How to Improve the Sound of Your Voice
How to improve the tone and quality of your speaking voice.
Posted Jan 08, 2014
"The human voice is the organ of the soul." ―Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Do you like the sound of your voice? Does your tone of voice benefit or hurt you in your life? Would you like to access your strongest and most attractive sounding voice?
I once moderated a Fortune 500 company meeting where three senior vice presidents answered employee questions about professional advancement. Prior to the event, I asked a technician if these three executives (a woman and two men), whom I had not yet met, should be hooked up with microphones. “Oh no,” he replied, “you listen to their voices, and you immediately know why they’re vice presidents!”
In my 20 years of communication training and coaching, I notice one consistency about voice: a person with a strong, attractive voice has a big advantage over a person with a weak, unattractive voice. A person with a good voice commands attention, gets interrupted less, and is more likely to be perceived as a promotable leader.
When we analyze intonation, we can generally identify four major levels of voice: the nasal, the mouth, the chest, and the diaphragm. Below is a description of each level, excerpted from my book, "How to Improve the Sound of Your Speaking Voice."
Most of us have heard someone with a nasal voice. It has that high-pitched, almost whiny quality that 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 life force.
"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 more information on fee-based professional voice coaching, e-mail me at email@example.com. You can also strengthen your voice by following the self-coaching tips in my book (click on title): "How to Improve the Sound of Your Speaking Voice".
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 tips on communication success, see my book, "Ten Tips for Presentation Confidence and Reducing Nervousness."
© 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.