The Winning Voice

Best in class communication techniques from Michael Kelly

It’s Spring – time for your voice to ‘bud’

September marks the start of spring in Australia. It’s a time when flowers bud.

In botany, a bud is an undeveloped or embryonic shoot.

Once formed, a bud may remain for some time in a dormant condition, or it may form a shoot immediately. Buds may be specialised to develop flowers or short shoots, or may have the potential for general shoot development.

This month’s focus, aligned to the theme of budding, will be on:

Your budding voice.

It will be on viewing your voice as an undeveloped (not bad or ugly) shoot, that has remained dormant, but has the potential for development. On viewing your voice as something – that with care, nurturing and practice – can be specialised or have the potential for development.

Why this theme?

Because many of you don’t like the sound of your voice, when you hear it in its recorded form.

My goal for you, for the end of this month, is that you have more understanding of your voice, and like your voice more. This understanding and liking will underpin future development of your voice.

One reason you might dislike your recorded voice is because, in comparison to the rich voice you hear while speaking, the recorded version can sound foreign – not reflective of the person you hear speaking every day.

To warm you up for the month . . .

Here is a post that describes why your voice sounds differently on an audio recording.

Consider the following information on voice production and voice perception:

  • Researcher John Ohala studied the vocal pitch of humans and other mammals and found that a high pitch signified that the mammal was either frightened, uncertain, small, or infantile. With electronic lowering of pitch there was increase in the perception of dominance.  A high pitch was correlated with politeness but also subordination.
  • A breathy voice may convey uncertainty and effeminacy.
  • A monotone voice has been correlated with depression.
  • You can change other people’s perception of your chronological age by manipulating resonance, pitch and speaking speed. Speak more slowly, with a lower pitch to be perceived as older than your chronological age.                                       Speak faster, with a higher pitch, to be perceived as younger than your chronological age.
  • If you occupy more space with your body and with your gestures, it will be easier to produce a louder voice.
  • If you constrain your body language and gestures, it will easier to produce a softer voice.
  • Most people have vocal biases. A vocal bias is a prejudice to certain types of voices that one doesn’t like in other people.  Due to a particular bias, a person may limit that vocal feature in their own speaking.  Common vocal biases include dislike of fast or slow speaking, or of a high or low vocal pitch, or loud or soft speaking.  For example, if a person doesn’t like who speak loudly, due to this bias he/she may never raise their voice, even when it is appropriate to do so.

Consider the following quotes about voice and speaking

  • ‘A man’s style is in his voice. Wooden minds, wooden voices.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • ‘Speak clearly, if you speak it all. Carve every word; before you let it fall’. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.
  • ‘Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.’ Maggie Smith
  • ‘The human voice is the most perfect instrument of all.’ Arvo Part
  • ‘Sing. sing a song. . .  Make it simple to last your whole life long
    Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear
    Just sing, sing a song.’ Joe Rapso

Own the Conversation

Some of you will find this task uncomfortable or embarrassing. Do it anyway. Some will find it easy.

In the next seven days, in your car when you’re driving alone. Or in some other place when no one can hear you. Sing some bars of a song you like, or the bars of the above Rapso song. (if you don’t know the rhythm of the song here’s Karen Carpenter’s version of it).

If you’re in a car and you don’t want anyone to see you singing, don’t worry. Most drivers (and people) are self-absorbed. If they see you singing, they’ll think you’re talking on your hands-free phone.

If you’re reluctant to do this singing, discount its importance. Say this aloud. ‘It’s no big deal . . . I’m experimenting and getting to know my voice a little bit better’.


p.s. Check out this post on How to shake hands

# You might want to trial my Confident Personal Communication video learning programme because it will give you practical techniques to ‘Own the Conversation’

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