The number of people looking for information, books, CDs, and seminars on self-improvement is staggering. Ever concerned with honing our business skills, improving the image we project, feeling good about ourselves, juggling jobs and family…we are all on the search for bettering ourselves and our lives. Yet, few people are aware that they have a better speaking voice inside.
Most people do not like to hear themselves on their voicemail or their answering machine because they don’t identify with that sound. Unfortunately what you don’t like on your voicemail is the voice by which everyone else recognizes you. That is your vocal image and it accounts for 37% of the image you project.
When I work with a client, the first thing I teach is diaphragmatic breathing, something most people are not doing. We are renowned for being lazy or shallow breathers using only the upper portion of the chest for respiration. It is a medical fact. Sadly, lazy breathing only increases stress or tension. Diaphragmatic breathing, on the other hand, actually reduces it.
All mammals have a diaphragm; all mammals use that diaphragm to support breathing. It is only the most intelligent of the mammals that stops this practice sometime during our childhood development. What results are voices that are being powered by the throat, the voice box, the mouth, and/or the nose. Without the chest, our 5th (& most powerful) amplifier, we are missing a voice that is warm, rich, resonant, and mature-sounding.
To find your diaphragm, place your hands under your rib cage and cough. Did you feel that muscle ‘kick’ out? You may remember that muscular partition if you have ever watched a funny movie, laughed for two hours, and then found you were sore. Or you may have had a cold with a hacking cough. Remember how sore your midriff was? In both cases, you were giving your diaphragm a workout!
When you learn to breathe with support and speak at your optimum pitch, you will discover a voice that actually vibrates in your chest. If James Earl Jones were to walk into your room and speak to you, you would feel the vibrations of his voice in your own chest. He has a very deep, very resonant speaking voice. (And, he is most definitely breathing with support!)
Once you make your ‘real’ voice a habit, you will find that you actually have control over it and not the other way around. When I give a presentation, the first thing I do is breathe because it is the most important thing I’m going to do to control my nervousness. I’ve given hundreds of presentations but my audience doesn’t hear or see my nervousness because I’m controlling it. I like nervousness…it’s that extra spurt of adrenaline that can make your talk, your speech, or your presentation sparkle.
The benefits of breathing with the support of your diaphragm go far beyond the voice or presentation skills. Through the years, I have had people tell me they sleep better; they fall asleep faster; their blood pressure is lower; they sing better; there are controlling their stress; they can eliminate pain; they have more stamina; the list goes on and on. Because I breathe correctly 24 hours a day, I don’t carry my stress in my shoulders or my neck; therefore, I am never sore in those regions at the end of the day. I have found, however, that the majority of my female clientele do carry their stress in those regions until they make diaphragmatic breathing a habit. (Incidentally, men tend not to deal with their stress in the same fashion.)
The first thing we do in life is take a breath; the last thing we do in life is take a breath; one of the worst things we do in life is take a breath. While a better voice is just a breath away, consider what that breath can do for the rest of your life!
The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. Visit Voice Dynamic and watch Nancy as she describes Your Least Developed Tool!