When you think back on the greatest teachers you ever had growing up, chances are the reason you loved them so much was not just because of what they taught you, but the way they were able to engage you and keep your interest at all times.
Whether your intention is to teach kids, close sales, excite podcast listeners, or inspire your coaching clients, every one of us has goals we want to achieve in work and in life. And, whether we realize it or not, the most powerful instrument we possess to help us accomplish those goals is our speaking voice.
Let’s look at some of the reasons people don’t tap into the power in their voice, and then we can talk about specific actions you can take today to make your voice sound less boring!
To start with, a lot of people think the voice they were born with is the voice they are stuck with for life. A man may have a really nasal voice and be convinced that it’s due to genetics and it is what it is. Or a woman may have an airy voice that sometimes frustrates her because there is no range there, and oftentimes she is not getting the desired effect from her speaking voice.
People can feel trapped in the personas expressed by the voices they were born with. But the truth is, we’re more influenced by the voices that we imitate growing up than we are by genetics. We are born with an instrument, so we imitate mom’s airy voice or dad’s commanding, confident voice, and we begin to sound like the people that are in our environment.
Another reason people don’t necessarily know how to tap into the power in their voice is that they think melody is just for singing. So they do the opposite of singing, which is speaking in monotone. Without realizing it, they become like a piano stuck on one note. Then every so often they get excited and go up in inflection, and then they’re right back to the same note. What could be more dull?
Not only is monotony boring, but a 2017 University of Glasgow study analyzed hundreds of voices and found that those who showed personality and inflection were far more trusted than those who were monotonous and flat.
If you’re feeling frustrated, wondering how to sound interesting, these are 5 tips to help you develop a voice that showcases the best of who you are.
Bring in emotion
A piano has 88 keys. And while you don’t need quite that much range, you need to bring enough melody into your voice so that it sounds more emotional. Why? Well, this is the scientific reason:
When you speak to someone, invisible sound waves leave your mouth and enter the brain of the listener. They go into the part of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala then deciphers whether it is going to let information into the prefrontal cortex–that part of the brain that processes the information and feels things and then stores it into memory.
But the language of this first brain filter, the amygdala, is emotion. And the amygdala doesn’t think words are emotional. So the reason speaking with emotion is so important is that if you speak in a monotone, you’re never actually going to connect with people.
Going back to the example of your favorite teacher, you remember what he or she said because he or she made you feel something. You made a human connection to the information, so you retained it.
We’re so used to speaking the way that we speak because most of us have never had any professional training. Typically, we were taught when we were kids to go down in melody when we got to commas and periods.
So we said:
“Watch Spot run.”
“That’s Spot’s ball.”
When we get to a comma or a period, we go down. The only time the teacher told us it was okay to go up was when we had a question.
“You like chocolate?”
“You want to take a nap?”
When you go down in inflection at every comma and period, that’s called a descending scale. And unfortunately, a descending scale makes people sound sad. In turn, if the person listens to you thinks you’re sad, you are probably going to make them feel sad
If we want to avoid sounding sad or uninterested, we should add more inflection to our voice. Inflection isn’t just for questions anymore!
Adjust your volume
Another way to bring feeling into your speaking is by adding volume. Oftentimes people equate loud speaking with anger, so they steer clear of speaking loudly.
The reality is, we live in a world of whisperers. We’re so used to talking on the phone, and while we’re emailing and texting we are not talking at all. Because of this, we’re losing sight of the fact that in communication, volume is the key to the kingdom! It is an amazing tool to regain your influence and power over people that are listening to you.
As a visual to keep in mind, when you speak you should imagine that you have to fill up the space 20 feet out, 20 feet to the left, and 20 feet to the right. If you’re not filling up that space, you’re speaking too softly.
And if you’re still worried about sounding angry and loud, remember that volume is not angry when you mix it with melody. If you stay on the same note and you get loud, of course you sound angry. But if you have a melody and you raise your volume, you are then perceived as being emotional and passionate. And sounding passionate and enthusiastic is an excellent way to reach people and get your point across.
Breathe to engage
Sometimes when we’re speaking we let nervous energy get the better of us, and we forget to breathe. How you breathe definitely affects the way your voice comes across. But unless you are a yogi, you may not be aware of your breathing.
Great speaking, like great singing, happens when the right amount of air meets the right amount of vocal chord. And when that doesn’t happen your breathing suffers.
Imagine you’re driving a racecar. Of course steering matters, but if you fill your gas tank with orange juice, your steering is only going to get you so far. Some people spend years learning public speaking tips but they never actually engage listeners because their breathing technique is as misdirected as putting orange juice in the car’s engine.
At Voiceplace, we are 100% on board with your mission to leave that boring voice behind! Our vocal training focuses on breathing technique and so much more to transform everyday voices into extraordinary assets. By gaining an understanding of how physiology and tonality work together, anyone can become an incredible speaker, presenter, communicator, and influencer. Sign up here for our free video training.