Welcome to Kate’s SpeakEasy. . .
because there is a cost to not using your voice fully.
The short answer is, no, not really. The larger question is, are you sure you really want to? Your dialect is a rich part of who you are and what you bring to the table. It would be a great sadness to really lose it. BUT, you are probably thinking, I am not always able to communicate effectively in a business setting. THAT is something we can absolutely address.
If you have considered trying to “lose” your accent, I propose that a more effective (and kind) way to approach it is, instead, to learn a Neutral American accent that you can use when you choose. “Code switching” refers to humans’ tendency to speak differently in different settings (i. e., most of us talk differently to our best friend than we do when we present at a meeting). So you can learn a solid American accent and still retain your identity.
Most people need some targeted coaching to address the speech sounds, rhythms, and mouth movement of a neutral American dialect. Check out my iBook if you want to try some self-study, or schedule a session to get more personalized guidance.
The goal is for people to focus on what you are saying, not how you are saying it. You can be heard and understood and still not “lose” something that is a beautiful part of who you are.
“Talking From the Diaphragm” is BS
Have you ever heard that you should “talk from the diaphragm” for a powerful voice? Well, it’s bull hockey. The diaphragm is the major muscle of inhalation, true. But unless there’s a neurologic problem, every breath anyone ever takes involves the diaphragm. So you’re already using it!
But what about “supporting” your voice from the diaphragm, you ask? Great question! Indeed, we speak on an exhale, not an inhale, but guess what? The diaphragm has no role in controlling our exhale! It therefore has no active role in controlling our voice.
So what do people mean when they make this inaccurate statement? They mean you should engage your abdominal muscles when you talk. You can’t actively engage your diaphragm to push air out, but you can actively engage your abs, which is where “breath support” comes from. This means that the volume control button on the human voice instrument is located in the belly!
The short story is that when you inhale, your abdomen moves outward. This is because the diaphragm pushes down on your internal organs, which get displaced. When you exhale, the process reverses itself and the abdominal wall moves inward. When we speak, we engage these abdominal muscles to varying degrees in order to control the sound we create.
If you’re one of the many folks who breathes in the opposite way (when you inhale your chest lifts and your belly moves in), you could get a lot more mileage out of your voice by working with a coach.
So the next time someone tells you to use your diaphragm when you talk, you can take a belly breath and know you have it down.
A lot of people think our voice is our voice – we have the voice we are born with and we cannot change it. This is not true! While we are born with a particular instrument, a lot goes into forming the way we use it. Sometimes it is subconscious habit (more than our anatomy) that dictates the way we sound. A speaking voice coach (different than a singing coach) can help you change the quality of your voice to better reflect who you are. I can help you:
Match your vocal image to other elements of your image
Change the timbre or quality of your voice
Sound higher or lower (and you may be surprised to learn the ways we do this)
Decrease vocal strain
Project your voice with ease
Command a space
Engage your listeners
Have the stamina to talk for many hours a day
This is only scratching the surface of the things that a speaking voice coach can do, but hopefully it starts you thinking about the possibilities. If there is something you wish was different about your voice, no matter how unrealistic it seems, there is probably something I can help you with.
You know what I’m talking about. Women have a series of gauntlets to run in order to be taken seriously as a professional, no matter their field.
A nice little overview of the overall issue of gender disparity in the workplace can be found here: https://www.fastcompany.com/3031101/the-new-subtle-sexism-toward-women-in-the-workplace
Women’s voices frequently get described as annoying, shrill, harsh, grating. Injured female voices are also frequently described as sexy, which is pretty telling if you think about it.
So, let’s just say there is a bias against women and our voices, and that we are willing to work within that system to change it. What do you do?
People of all genders tend to think the solution to increased vocal authority and gravitas is a low pitch. That’s not the case. Talking at the lowest end of your pitch range (I call it the “basement” of your voice) can cause physical discomfort and eventually harm. And moreover, talking in the basement actually cuts out the harmonics and vocal richness you are actually looking for.
So the key is not pitch, but placement. While this usually requires some coaching to attain, you can do some exploring on your own. Can you speak at a comfortable pitch and still make your voice sound and feel more rich and resonant? It isn’t hard but most people need a bit of guidance – try a vocal coach or my book for more specifics on how to succeed while TWF.
A lot of business people come to me because someone important told them they do not have an Executive Presence because of the way they speak.
While it might be fun to delve into the societal norms that create such a rule, let’s focus on the bottom line. You need that presence for the work and pay grade you’re aiming for. So what is it, exactly?
Forbes says the old EP includes “speaking skills, assertiveness and the ability to read an audience or situation”.
So… Detractors from Executive Presence would include mumbling, fading, not moving your mouth, appearing apologetic, weak attitude or posture.
How Do You Show Up Like You Want To? Learn physical and vocal presence, vocal power, authenticity. Learn to use breath, resonance, timbre. Learn how to fake it till you make it!
Clear as mud?! Sign up for a session and learn what all this means, and how to use it to your advantage.
You know how people respond to a great voice? Someone’s voice can command authority or respect, can calm or excite us. Welp, it can work the other way as well.
Do you ever feel like you are not taken seriously because of your voice? Or passed over for a raise or promotions? Do you feel like you can’t quite express yourself in an impactful way? Not using your voice to its fullest can:
- Cost you money
- Cost you respect
- Cause physical discomfort or pain
And we haven’t even started talking about conference calls, video meetings, or presentation stage fright yet.
Hang out with me here at Kate’s SpeakEasy as I help you understand more about what your voice might be costing you, and, more importantly, what you can do about it.