In this article I outline my five top five desirable qualities of an authentic (Vocally Conscious) voice.
I endeavour to express these vocal qualities whenever I speak, and encourage you to give them a try as well.
If you start applying some or all of these techniques, you will be more effective as a communicator, more interesting to engage with, and your likeability factor will almost certainly increase.
When it comes down to it, the human voice is all about vibration. When our posture or stance is comfortable, and un-hunched; when we can breathe deeply and easily; and when we feel comfortable and relaxed, our voice is more vibrant and resonant.
Vibrancy is aliveness and tells our listeners we are present in the here-and-now.
This vibrancy is good both for us, and good for those we are communicating with:
Don Campbell describes speaking and toning as massaging the body, from the inside-out. If you place your palm on your chest, or on your forehead, you will feel just how much your body vibrates as you make sounds with your voice. I’ll discuss toning, and the healing capacity of the voice, in another article.
A more vibrant voice will leave a stronger, clearer impression with others who hear and experience your speech. If your objective is to influence others, then vibrancy is absolutely key!
By open, I mean a couple of different things:
Un-cloaked, un-guarded and not holding back relevant information as you speak. It is the un-masked or transparent voice.
But just as importantly, I mean being receptive. Being open to the environment you are in, and open to the responses and feedback from the person or people you are speaking with. Receptivity is key to deep connections between the speaker and listener.
Openness when speaking is particularly important, as it is one of the key prerequisites to building trusted communication and trust-based relationships.
Intentionality when speaking is perhaps the most powerful tool for improving the quality and effectiveness of our spoken communication.
Another word you may find more helpful in this discussion is purposeful, but sometimes purposeful has connotations of force or push, which don’t really apply to the word ‘intentional’ as I mean it.
When we lack clear intention before we speak, most of us open our mouths and wait for a stream of words to fall out. This ironically is often a problem with people who are comfortable speakers who possess reasonable verbal skills. But this approach has several potential and significant pitfalls:
It dilutes the significance of our message.
We don’t leave a good impression as a clear thinker or someone who knows what they want.
Stuff we didn’t mean to say can slip out because we haven’t focused our attention and our intention to the communication task at hand. This could be messy thoughts running around in our head, or un-clarified feelings we are experiencing. In either case, it may not serve us well.
It often gets on people’s nerves.
So what to do about it?
If you hear a recording of yourself when you let words spill from your mouth, you will very quickly appreciate the problem and be motivated to improve your game immediately.
If you take a slow breath before speaking or before you answer a question, this gives you time to collect your thoughts, and it also has the great side-effect of giving the impression (correctly) that you are giving appropriate consideration to the matter before speaking. You may already know that pauses always seem significantly longer for a speaker, than they do for a listener, so in most instances it is fine to take your time. Live radio and television are possible exceptions to this rule.
Most important of all, think about what you do want to say, and not about what you don’t want to say. Not so much the specific words, but the intent behind the message you wish to convey. That may sound like stating the obvious, but it is surprising how often we can be mentally attending to what we don’t want, even unconsciously.
When we have a clear intention, this acts as a guide or template that facilitates what we say, and how it is expressed.
I can’t think of a single instance where the act of speaking isn’t (at least from some perspective) a conversation. If it isn’t, then I invite you to explore whether it should be. Here are some examples which could be considered a monologue, but which are still conversational:
If we are speaking aloud to ourself, then our ears and body are hearing our words, so it is a kind of dialogue with ourself. We can actually learn a great deal by listening to the words that leave our mouth! I call this strategy TOLD the (Thinking Out Loud Device).
If we are praying, then hopefully we are open to at least the possibility of two-way communication.
If we are giving a lecture or presentation to an auditorium full of people, a conversational style will engage people more, and also demonstrate our respect for the audience.
Even if we are making a recording, it will be more engaging and interesting for its listeners if we adopt a friendly conversational tone.
The bottom line – no one likes to be talked at, even if the information is important to hear.
I believe that If you approach every speaking situation with a conversational manner, you will have more success than with any other speaking attitude or style you could adopt.
Tip: Think of someone you really care about before and during a talk, or when making a recording. Imagine you are conveying this information especially for them. It really does make a difference.
As I cover in greater detail in What Is Vocal Consciousness most of us are conditioned or taught to tone down our emotional expressiveness when we speak. For many people, it seems almost impossible to really connect with our feelings, and the result is often a flat, monotone, uninteresting and un-engaging voice.
Here are three tips that may assist you in connecting with your emotional self, when you speak:
We all have the capacity to speak more expressively, and this is most evident when we are telling a significant story to a friend about something that happened to us recently or in the past. When we relate a story, we sometimes go back, it is as if we are actually there, reliving the experience. When we tap into this ability to be more expressive during story-telling, then we can start to bring that capability into our regular speech.
Another approach to warming up the expressiveness of our speech, is to allow our positive emotions and our inner smile to touch our eyes and touch our voice. This will bring a warmth and softness to the voice, which is the vocal expression of happiness, sharing and good-will.
Probably the most immediate approach is speaking to and playing with a baby or a puppy, because babies and puppies understand vocal expression far far more than they do the actual words being said. For them, the tone and rhythm of the sound is everything.
I work with individuals and teams (face-to-face or over Skype) to develop these and other voice qualities for greater personal and professional confidence and success. Contact me to find out how I might be able to assist you or your business.
Whether heard or seen, the Smile is the Signature of the Soul. Put a warm open Smile in your voice today.
– Tim Noonan