The Psychology of the Voice

In my book Captivate the Room with Your Voice as well as in all of my trainings and with private clients I talk about how our voices are created by what is happening in our mind, the psychology of the voice is what I call it. The voice is the most powerful and vulnerable instrument we have and our sub-conscious mind and often times our conscious mind knows it. The minute we open our mouth we run the risk of being judged. If you have an articulation problem, where the words are not coming out of your mouth but rather mumbling out of your mouth, you’ve had some dings in your life where your sub-conscious mind said, “Don’t say anything.” The result of that thought, mumbling, not letting your sound out so you don’t run the risk of being dinged again. I could give you example after example of this. But, the bottom line, the events of your life have crafted what has been put in your muscle memory and that is the voice you work off of. The good part, if you don’t like your voice or want to craft it into the game changing tool it’s equipped to be, you can!

Often times, over life, our voice changes. Client after client comes to me saying, “I never used to sound like this, what happened?” Life happened. As I’ve said before, the voice is the most vulnerable piece you have, that’s why it’s the power piece. But, if it’s connected so totally to the mind, which it is, then the thoughts can literally shift the voice.

As we go through life, we get dings, well; at least that’s what I refer to them as. Dings can be anything. Dings can be major, catastrophic events, or they can be little things that add up. I’ve heard and experienced everything from cheating husbands to mean college professors and bosses to parents who told children to shut up. As we grow up, the dings start to pile up in what I refer to as the ding box. It’s the ding box that starts to cause our confidence to waiver, cause our voice to pull back into the back of our throat, to cause us to not say what we need or want to say and ultimately, to cause us to not use our voice to our advantage because we are desperately afraid to do so. We’ve used our voice, we were vulnerable and we got dinged and each ding made it easier and easier for us to just stop using this power piece that shares our most vulnerable thoughts, ideas, dreams and feelings.

The events transpire; they don’t have to be horrible events. I’ll give you an example. I worked with a man named Bill in NYC. Bill had contacted me via email about helping him improve his voice. I was happy to do so and had not had any correspondence with Bill other than email until the day we met. The first time I met Bill, he walked into the room, a giant of a man, the size of an NFL running back. I reached out my hand and introduced myself and in the tiniest, quietest, high pitched voice I’d ever heard Bill said, “Hi Tracy, I’m Bill, so nice to meet you.” I knew Bill was not speaking in his real voice instantly and I needed to find out why to help me fix it. My first question to him was, “Bill, do you have any siblings?” His answer, “Yes, I have 6 older sisters.” We then went to work. Bill’s voice was in part created by his psychology, the psychology of his life with 6 older sisters who talked…a lot. Bill did not get a chance to say much among the girl talk in the house. As a result of that, his mind created an alternate voice for him to speak in. Bill carried this voice with him until he met me, then we changed all of that and got him speaking in his true voice.

I had always spoken in a beautiful voice, when given the chance in speaking competitions. By the time I was 18 and a sophomore in college, something had gone very wrong with my voice. I was high pitched, nasally and really impossible to listen to. I was working on being a professional actress and thank goodness one of my professors said, “You’ve got to fix your voice.” I had always had an award winning voice. But, my freshman year in college in a freak theater accident I had been hit, a lot in a play. This was not supposed to happen, yet it did. Three nights before the show I was in opened, my co-star went crazy on my face and broke my nose and fractured my jaw. I went to the director of the play and asked, most sheepishly as I did not want to get kicked out of the play, it was an honor as a freshman to play a lead role on the main stage, if the young man playing opposite me could kindly stop hitting me so hard since it was not in the script. The director responded, “You have chosen a profession in which you must suffer for your art and if you can’t do so, then you need to find something else to do and I’ll replace you.” I bit my tongue and altered my voice. My real voice no longer felt safe, it had to be protected, guarded against the hard cruel world of the moment. It was that voice that had to be changed.

Two examples, one major, one minor of what our mind thinks, our voice delivers. But, the truth of the matter is, everyone I work with has something with their voice that I can easily identify and link to their psychology. We grind our teeth, clench our jaw, tighten our throat, refuse to breath…all of which we do in the desperate attempt to not let our voice out, to not be vulnerable and as a result, we create a voice that may or may not be our real voice but rather our guarded, safe voice that is not subject to dings, or so we think.

What becomes essential in order to captivate the audience with the voice is that we allow ourselves to let our real voice out, to connect to the breath which can be terribly vulnerable. It is only through our vulnerability, our voice, our real voice that we can affect others, reach in and touch their lives. The stilted, protected voice that we use on a regular basis is far to guarded to truly reveal our purpose and make a difference in others’ lives. Now this voice can be very good, it can be very polished, it can get us far but ultimately we hit a wall with it and that comes in the form of not getting what we want, not making the sales we want, not getting the parts we want. It is what I call hitting the wall, when the things that we have always done, no matter how good they are, no longer work for us. We must get on the other side of the wall, connect to our mind, our voice, our breath and our body to become vulnerable, it is then that everything changes.

This alternate voice, it can feel real to you, it might be all you have ever known and it can be very good. But, it can also be what I refer to as the bag of tricks. Bag of tricks, in case you don’t know, is the voice that you use that is not really a connected voice, not a vulnerable voice. It’s a voice that uses the bits and the flair that you pull from time and time again. You pull from them because you know they work, you know how to do them, to say them, to get through…safely. But, this bag of tricks will only last so long until you feel like there is something more. In fact, you might not even realize that you are speaking with a bag of tricks, but once you realize this, you know, deep within your soul that you must get on the other side of the wall, you must be willing to become vulnerable and truly connect your voice so that you can get to the next level in life, career and beyond. The other side of the wall is where the magic happens, it is where the purpose is felt, the zone is entered, the sales are made, the life changing moments are taught, it is where vulnerability meets passion and the desperation of another soul and difference is made. The mind must change for the voice to change, a new way must be laid into the muscle memory. The mind, the body, the soul must be willing to put down the bag of tricks and get real, with the voice.

The first obstacle to changing the psychology of the voice, which can be supported through voice technique, is in the confidence. It seems to be hiding somewhere and we can’t locate it. It is there, it never left, and it is just not visible in the ding box. The fear of public speaking, which to this day is still the number one fear, is based in confidence. Fear of what people will think psychology of the voice. So it becomes essential to start shifting the psychology, taking the focus off of the dings and we do this through technique. Technique, from my perspective is giving a tool, something tangible to hold onto as you try something out. If you have the tool, the technique then you’ve got an anchor and that anchor is your safety net. Once you try something that you are afraid and you succeed, you start building confidence. Let me explain.

Imagine that you have a box in your left hand, the ding box and a box in your right hand, what I call the victory box. We put a tremendous amount of focus, possibly all of our focus on the ding box. We almost and often times do forget the victory box is even over in the right hand. Why? We forget to celebrate the victories and give heavy weight to the dings. Are dings all we have in life? Not a chance. I’ve been down on my luck and I still have had great things happen during those times. But, it’s human nature to focus on the negative. You have 99 reviews of your work that are glowing; you get one bad review, where does your focus go? Yep, the negative review. Dings and victories are very similar. What we have to do is celebrate every good or great thing that happens to us, but especially every good or great thing that we accomplish. Let’s say you are afraid to ask the boss for a raise. The reason you are afraid is because you are looking over at the ding box, all the times that you asked for something and didn’t get it. But, you finally muster the courage to ask because you really need the money, money has a way of pushing us out of our ding zone, and the boss says, “Sure, you can have the raise.” Or maybe he doesn’t, either way, you asked, that was a victory. It is essential that you put that victory in the victory box and celebrate it. Each time you have a win, each time you mustered your courage, you celebrate, you recognize what you did and you put it in the victory box and you look at it. You marvel at it. Little by little you recognize there are victories, you like the way they feel so you want to get more of them, you want to celebrate more. As time goes on, the focus shifts to the victory box, the good things you did, the good things you thought of, the good experiences you had and the ding box does not have so much power. That is shifting the psychology of the mind. Did the dings go away, nope, they are there forever, but they got replaced with something better, something positive was laid in on top of them and that is what you are now drawing from. Your voice is linked to that. So you had a victory asking for something or saying something or sharing something that is linked to your mind. Now, when you think about whether or not you can do it again, your voice has experienced it, done it, received a victory from it, celebrated it and can and will do it again. By changing your mind, you are stepping into the power of what you can and will do with your voice. Along with changing your mind, it’s now about laying in technique into the muscle memory so you can create a voice that you can and are willing to connect to, but, you must be willing to be vulnerable to connect to. It’s possible, once you become aware of the dings and begin to celebrate the victories, to be vulnerable because now you are building confidence in the victories because you are aware of something more than the dings. You can create a voice that captivates your audience every time, but by doing so, step by step; you will build your confidence. After you lay in voice technique, your end result will be a confident, beautiful, captivating voice that you can use as a powerful tool. The end result will be a voice that engages the audience every time, no matter how big the audience or what the venue you speak to them in. But, it starts with the mind. The mind drives the voice, the mind tells it whether or not it must play it safe or if it’s okay to get to the other side of the wall. It’s up to you.
I’d love to hear from you and see if you are speaking in your true voice. Feel free to contact me at tracy@captivatetheroom.com and follow me on twitter at tracyagoodwin