New WonderWriter Michelle on The Voice.
Call it any name you like. It’s still words. Words are speech. Speech is voice. Voice is breath. Breath is life. (Life is short. Well shorter for some than others.) Breath is the gift of life. It’s the first thing you do when you are born. It’s the last thing you do when you die. It is the most important thing you do. Your breath is everything to you and about you. And yet some people don’t know how to breathe. There are people who can help you with that. I’m one of those people. I’m no angel. I’m a teacher – a guide, a facilitator, an instructor, a support, a doula of voice. I show you how to do it. I watch you do it and I do it with you. I gently guide you back to where you can be to harness your natural voice. The voice you were born with. You see we were all born with the most amazing voices. Free, open, natural, powerful and unencumbered. What happened along the way was the acquisition of habits. Some of these habits inhibit and hinder our speech and our communication.
Speech is a learned activity. We learn how to speak early on in our development. We listen, we look and we copy. Firstly, our primary care givers and then all the people around us – our family, our peers, our teachers, our society. They all influence and affect us. We have regional accents. We have recognizable intonations. We are a hybrid of influencers, we have our own physical uniqueness and we have our internal voice that can reign in how we sound and what we say.
We use business cards to announce who we are and what we do. One’s voice is also a ‘calling card’, in that people make quick judgments about us based on what they hear. Our voice is thought to reflect our personality and in a face-to-face encounter is one of the first things a person notices about us. Over the phone, it is the only thing. It makes sense then, that to speak with a voice that is full, rich and dynamic is essential in life. A voice that you can control. A voice that reflects your inner most you.
If you have been misusing your voice, you may have what is called a ‘tired’ voice: you may get hoarse, your voice fades, your throat aches, and you may find yourself pushing your voice so that you are understood. Taken to extremes, this could result in polyps on the vocal folds. In this case they have to be surgically removed.
We are all born with a voice capable of expressing a full range of emotions, complexity of moods and subtle thoughts, but through the tensions of modern living, we set up differing masks in the form of defences and inhibitions that distort our communication – often deliberately, but mostly subconsciously.
There is a distinctive difference between the ‘natural’ voice (which we have as babies but lose with the stresses of maturation), and the familiar voice (the one we have grown accustomed to). There is also a difference between how you hear your own voice and how your voice actually sounds. A common and typical reaction from a person who hears their voice played back to them as a recording is, “Do I really sound like THAT?” It’s because as you listen to your recorded voice, you are hearing yourself without the cranial vibrations that occur during speech. You hear it subjectively with the bias of how you would like it to sound and how you would like to be heard. In a similar way a photograph does not depict the total picture of the person – it shows a facet of the person, it cannot portray the entire visual image. In addition, you do not hear your own voice as other people hear it, partly because you hear it through bone and air conduction, whereas the listener hears your voice through air conduction only.
Starting the journey of voice work is a courageous endeavour. It’s like working with a personal trainer that helps you in your process of change. Voice work can be done on a one-to-one, in a group, using an instructional video/recording/app etc. They all work. What works is what works for you. It only works when you work it. It’s that simple. You learn the exercises, you understand the theory, you do the practice, you repeat the exercises given and voila – CHANGE. You start feeling good about the changes and the feedback from your listeners and audiences and you keep on keeping on. Simple.
In my series, ‘Speak Up and Shut Up!!!’, we are going to explore the fundamental aspects of voice and learn some speech exercises to improve the way you speak. The posts will be monthly and will sequentially give you the basics of voice production (relaxation, breathing, resonance and articulation) and build on those skills (modulation and projection) over the time.
Each and every one of us has a voice. You are never too old to learn and you are never too young to talk. This discipline sees the mental, emotional, and physical components of the self all come together and that for me, is spiritual. Welcome aboard … we are at the beginning of a new journey and I’m thrilled to have you join me.
Michelle Coxhead – Speak Up and Shut Up!!!
Michelle believes you can say whatever you like, when you like and how you like. We all have a voice and voice is very much a choice. She is the Principal consultant at Word of Mouth Communications (WOMCOM), helping people improve their presentation performance, public speaking skills and vocal impact. She lives in Australia with her husband and two sporty boys and enjoys reading, walking, yoga, camping, hanging out on the beach, being with friends around a campfire, meditating, arts and crafts, and endless bottomless cups of tea. Contact Michelle at www.womcom.com.au
Life Balance = I. Breathe. Well.