Do you often find yourself ignored while speaking to someone? Are you regularly shifted to the side in conversations involving more than two people? Do you see yawns coming from your audience? The problem could be your voice.
While the voice is something of an abstract concept, it is actually an amalgam generated by different parts of the body, and the mind. The lungs, the larynx, the tongue, the cheeks, and the lips work in concert to produce the sounds you make when you speak. Although your voice is not exactly a part of your body in the same way that your arms and legs are, you should think of it as a body part. And, in much the same way as many other body parts, you can “build up” your voice through constant and dedicated practice.
“Why should I work on my voice?” you might be asking. If you already have a strong and confident voice, then you don’t have to work on it at all. If, however, the issues mentioned above feature in your everyday life, then it’s likely that your voice is not confident; that when you speak, you sound unsure of yourself and of what you’re saying. The solution to this problem is straightforward, but it will take a serious and concerted effort to achieve.
1) Practice Makes Poi-fect!
This is the most essential factor in improving the quality and tone of your voice. If you don’t practice speaking, you cannot hope to make your voice sound stronger or more confident.
The very first step to take when training your voice is to record yourself speaking and play it back. Simply take your smartphone, open up your voice recorder, press “record”, and recite a minute-long speech on whatever subject you can think of. Now listen to yourself, noting how it sounds to you and how you think you might be able to improve it. The first thing you will notice about your voice is how different it sounds to your ears on a recording. If this is the case, you’re not alone.
Every person’s voice sounds different to others than it does to him or her. This difference between the “internal” and the “external” voice is a result of the difference between how your ears receive the sound of your voice and how other people’s ears receive it. When you speak, your ears receive two sources of sound: the external sound waves that your voice produces and the sound being conducted internally, through the bone of your skull. These two sources combine to create your “internal” voice. The people to whom you’re speaking, however, only receive the external sound waves. Thus, they hear a different voice than you hear.
By recording your voice and playing it back, you are hearing your voice the way others hear it. This is essential – after all, your concern is not with how you hear yourself but rather with how others hear you. Your initial reaction to your external voice may be one of shock or disappointment. Again, you are not alone. We rarely sound as good as we think we do, but this is partly due to the fact that we’re so used to hearing our internal voices when we talk.
Once you have heard and judged your external voice, you can begin to work on it. Give impromptu speeches in front of a mirror, all the while watching your poise and your expressions. Your voice, your bodily posture, and your facial expressions all work together to create an impression on others, and you should take this fact into consideration when practicing your voice. If you stand tall and wear an expression appropriate to the subject you are discussing, you will be more likely to have a naturally strong and effective voice. Remember to periodically record your voice and listen to it so that you can track your progress. If you practice on a regular basis, you should begin to hear a noticeable change in your voice in a matter of weeks.
2) Believe what you say when you speak … even if you don’t.
A strong voice is really more a function of confidence than of anything else. The best speakers are always confident when they speak, usually because they have a strong belief that what they are saying is relevant to the situation, that it is meaningful, and that it is true. If, however, you have no confidence in your own words, it follows that your voice will lack confidence as well.
When you speak, always make sure that you are not saying anything uncertain. Weak words and evasive phrases, such as “I guess” and “I suppose”, should be purged from your vocabulary. More importantly, you should believe strongly in what you say. Otherwise, your voice and your facial expression will almost certainly betray your inner feelings.
3) Always be confident in yourself … even if you’re not.
Self-confidence is a valuable asset, and you will naturally want to show others that you have it. A powerful and certain voice is just one way in which others can perceive your confidence. You should never act in an unnatural manner, however, and this rule extends to speech. Speak confidently but naturally, and always speak in a manner appropriate to the situation. If someone at work asks you where you want to go to lunch, you should not declare your choice of restaurant as though you were making a royal decree. There is a time and a place for that kind of speech, but usually, a firm but casual manner of speaking will best suit your purposes.
Your voice is a vital part of your public image. If you want to project a more confident and powerful image of yourself, your voice is the first of your attributes that you should examine. Through careful attention and continuous practice, you will be able to make yourself sound confident and self-assured. At least we think you will.
Contributed by: A. Kaddoura / Edited by Clifford S. Yurman