Don't Be The "Scooter" Of Your Office
SLEEP WITH ME the podcast
Got your attention. Sleep With Me, if you haven't heard of it, is a podcast for people who struggle with insomnia. The host of Sleep With Me, "Scooter" as he is referred to, tells stories in a rambling manner and monotonous voice, with the intention of helping listeners fall asleep. It has episodes with titles like "Big Farm P.I. - "This won't be your garden variety investigation, it will have more meanders."
It's brilliant, as I can't help sharing that two of the most common complaints from supervisors or HR regarding troubling communication patterns are: 1.) inability to get to the point/streamline information and 2.) speaking in a voice that is distracting (in so many words) or boring to listen to.
Let's talk about the second one. A voice that lacks dynamism can bore, or even repel, listeners. But, what makes a voice "dynamic?"
Dynamic, by definition, means "marked by usually continuous and productive activity or change" or "energetic, forceful."
What changes in the voice? The musical aspects of speech-pitch, duration of vowel, and loudness (in a nutshell). Not enough variation of any one of these factors can contribute to decreased intelligibility, confusing meaning, or cause your listeners to drift off. Your vocal patterns communicate shades of meaning and innuendo, and reflect your personality and the extent of your emotional involvement.
You are much more likely to be heard and understood if you use more variation in your speech. People tend to not pay as much attention to flatly affected voices. There are studies to verify this. In an experiment, earphones were placed over listeners' ears with four different voices speaking simultaneously. The subjects were then asked to write down the message they were hearing. The voice with the greater range of intonation was the one that the listeners most easily tuned into and heard.
A dynamic voice pulls people in.
It is the manner in which something is said that babies and dogs respond to. As babies, we are hearing and mimicking the music of a language long before we are capable of understanding or making speech sounds. It goes very deep.
If your voice isn't an asset for you, it should be. And if you think your voice is one reason why listeners aren't responding to you the way you would like, do something about it.
How do you develop a more dynamic voice?
In addition to the direct teaching and exercises I use with my clients in developing their full voices, here are some of the things I suggest and often do with my clients who are looking to expand their dynamism and range of expressiveness.
Record yourself reading aloud and then having a conversation. I know, no one wants to do this. Just get over yourself and help yourself... Pay attention to the way you speak with certain people vs. others, in one context vs. another.
Observe the different qualities of rate, volume, and pitch variation you hear in each context. You might find that you allow yourself more freedom in one context than the other, and that they bring out different qualities in your voice and aspects of your personality. What do you like? What do you want to change? Do certain factors negatively impact your speech and delivery, or erode your confidence so that you sound less "like yourself," or your best self?
Open up to Creativity
Acting, singing, dancing, and improv are great activities as part of a total approach to increased expressiveness.
It's amazing how some of my clients' voices change when they take on various roles in play readings I do with them; even their physicality and facial expressions change. Play different characters and pay attention to the characteristics you like, and try to replicate them in your style.
You can try and find a dynamic character or actor who you feel matches the way you would like to sound, and then try mimicking him. Then, read some professional material or pretend to have a conversation with a colleague, channeling the voice characteristics you were made aware of while being that character. You can always pull back a little, adjust.
I often using strategic singing exercises with my clients. Singing connects you to your breath, your body and to different aspects of your personality in new ways. It reinforces tonal support and continuity of voice. Even some of my clients who are at first resistant to sing learn some pretty amazing things about themselves and their capabilities when we get going.
I also do some improv with my clients. Improv is a great way to drop self-imposed boundaries, inviting more aspects of your personality to play. If you're looking for a good improv class, there are plenty in NY, online and super accessible. You can check out my friend Carl Kissin's class. Carl is a sweetheart of a guy with an impressive background, including having performed in more than 4,000 shows for Chicago City Limits and being the show's head writer and director of their National Touring Company.
If you've got kids, or access to kids, read children's stories aloud to them. Children's stories typically lend themselves to greater drama and exaggeration, so provide an opportunity for your voice to run off-leash and play. Pay attention to the greater vocal variety you use when narrating and being different characters. Bring back souvenirs to your regular speaking voice.
These are a few of the ways you can get your voice and self, as a whole, to open up to a wider range of expression. Your voice should pull people in, not leave them equivocal, and definitely not repel or bore them! When you are able to access and use the different parts of yourself through authentic and intentional communication, the people around you will get to know and appreciate you more fully and YOU will get more enjoyment from being you.