Apr 13 2016

Do you tic when you talk?

Published by under Stage Fright

dreamstime_m_23634555When I was in high school, I had a French teacher who grunted between every few words; little pig-like grunts would come from her mouth even when she was not speaking. It was awkward for us, to say the least, and she was the brunt of many jokes. However, she was either completely unaware of this tic, or did not know how to stop it.

Most people have seen physical tics such as head jerks, or hands that pull at clothes over and over when speaking, but there are also phonic tics. Phonic tics are involuntary sounds produced by moving air through the nose, mouth, or throat. Some call them vocal tics, but they could be a sound made when you breathe or a click of the tongue or a throat clearing. The extreme of phonic tics is Tourette Syndrome, but most are not that severe. For most of us, tics appear when we least want them to– when we are in front of a group. Tics are associated with anxiety. (Naturally, I now have much more compassion for my French teacher because I realize that we must have scared her to death!)

People with tics report that they first feel an irresistible urge to clear the throat, or grunt, or whatever the tic is followed by the tic. Even though it feels like you can’t stop yourself, it is possible to get rid of most tics as you do other habits,  through awareness and practice; if you are aware of it you can stop it. Some tics, of course, are more deeply ingrained, more about the anxiety of being in front of others, and may take longer to conquer. Either way, if you have a vocal tic, eliminating it will increase your credibility, your comfort, and the audience’s comfort as well. Here’s how to work on it:

  1. Observe yourself, either through video, or through feedback from others. You need to know exactly when the tic appears and what it is (grunt? click? sigh?) Sometimes this is all it takes to begin to break the habit.
  2. Answer the tic urge with distraction– Tics are pent up energy. If you notice when the urge comes upon you to make the tic sound, say something before you can tic, or energize your voice consciously and you may dissolve the urge, and even replace it with a positive habit.
  3. Before going on stage, calm yourself down with several deep low breaths, and repeat.
  4. Focus on what you can do for others rather than what they are thinking about you. This is the key to conquering almost any kind of stage fright!
  5. Prepare well. The more prepared you are the less likely it is that the nerves will get to you.

Related posts:

5 Ways to Unlearn StageFright

Want to find your voice as a speaker? You may need some tough love! (Guest post by Gary Genard)

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Mar 30 2016

How to be more expressive

Published by under Delivery

dreamstime_m_33164277Some people are just more expressive than others. When you listen to an expressive person, you hear lots of pitches and pace changes and even more pauses than someone who is not as expressive. For years, in American business, people were taught to get rid of their vocal variety. Vocal expression was something you had to be careful about in order to avoid being “too emotional,” or even “unprofessional.”

Well, times have changed. Fellow blogger and Forbes contributor, Nick Morgan says it this way: “Somewhere between the 20th and the 21st centuries, the general public became tired of hype and decided that it wanted authenticity instead. It’s the most important quality in communications today.”

Expressive speaking, where your words are tied to emotions and meaning, is the sound of authenticity. This means that if you feel an emotion, you can talk about it, reflect it in how you sound, and even be demonstrative without being unprofessional.  I don’t recommend that you have a temper tantrum even if you really feel like it, but, in fact, if you don’t demonstrate some emotions, you may lose your audience completely.  In addition, besides authenticity, an expressive voice conveys the meaning of the words and makes it easier for your audience to follow what you are saying.

dreamstime_m_62079818I’ve noticed that many people don’t know how to find the expressiveness in their voice, let alone use it. As with all behavioral changes, you have to be aware before you can do it differently. Therefore these three steps will get you started on the road to discovering a more expressive you.

1. Get in touch with your feelings. (“Oh no,” you say! “Not that again!”) Well, yes. Authentic expression is attached to an authentic feeling. But if that’s hard for you, let’s make it more clinical: when you feel a feeling, how does it sound in your voice? For example, sadness may slow down your delivery. And frustration might make you clip and punch your words. Observe and take notes.

2. Play with your voice. You can’t use a sound you can’t hear first. This means that you may need to experiment with the sound of your voice. Think of the different sounds you can make as your expression tool box. Think of the meanings of the words you say and how that effects the way you say them. Just as sad music is often in a minor key, how do different sounds make you feel? And remember, you weren’t born with the ability to make funny sounds only to keep them to yourself! Play aloud!

3. Be brave. Once you have discovered a new palette of sounds to express your emotions, try it out. Practice it with your friends and family. Use it in your next talk. This may feel unauthentic at first because you aren’t used to feeling the feeling and doing it anyway. However, if you keep trying, you may find that you really enjoy getting in touch with your more colorful, human side, and that your listeners like it too. Dave Grohl called this the importance of the “The human element. That thing that happens when a song speeds up slightly, or a vocal goes a little sharp. That thing that makes people sound like PEOPLE.”

Intention: The prescription for an authentic voice

 

What is your vocal variety saying about you?

 

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