Clients are always asking me if it matters if they have accents. It’s a simple question, but no one seems to agree on the answer, least of all the “experts.” There are those who argue the only thing that matters is whether or not you can be understood. Intelligibility is everything. This resonates with people … why fix what’s not broken? But unfortunately, good enough isn’t always good enough. In the Silicon Valley, where I reside, there is tremendous competition for jobs, and if you’re qualified but not a great “speaker”, you can easily become disqualified.
The other problem is people aren’t always the best judges of their own competencies. I’ve had clients tell me they didn’t even realize they had a speech “problem” until someone confided in them that their speech was holding them back. I had a client in a senior position at a pharmaceutical company tell me her boyfriend was the first person to tell her that her speech was holding her back. She said none of her managers had ever said anything to her, but once she had “speech” on her radar, she began to notice many times where she was not as effective as she could have been because of how she communicated.
So, does accent matter? The sort answer is “yes” but people don’t always agree on how much or what to do about it. Some people even believe that “all accents are beautiful,” which sounds nice, but may not be very reassuring when you keep getting passed over for promotions!