while back and I heard a line in it that has stuck with me and I think of often. It’s one of those file-markers I put in my brain at the time to think more about and maybe write about. I’m doing that now.

The movie was “Beyond the Sea,” a biographical film that took its title from the Darin song of the same name and was based on the life of singer/actor Bobby Darin, played by Kevin Spacey. It depicts Darin’s rise to teen idol success in both the music and film industry during the 1950s and 60s, as well as his marriage to Sandra Dee, played by Kate Bosworth.

Near the end of the movie Darin/Spacey is talking to his wife Dee/Bosworth about his career frustrations and what audiences want. It was the late 60s and Darrin’s successful 50s crooning was being made obsolete overnight by changing musical trends. He was confused and lost in his career. His wife casually made the remark, “People hear what they see.” In response, Darin successfully changed his presentation to accommodate a more modern audience.

As phone sourcers we rely on the telephone to deliver our “message.” What is that Gatekeeper “seeing” when you call her? Have you ever considered that what she is “seeing” is impacting what she is hearing and how she is reacting to you? Her reaction to you is informed by her intuition and her experience. It may also be informed by some extensive cross-wiring in her brain regions that represent abstract concepts … and who would have thought, anyway?

True, you’re going to run up against Gatekeepers who are young with not much experience to guide their reactions, but just as often, and more so these days I suspect, your task is going to be challenged by more experienced gatekeepers who are beginning to understand how their intuition guides their own decisions.
I doubt, though, many of them have an inkling about what I’m about to write about. That’s an advantage for you when you’re phone sourcing.

Research at the California Institute of Technology has shown that some people can actually “hear” what they see. It’s called synaesthesia — a genuine perceptual phenomenon where senses intermingle. It’s rare, but a more common form exists where a person is able to perceive numbers or letters as colors. The artist David Hockney is able to see color when listening to music. As the sound of a voice can be likened to music, is it such a far leap to ask yourself what color that receptionist might be “seeing” when she hears the tone of your voice?

Is she seeing red? We all know the association our culture has with the color red. Is a heightened aversion reaction like this impacting your sourcing efforts?

What if she “hears” the color blue and is washed over by the peaceful analogy of sensation that accompanies it? Do you think that would improve your results or lessen them?

Maybe she sees green. We all know what that’s associated with: go! Maybe it’s one reason some gatekeepers seem to cooperate with some people and not others. The question is, though, do all synaesthesia-affected gatekeepers see the same colors in response to certain tones? I suspect they might.

There is wide difference of opinion how common this is. I’ve seen estimates of 1/2000 and 1/20. It is genetic and also established that it’s more prevalent among females and that it runs in families. The chromosomal regions where the genes reside are known to contain genes associated with a variety of disorders, including autism, dyslexia, and epilepsy. My own family is marked by dyslexia.

I’ve always been acutely aware of how a person’s voice (and also many times, a person’s touch) impacted me viscerally. I can’t say that I see color, but I can say that I have a visceral reaction to certain voices (and sounds) that lulled my senses. The sound that comes to my mind right now is the sound of gum “popping” (some call it “smacking”). Most people find it annoying, but if there is someone chewing gum and making that “pop” sound every few chews, I’ll saddle up next to them just to listen. There is no drug in this world like it for me to set me into a catatonic state.

This sound sensitivity may be one reason why as a phone sourcer I am acutely aware of the Gatekeeper’s voice and immediately examine it when she answers (in a flash of a couple seconds) for clues as to her “ability” to help me. I admit, if I get a Gatekeeper on the phone whose voice I “enjoy” listening to, I’ll take more time drawing her out just because I like that visceral sensation she creates for me. I suppose it could be likened to a drug fix: I’m searching for them all day long!

Turning it around, I am often told how “nice” I sound on the phone. I interpret that as meaning that I probably have a good “phone voice” and might also be a contributing factor to why I get names using the telephone on most every call I make. It’s a theory, mind you; nothing scientific, but it’s a strong gut feeling I have. There’s more fire than smoke, I suspect, in this theory.

So, what do people tell you about your voice? Do you think of your voice as an asset, confidently using it in your work? I suspect those who do not like using the phone may not have had the positive experiences I’ve had with it. What do you think?

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