You might be underestimating the difference your voice makes when leading and influencing others. Here’s a few tips to power up your voice in a way that magnetizes your listeners.
3:15 – Why you are not trapped in the voice you have now
6:45 – How the sounds from your voice can empower or disempower
10:45 – A quick trick for making your voice more interesting
14:05 – Why it’s important to go up at the end of a sentence
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This is episode 90 – Vocal Power. People often underestimate how powerful a person’s voice is when it comes to leading and influencing others. Here’s a few tips to empower your voice in a way that magnetizes your listener. Hi, I’m Carla Rieger and this is the MindStory Speaker podcast.
The sounds you make with your voice can seriously impact your success, especially if you’re a speaker, educator, performer, influencer or leader of any type of group. I remember in the same day listening to a woman speak at a conference on a very technical topic I had very little interest in, but the way she spoke, her intonation, her word choice, her presence made me engaged the whole time. Right after there was a woman speaking on a topic I WAS very interested in but I couldn’t keep my attention. Her intonation was flat, her words were hesitant, and she seemed like she didn’t want to be there. I’m sure you’ve had the same experience listening to people.
We basically have the greatest communication tool in the world. But most people never think about their voice or the sounds that they’re making until they lose their voice or until they get negative feedback about their voice or they listen to their voice and are shocked.
For example, I spoke at an event where there were 500 people, but the sound system was bad. I found myself shouting. The next morning I wake up and I have no voice. That’s when I really started thinking about the importance of your voice, especially if you speak for a living. So there are both technical aspects of voice but also the philosophy of finding and uncovering your true voice. I think many things in society, education, growing up make us mask our voices.
But our voice says a lot about who we are, like what’s unique about us, what kind of wisdom we have, how we feel about ourselves, how we feel about our listeners, and what’s important to us at a core level.
Many of us are trapped in voices that don’t convey the very best of who we are and they feel trapped there. So if they have a really nasal voice, that’s it. It’s my mom’s fault, or my dad’s fault. Or if I speak really airy, the only job I could have is as a kind counsellor. But people are not trapped in the voices that they think they were born with. We are the voices that we imitated growing up. We were born with an instrument. So we imitated mom or dad or other highly influential people in your life when you were learning to talk.
And if I wanted to go play in the park, I would figure out the words play and park. So I sounded like the people that were in my environment. Then as adults we may think that’s the voice that we are destined to have. It’s not true, that voice may be actually blocking your success in life, because it’s just some outdated voice that you used when you were a kid to try to connect with people. But at any time you can create a voice that works for you, that showcases the best of who you are.
I remember in Grade 1, at 6 years old, the teacher told my mother that I had a speech impediment. I couldn’t quite say the “th” popular in the English language. I would say dis and dat instead of this and that. I also had funny front teeth and so said my “s’s” like thissss. And I stuttered. I couldn’t quite get my words out especially if an authoritarian figure was feeling impatient with me, like a teacher. My mother got me a private speech therapist. I remember she would tell me stories. Afterwards she’d ask me questions about the story. If it had stressful aspects to the story, and she asked me the questions in a demanding way, I answered in my typical speech impediment way. If it was a lovely, uplifting story, and she asked me the questions in a kind and loving way, the speech impediment went away. She taught me to anchor the speaking of certain words with positive emotions. Soon after I was speaking without the impediment.
Fast forward to choir class in college. I could not sing. I was flat, out of tune, and the teacher told me to just mouth the words. Given private lessons helped me at age 6, I decided to find myself a singing teacher. The first two teachers I tried just had me doing scales and it was boring and nothing improved. Then someone recommended an avant garde singing teacher who just had me sing Italian arias, and only ones that I loved. There was something about the Italian language that opened the back of the throat. And there was something about singing a song I loved that allowed me to “sing into the mask” as they call it. Soon afterwards I was singing in tune. Fast forward a few years later and I became a professional speaker, and losing my voice once during an intense speaking tour was enough to re-commit to good vocal habits. Because of those three situations I’ve been interested in how people speak and express themselves using the voice.
When you speak to someone, sound leaves your mouth in invisible sound waves, and they actually vibrate the body and ear drums of your listener. Many ancient societies and groups today use sound for healing whether it’s a voice or an instrument. Sounds can heal or hurt. I’m sure you’ve heard music that totally uplifted your mood, and music that you wanted to turn off as soon as you could. Same with people’s voices.
So words and sounds we make go into your listener’s ears to the amygdala, or the survival brain. It’s like a gateway or filter to decide if these sounds are dangerous or safe. So if the amygdala decides it’s safe it’s going to let the sound information in to the prefrontal cortex, which is that part of the brain that is creative and processes the information and potentially stores it into memory as wisdom. If it’s dangerous, like discordant or alarming or false sounding or low vibrational then it will go into fight or flight action and not send the information to the prefrontal cortex. Now if the words or sounds are boring or uninteresting then again the amygdala will block it, as it’s unnecessary.
So the amygdala or survival brain responds very much to emotion behind those words and sounds. So if I say, try this tea I made, it’s good for you (boring voice). The amygdala says, hmmm, tea, doesn’t sound so appealing. But if I say, Linda, try this tea, you’re going love it (passionate voice). Then the amygdala says, Wow.. and lets that information into the prefrontal cortex, where now the brain can really think about it. Do I like the smell of that tea? Do I feel like having tea right now? So if you want people to really get what you’re saying, sharing it with emotion makes all the difference. Most people will not remember what you said, the actual words, but they’ll remember the emotional sound waves behind the words.
Okay, so here are some sounds that have no feelings whatsoever. A lot of people speak in a term called monotone, which is if they were a piano, they’d only be one note. And they get stuck on that one note, that’s my note. And I live my whole life on this one note, every so often, I get really excited maybe, and I say, oh, and then I go back to this one note. Of course I’m exaggerating, and you might think nobody talks like that. But if you really pay attention the next time people talk to you, I’d say over 85% of the population only speaks with maybe one or two notes, if we’re thinking of notes on the piano.
We’ve been enculturated, especially in North American society to speak monotone. If you go to the UK or Ireland, or Spain or Italy or India or Africa….and some other places…you’ll hear more notes. Like Ireland, there’s that lovely sing song quality of going up and down the scales. A piano has 88 keys, you don’t need all those. But you need to add enough melody into your voice, that it sounds more emotional. Listen to a voice recording of yourself and see if you use more than a few notes or not, and hear if it’s interesting or boring to listen to. Often I can tell the mood I’m in by listening back to my own podcasts, was I bored, rushed, passionate, interested…it’s all right there in the voice…even if you don’t notice it as you’re speaking.
Another sound that can have feeling or not, has to do with volume. We’ve become a world that is afraid of volume, because we equate volume with anger. So if I speak really loud to you, you’re like Carla must be mad at me. What did I do? So, many of us end up speaking a little softer, because we don’t want to come across as being angry. But volume is not angry. When you mix it with melody, it comes across in a different way. If you stay on the same note, and you get loud, of course, you sound angry.
But if you have a melody and you go up and you go down and you go up and you go down, you’re then perceived as being interesting. So people are coming across shy, because they don’t speak loud enough, and with unemotional sounds.
Listen to great storytellers. In Canada there is a great storyteller called Stuart McLean and he had an audio show called Vinyl Café. I learned a lot about voice, just by listening to all his stories, which were about mundane things, but his voice made it all so captivating. The greatest storytellers are almost singer-songwriters, because they have just a few minutes with a song to get you engaged in who the characters are, where’s this going, what’s going to happen at the end? So a good song is a three minute amazing movie filled with emotions. So storytelling is really about speaking from emotion to emotion, so that you bring the listener from emotion to emotion. Instead of from Word to word, so you can not be a good storyteller if you don’t have emotional sounds in your voice, because then people just focus on the words, which get received by only part of the brain and expelled.
When we were kids, at least in North America, we were taught to go down in melody when we got to commas and periods. So we said, watch the bird fly. Now, let’s all go to the celebration. The only time the teacher told me it was okay to go up, was when I had a question. You like vanilla ice cream? You want to go to the park? So the teacher told me that I can only go up for questions. So people are actually going down at every comma or period. And that’s called a descending scale. And when I do that, it makes you sound sad. It’s my birthday. I’m so happy to be here. I love my dog. It’s okay.
And so unconsciously it’s making everyone who listens to you sad. I don’t think we should ever do that, unless we’re talking about a sad subject. We should use ascending melodies. Now I’m walking up the steps. I love my husband, I love to walk on the beach. Don’t worry about making it sound like a question. It won’t. I love going up because that makes people happy. If we all spoke going up, instead of going down, more people would listen because it tends to make them feel that we were happy, healthy, thriving…and the vibrational resonance affects their emotionality.
A great way to change the way you speak is to record yourself a lot and listen back. If you don’t like it, try it in a different way. Most people are not used to listening to the sounds they make. They listen to voice mail they left and are shocked and horrified about how they sound. Ever happen to you? That can’t be how I sound. You don’t actually know how you sound like because sound is traveling away from you. It’s coming from within your head so it sounds different. And it sounds different than sound coming towards you.
I once spent 20 minutes recording and re-recording an outgoing message for the voicemail on my phone, because I just didn’t like it each time. Finally, after adjusting and adjusting I got it to where I liked it. But I realized that first outgoing message recording…that’s the voice that everyone tends to hear when I talk. Yikes. But if that’s ever happened to you, no problem. You can change it.
Also, some people think that they can only have one voice, one character, one emotion. So they either sound upbeat all the time. Hey, how’s it going? I love you hair. Your cat just died, that’s terrible! Or some people have what I call a selling voice most of the time, like an auctioneer. I’m on my fifth cup of coffee, want some coffee, we’ve got dark roast, decaf, blond roast, americano, Frappuccino. All made with purified, alkaline water plus MCT oil and gee butter to ensure you’re in the keto range.
I think it’s great to create different characters to succeed in different areas of your life. So for example, when I’m working with clients, I am business coach, omnipotent, omnipresent. Seeking to help you solve problems. That has volume and melody and strength and the pacing of the voice. But if I bring that voice to dinner with my husband, it can seem odd.
There was an incredible study with words. The experiment involved having people saying a monologue with just words, no sounds. Then again with words like, oh, hmm, ah, um, sighing…and those listening would write down how many emotions they thought people were expressing. Most of them could find maybe 12 on the first round, at least 24 emotions on the 2nd round. So talk about how important sounds aside from the words are, they will make you sound twice as emotional, twice as connective, twice as authentic, twice as believable, twice as loving and so forth.
So, any of my clients who have ever lost their voice, say, because of long hours leading a group or facilitating a seminar, it is because they were breathing in through their mouths.
If you have a kitten and you want to know if the kitten is still alive. Its lying there. You don’t look at the kitten’s mouth, you look at it’s tummy. You see their tummy come forward when they inhale and come back in. That’s how you know that the kitten is alive. So we’re all born breathing in through our noses. Because there are filters in the nose and it becomes moist air. So right now with me and anyone listening, close, or open your mouth and take a big breath in like this. Do you feel all the dryness? Yes, you can feel dryness, go from your tongue all the way to the back part of your throat.
Now, close your mouth, breathing through your nose. Zero dryness. We need to actually close our lips at the commas and the periods. Take a breath and then speak until the next comma, close your lips, breathe through your nose, and then speak. If you stop breathing through your mouth then your voice will last all day. And all night. It really is that simple. It’s amazing.
And of course, the key to staying present with yourself and your listener is breathing. I’m sure you’ve heard people speak who are not present, not really there with you. They’re rattling on and on but they aren’t really there. You may have caught yourself doing that from time to time. We all do. The stopping, pausing, closing mouth, breathing, allows life to catch up with you…wakes you up to the present moment. And I can tell you, that your listener will love it, even if you can’t see them or they’re listening to a replay, there’s something we pick up subconsciously that tells us…this person is there, in the whole brain, connected to life, integrated mind and body, instead of stuck in left brain, disconnected. So many people speak these days from that disconnected place…so when you do the opposite you stand out, and people remember. And the right people will be drawn to what you’re talking about.
That’s it for today. Do post a review of this podcast if you liked it. It really helps other listeners find the podcast. Here’s a quick and easy way to do it. Just go to: https://ratethispodcast.com/speaker. You’ll also see that link in the shownotes.
And hit subscribe if you want to hear about other episodes coming up, which you can do on our website MindStoryAcademy.com\podcast. https://mindstoryacademy.com/Podcast That link is also in the shownotes. Until next time, I’m Carla Rieger. Thank you for listening.