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Do you like the sound of your speaking voice? Would you like to develop a stronger and more attractive tone, so you’re taken more seriously, interrupted less, and treated with greater respect?
Your voice is a personal calling card. People listen to the quality of your tone, and often make quick judgments about whether you’re strong or weak, assertive or compliant, respectable or negligible. Your social acceptability and professional promoability are determined in part by the charismatic (or lack thereof) quality of your voice. The sound of your voice influences whether others treat you as superior, equal or inferior every day of your life.
In my twenty years of helping people improve their voice as a communication coach, it's evident that most people with a weak and/or unattractive voice are so because of social, gender, and/or cultural reasons. For example:
1. A male client who has a soft voice told me that, as a child, his parents always scolded him if he spoke loudly. Over the years, he simply forget how to access his most attractive and powerful voice.
2. A female client spoke with me about the gender double standard of her culture, where men have more permission to use their full voice, while women are restricted to a softer, gentler voice. She was so used to this social conditioning that she now struggles to be heard and taken seriously.
Here are four common voice levels for you to do a quick self-assessment, followed by four tips on improving your voice:
Most of us have heard someone with a nasal voice. It has that high pitched, almost whiny quality which can turn people off in a hurry. This is not the type of voice which helps one's professional or social life.
Some people use the mouth voice. The mouth voice makes sounds but is not very powerful. I will not go into here the cultural, gender, social, and/or psychological factors which may contribute to this type of voice. It suffices to say that people who use the mouth voice can sometimes feel invisible: they're overworked, under-appreciated, neglected of their needs, and passed over for recognition. The person with the mouth voice cries out to be heard, but more often than not no one is really paying attention.
Many women and men use the chest voice. This is the type of voice that sounds pleasant enough, and can generally maintain listener interest. There's nothing negative about the chest voice, except that it is not the best possible voice.
For all of us, our best, strongest, most attractive and most natural voice comes from the diaphragm. A person who uses the diaphragm voice commands attention, "sounds" more attractive socially, and is more likely to be perceived as a promotable leader. The diaphragm voice is the best sounding voice for both women and men.
So, what can you do to access your most optimum voice? Here are a few suggestions*:
1. Breathe right. People who don't speak from the diaphragm also don't breathe from the diaphragm. To breathe correctly, simply inhale and let your belly rise, and exhale and let your belly fall. Breathing is the most fundamental activity we engage in to sustain life. Proper breathing can relax us physically, sharpen us mentally, calm us emotionally, and solidify us psychologically. If we breathe right, everything else about us will begin to fall into place. It is lifeforce.
"To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds."
― Thich Nhat Hanh
"Breathing...corresponds to taking charge of one's own life."
― Luce Irigaray
2. Make sounds based on diaphragmatic breathing. Whether you’re singing, speaking, chanting, laughing, or even yawning, develop the habit of projecting from your diaphragm.
3. Take a singing or acting class. Many of these courses begin with vocal warm ups from the diaphragm. These classes can be a lot of fun!
4. Work with a private voice coach. In my voice coaching sessions, most clients are able to access their best (most powerful and attractive) voice in about one hour. The rest is simply practicing vocal exercises until the "new" voice is progressively internalized. For fee-based professioal voice coaching, e-mail me at email@example.com.
In conclusion, our voice is a beautiful instrument, but many of us forget to take full advantage of this wonderful gift. Access your best voice, and you'll access your best self!
For more on personal and professional success, download free excerpts of my publications (click on titles or covers): "Communication Success with Four Personality Types," "How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People," "The 7 Keys to Life Success," "Confident Communication for Female Professionals," and "Branding Your Career Like Steve Jobs."
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Preston Ni, M.S.B.A. is available as a presenter, workshop facilitator, and private coach. For more information, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.nipreston.com.
© 2014 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved worldwide. Copyright violation may subject the violator to legal prosecution.
*Footnote: In cases where there's vocal damage due to factors such as smoking, drinking, excessive use, or other types of injury, seek appropriate medical attention.