We recently heard Hillary Clinton at the podium giving a speech when suddenly she launched into a Southern accent. Madonna has been criticized for speaking with a "phony" British accent. Why do some people attempt to change their diction? In the case of Hillary it may have been to relate to the audience by sounding like one of them. In Madonna's case it may be an attempt to rise above her social class and to assimilate into British society. Whatever the reason, we are judged by our speech. In a study by West Georgia College-Speech and Social Status in America,it was determined that " a person's social status is determined by their voice even when content free speech is used e.g. counting from one to ten."
Good diction is important but artificial speech can alienate an audience. When working with clients on accent modification their progress is often thwarted by friends and family who experience the new speech pattern as phony. If your accent is difficult to understand or your regional speech garners frequent comments,you will be well served by improving your diction. But be sure to tell people you're working to improve your speech. The late Princess Grace had to change her speech when she was an aspiring actress. She informed her family that she "had to speak this way." They realized she was serious and eventually her new speech pattern became natural.
We don't all need to sound like Midwestern broadcasters and a few regionalisms can add color and interest. But if people continually ask you to repeat yourself, ask you where you are from, and say that you need polish, you may want to develop a predilection for diction.