Find your voice!
Here are techniques to ensure people take notice when you speak
STRIKE A POSE
How you stand, sit and hold yourself affects the clarity and strength of your voice.
“Women tend to cross their legs and their arms and if you are twisted or unbalanced, your head comes forward and your voice becomes strangled,” explains Dr Mahler. So you sound tense and your voice is weaker and unclear.
TRY THIS Stand with your feet apart, knees relaxed, and pelvis tucked under, with your chest out and shoulders back. Keep your shoulders and arms relaxed and place your hands in front, one holding the other wrist.
To speak with a clear, strong voice you need to breathe deeply, and to do this effectively your diaphragm – the muscle below your lungs – must be soft and flexible.
“When we feel stressed, our diaphragm locks and the lungs, which sit on top of the diaphragm, can’t expand properly. Instead of expanding downwards, they expand upwards, which makes the voice tense,” says Dr Mahler. And a tense voice gives away that you are nervous, angry and worried. TRY THIS Use a “cover cough” to release your diaphragm. Cough as if you’re clearing your throat and pull your stomach in sharply.
If we look upwards our voice tends to rise and when we look downwards the tone and volume drops. So when you need a reasoned voice and want your words to have impact and be listened to, keep your gaze steady, advises Dr Mahler. TRY THIS Maintain eye contact but keep your face soft by nodding, blinking or smiling. “Blink about 15 times a minute to avoid staring uncomfortably,” says Dr Mahler.
OPEN YOUR MOUTH
Elvis Presley knew how to make the most of his voice. “When he started to sing and when he finished a phrase, he had his mouth open,” says Dr Mahler. “But when we are under pressure we shut our mouth to block communication.”
TRY THIS Open your mouth about 3cm and sound out vowel sounds from the back of your throat. “Loosen your jaw and keep the air flowing by blowing raspberries,” says Dr Mahler.
USE YOUR THROAT
Our throat is home to our larynx, which helps us make sound, but when we feel emotional the larynx closes. “We get that semi-closed, tight voice,” explains Dr Mahler. The vocal folds in our throat also get in the way. These are bands of stretchy tissue sitting just under the epiglottis – a valve that covers our trachea or windpipe when we swallow.
TRY THIS Keep your neck upright so your larynx sits flat – and smile. “If you lift the cheeks under the eyes the vocal folds retract back into the lining of the throat and the best way to do this is by smiling,” says Dr Mahler.
Our voice becomes muffled and quiet when we’re static, often when we’re nervous. Our diaphragm locks and out mouth and throat close. “Our legs can feel weak or numb but movement sends blood to the lower body and reengages it,” says Dr Mahler.
TRY THIS When you’re talking, either one-on-one or in a group, move slightly to release tension. If you’re sitting, move slightly back in your chair and then forward. If you’re standing in front of an audience, move around a little.