If you want someone to actually listen to what you are saying, a stagey whisper beats a polite well-modulated tone every time. If there is one thing all human beings have in common it is curiosity and a natural inquisitiveness towards other people. (Reality TV shows et cetera) A whisper denotes mystery, the forbidden, the unknown, an exclusivity. Most people will strain to hear a whisper but conveniently ignore a normal tone of voice, a shout or a yell. (or a direct question or emphatic point for that matter!)
Whenever I lower my voice to limit conversation to my intended recipient I manage to elicit the curious stares and craned necks of whoever is in close proximity. This almost always happens if the person to whom I am speaking has a hearing problem. (You know who you are. ) On the other hand, if I am trying to make a salient (and oft-repeated) point at a meeting, it is like the Tower of Babel: everyone talks at once, there are three to four side conversations and the agenda is but a distant memory.
So for my next meeting I am going to cultivate a thin papery whisper in the hopes that my audience will listen. To be fair, I am dealing with some exceptionally thick skulls here but it is worth a shot. Maybe the problem is that I don’t actually listen to what they are saying either; perversity runs both ways it seems. Increasingly I find myself adhering to what someone once said, “Smile beatifically, agree wholeheartedly and then do whatever the #$%^&*! you were going to do in the first place!”