The voice is one of the most powerful tools you have to inspire and influence others. It is also one tool that often is unconsciously misuse. The voice has the ability to convey emotion, to give directions, to inspire and motivate others, to make things happen, to attract people and to discourage people.

There are conscious things you can do to make certain your voice non-verbals match the words you say. With your voice, verbal communication is the words, and the non-verbal is everything else. The common non-verbal components of the voice include:

• Tone: warm, cool, bored, upbeat.
• Pitch: flat, low, high, ending up or down.
• Volume: too loud, too soft, just right, forced.
• Pace: speed, tempo, cadence, rhythm.
• Breathing: shallow, rapid, comfortable, forced, hesitant.
(Of course, this is just a partial list of the ways you can non-verbally change your voice.) So, what are the things to keep in mind as we learn to use the voice to it’s potential?

Step One: Start By Listening To Others

Whose voices are you attracted to? Look for people who impact you and study what they are doing. Does the pitch vary? Do they speak softly or slowly? Do they take long pauses or short? What do they do “mechanically” with their voice that holds your attention?

Now, listen to the voices around you and notice how you feel when these people speak you to. I'm sure you know someone who every time you are around him or her, you feel calmer, centered, and serene. And you know someone else that gets you revved up and raring-to-go. A lot of that is personality type, but a great deal can also be consciously controlled and varied to communicate the true intention of what you want to say.

Awareness of the range and possibilities is the first step into turning your voice into an influential instrument. Begin to empower your voice to be a great messenger by listening to others. Spend some time becoming aware of the wide variety of things the voice does besides just the words it says.

Step Two: The Breath Beneath Your Words

The breath is the power behind the voice. It let’s you project your voice, to vary the pace, to change the pitch, and so on. Become conscious of your breath. Low abdominal breathing is our natural pattern in normal situations. In low and abdominal breathing the diaphragm descends during inhalation and downward pressure causes the abdomen and the rib cage to expand outward.

Not only does low abdominal breathing give your voice range and variety; it keeps the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels balanced within your system. It does not take too many short, quick high chest breaths to get the carbon dioxide-oxygen balance out of balance in the system, throwing the body into stress simply because you are not breathing comfortably.

Besides activating your stress mechanism, shallow, high or rapid breathing causes the voice’s pitch to rise and the pace to stay fast. The corresponding body movements of shallow or rapid chest breathing are the expansion of the upper chest, the quick rise and fall of the shoulders and a forward and back movement of the head. Shallow, high or rapid breathing accompanied by your words, is most often perceived non-verbally as distress, anger, fear, startle or surprise—not very good signals to be sending if your goal is to be influential and inspiring.

Stay conscious of your breathing, work to maintain low abdominal breathing; your voice will sound more professional.

Step Three: Play with Varying the Pitch and Pace of Your Voice

Vary your pitch as you talk. There is a voice training exercise for actors in which you pantomime painting a fence with your body while you make your voice go up and down the fence pickets with the imaginary brush—high, middle, and low range. Play with that idea; begin to recognize the powerful range of your own voice. Awareness will allow you to use range effectively.

Naturally higher voices often sound excited and enthusiastic; naturally lower voices can sound dull and stern. Practice variety. A variation in pitch is good. It creates interest and holds attention.

Some people talk fast, others talk too slow and then others have trained themselves to talk just right—meaning the same pace as the people they are talking with. Have you ever been around someone whose voice is so slow, you want to hurry them along or so fast you ask them to slow down? (Hint: If you don’t want people to hear something, talk fast. You know how at the end of some commercials there is a whole list of things that will go wrong if you take that product and have you notice how rapidly they say those words? They don't want you to hear those terrible things so they talk so fast you can't hear them.)

A person who speaks slow, typically listens at the same speed as they talk. You will lose them if you keep up a rapid pace. If they are quick with their words, you need to have your rapid-fire answers ready in order to keep them engaged. To build rapport quickly and easily, simply match the other person’s cadence.

Pauses are part of the pace and they………are potent. They make you want to……..know more. They make you stop……..and listen. Pauses give people time to catch up with what you are saying, they give them time to think about what you are saying and most importantly, pauses give the listener time to form an opinion of what is being said. There is value in silence.

Vary your pace in your conversations. When you change topics conside a change of pace to show it is a new subject. Use pace to hold people's interest as you speak.

Show Your Passion

We have pitch and pace in place to help us be heard. Now let's add the power of passion. How do you sound to others? Ask a friend for feedback or call yourself and record a message; see if you are clearly articulating what you want to communicate. Speak clearly. Your message is valuable and needs to be heard.

When I was in college I had a class right after lunch and the teacher leaned back in his chair and droned on and on. I had a very hard time staying awake. He didn't seem to care if we got it or not and he did not share any enthusiasm for his subject.

Another teacher taught a course in American History. It was mandatory so I was dreading the first day. It was apparent he loved his topic. He had a wonderful sequential outline and wrote on the board as he lectured. He addressed both visual and auditory learners in his presentation. He was clear about what he wanted us to know and he delivered it with great enthusiasm using his voice’s pitch and pace to show his passion. I listened. He cared about his topic and it showed. It showed in how he communicated, not only his words, but also the non-verbals of his voice. It was easy to listen and be engaged in his passion for American History.

Let your passion show. Let your enthusiasm shine through. Get excited.
Love what you do and share what you know with others. People can hear your passion in your voice.

Pitch, Pace, Passion and the breath to support your voice are great starting place to carry your message clearly to others. Listen to others. Listen to yourself. Practice with awareness. You’ll soon find others are hanging on your every word.

Author's Bio: 

Sharon Sayler, MBA, is a Communications Success Strategist and the author of What Your Body Says (and how to master the message). She teaches people how to communicate with confidence and clarity by matching their body language to what their mouth is saying (non-verbals). Visit for your free copy of “The 3 Biggest Body Language Mistakes We Make and How To Avoid Them.

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