"Who Are You?" In other words... "How Do You Speak and Sound?"
"Who are you?"
In other words,
"How do you speak and sound?"
The way people feel and think about you AFTER you've... had a meeting, an interview, or even a conversation... is shaped by the manner in which you've used your voice, chosen your words, and spoken those words. Those are the key factors that contribute to your image, or your VOCAL PRESENCE. They are responsible for the impression you leave on people and can mean the difference between getting more work, being hired, or... making a valuable connection or a new friend!
Who are you? You're what you say and HOW you say it.
I love accents and voices. I've copied the way people speak my whole life. For as long as I can remember, and for no other reason but for fun, I guess, I've imitated accents, voices, singing styles. It was play... and just something that I always did. While I realize I'm unusual to some degree in this regard, I also recognize--and truly believe, that each of us has so many more vocal options available to us than we may habitually use--or get stuck in. Our voices are flexible and changeable and complex!
You don't just have one voice...
Think about it. We use one voice when speaking with one person and then a very different voice with another; for example, a friend versus a boss or a child and then a co-worker. We play different roles in our lives, and our voices go along for the ride; rather, they are a critical driving force of the ride.
On another note, our best voices--the ones that we feel truly represent who we are, or who we are at our best, may come out and shine in one circumstance, and then for some godforsaken reason, are nowhere to be found in others; like during high-stakes opportunities such as interviews or presentations. We go to speak and find that our voice has abandoned us, leaving us "uh" ing, talking too fast, speaking in a high voice, or blanking out. This is what I work on with people a lot.
One size does not fit all.
Every person who comes to my office has a unique story about their voice (and speech). They each have unique histories and personal experiences, and the stories they tell themselves about their voices and identities vary. They come from different cultures, families, linguistic backgrounds. What's more, everyone holds tensions-more often than not unconsciously, differently in various parts of their bodies and faces...
Finally, many people get stuck speaking in a voice they may not even be comfortable with, or in a style that no longer truly reflects who they are or who they are becoming. My approach, therefore, HAS to be highly individualized.
How do you learn? How do you grow, change, expand...?
In addition to the variables that create different vocal profiles, no two people respond the same way to coaching or teaching approach. One person may benefit from direct instruction, such as "Relax your shoulders; open the back of your throat, sigh, and then say it again." Another may access a voice and state of being most effectively through role-play--for example, walking around the room as the queen as they calmly, confidently, and regally tell me about their plans for conquering the world, their careers (or what they plan on having for lunch!). Or... a client may be startled by the voice that comes out of them when the play "the judge" or the leading lady in a script or role play activity. Or when they sing a song they've never sung.
Why drive one car when you can drive many?!
Logic has it that if you can access a voice you like in certain situations, that voice is within you and a part of you. The work that goes into accessing it and cultivating it in more areas of one's life may vary from one person to the next. The work (or play) that goes into discovering and or re-discovering all the other rich and valuable voices that are available to you can be life-changing work--just ask some of my clients.
My recommendations for overcoming obstacles
to your best voice(s):
1. What stories or narratives am I holding on to that no longer (or never did) support the person I am now? What sounds in my voice don't serve me? (Many of the stories are societally or culturally influenced, and you may not even be aware of them.)
2. What habits do I have that don't enhance my vocal presence? -Talking too fast, too softly, too loudly... do I fade out, use upspeak or glottal fry, speak in a monotone, speak in a small, diminished voice... Do I sound nasal/twangy?... The list goes on. And they all send out different messages.
3. What habitual tensions am I holding in my body and head/face that sabotage my self-expression? - Jaw, tongue, neck tension; face, eyes; shoulders, legs, feet (fight, flight, freeze)?
Suffice to say, I truly believe, actually I know, that when a person has worked to get past obstacles that keep them from exploring and tapping into all the different gifts their voice has to show them, their life becomes richer, deeper, more fascinating, and more meaningful.
Quite simply, when you explore your voice and cultivate the unique qualities it allows you to tap into, you live a more fully lived life. And most assuredly, experience more success in your career. Trust me, I've seen it a thousand times. ;)