Dec 31 2016

5 ways to improve your voice in 2017

Published by under Miscellaneous,Vocal Health

dreamstime_s_77890673Many of us start the New Year with goals and promises to improve our lives. Of course, old habits die hard, and new ones may not stick.  It takes anywhere from 21-254 days to form a new behavior, depending on the complexity of the behavior and the amount of time spent working on the change. If you want to get rid of “ums,” or up-speak, or learn to move with purpose on stage, you have to give it focus, practice, and, of course, time.  However, you can make the change sticky by applying the practice and focus in multiple ways. Below is a list of five ways to improve your voice and improve your health, even your life!

Drink more water: Hydration is key to making the body work better and keeping the voice lubricated. Signs of dehydration will begin to show with as little as a 2% deficit of fluids in the body. It’s a great idea to keep water on hand and sip it throughout the day, particularly if you are presenting, singing, or simply speaking a lot during the day.

Walk: Your voice is housed in your body. Whatever is good for the rest of you is good for your voice.  Walking, riding a bike, running and swimming are all recommended. Professor Bruce Schoonmaker at Furman University has created a webpage with data and suggestions for the best exercise to benefit your voice.  Check it out!

Breathe: The next time you give a talk, take time to inhale and exhale deeply just before you get up to speak.  Then, as you start to speak, breathe into your first words.  Do this every time you give a presentation. You’ll be more relaxed, thus improving your voice and your credibility.

Join a choir.  Recent studies have shown many benefits to choir singing, including a happier life; singers are more fit, happier, and more productive  If you guessed it’s because of the oxytocin produced in the brain by singing, you would be correct. But the good health of singers is also due to the increased levels of immunoglobulin A, that is stimulated by singing and is a key factor in respiratory health.

Practice intentional communication:  Intention is what one has in mind to do or bring about, and I mean literally “in mind,” as was shown by two studies of intention.  In the first, it was revealed by New York researchers that infants as young as six months old can understand our intentions, and respond to them.  Another study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to show that the mirror neuron system tracks not only the actions, but also the intentions, of others.  This mirror neuron system has been identified as being very important in guiding our social interactions, especially in survival and keeping us safe. Therefore, intention is a component of “trustworthiness” in social interaction and it is definitely picked up by others, which is why you need to be clear about your intention as a speaker.

For more help in doing what you say you’re going to do, check out this interesting organization:  Because I Said I Would. 

And for help making a new behavior stick, please see How to form a new habit on this blog.

© Tom Wang |

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Dec 06 2016

You talk funny…and so do I

Published by under Musings

dreamstime_s_32853848Preparation to facilitate a workshop in India got me thinking about the differences in how we humans communicate with each other, and how that influences the kind of relationships we have with each other. Every culture has its unique language, both verbal and non-verbal. The culture may be that of a country, a state, a city, or even a family. It could be the culture of a political party, a company, or a company division. Culture is deep-seated; it sets expectations for how we behave around each other and what we can expect in the way of vocal expression, or lack of it. Many of the issues we face as a species becoming a global society have to do with the non-verbal cues we use in our preferred cultures and how that speaks to or alienates those of different cultures.

dreamstime_s_38864974Traveling through Bangalore, I am struck by the cultural differences between this city and home in the US– cows in the street, bright, bold color everywhere, women in saris working at a construction project, and street vendors selling unfamiliar vegetables. I am also struck by the presence of American companies such as Domino’s Pizza, international tech companies, and European musicians performing at festivals. The world is changing, cultures are mingling.  And, the greatest concern of workshop participants in San Jose is no different than those in Bangalore– “How can I get my ideas heard? How can I, as a leader, influence others?”

There is no time like the present to practice clear communication, but this means not just clearer talking; it is equally important to take the time to know your audience, whether you agree with them or not, are from the same culture or different ones.  By listening to them, you will better understand what they are interested in. By taking the time to study them, without judgment, you will learn about the non-verbal language that speaks to them beyond your words.  You will also be more able to create a delivery that they will hear.   In addition, there is lots of online learning in accent reduction, or learning foreign languages, and even etiquette. Will that help in a situation where there is a great divide, such as in the split the US demonstrated in the recent elections? Yes. We obviously don’t know each other well enough.

Above all, the most important questions you can ask are these:

  • What is my intention in this conversation, the aim that guides my action? Am I just focused on being heard or, as late night talk show host Trevor Noah  asked on a recent show, “are you trying to communicate as effectively as possible with another human being?”

If the latter, it’s a dialog, not a monolog, a very different kind of communication– one that builds relationships. And isn’t that what the world needs now?

For more on this topic, please see The Three Ingredients of a Meaningful Conversation
Photos by © Kadettmann |, and © Atholpady |

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