Updated: Apr 12, 2021
Most people, at least here in the North America tend to gravitate to leaders & individuals with with lower voices. This is because the sound of their voice demonstrates an authoritative presence. What this means is that they are both commanding (strong, grounded, steady, self owning) & responsive (present, aware, listening). This voice carries more then a lower tone. To bring weight into our voice has a very direct connection with our felt sense of personal power & authority. This is a reciprocal relationship ~ a greater felt sense of authority brings weight into the voice & bringing weight into the voice helps us feel a greater sense of self ownership & authority.
For well over 15 years I have offered performance & public speaking. As much of this work has been captured on TV & video there is a unique opportunity to observe how my outward expression has changed along with my inner evolution. In this 2009 Ted X talk you can hear that my voice is higher & more ethereal. This is (likely) partly to do with cultural conditioning, but more so it reflects my own inner steadiness at the time.
What I’ve observed both through my own experience & then through my clients, is that for many women there is a lack of weight in the voice. This is two-fold; first, the sound of the voice itself is light & second, there is more concern of what others think or people-pleasing then self confidence or ownership. That Ted X is a prime example of this. At that time I was very much in a ‘seeking’ phase ~ looking for practices, teachers, experiences that might help me feel whole. This was an important time in my life & it was also a time when it was difficult for me to say no, stand up for myself (especially with authority figures) or in myself.
These times of learning are pivotal to developing our voice, & thus experience is a big part of that development. However, there are also practices we can do through the body that will both support the voice & our inner disposition.
Step 1: Get out of Your Head
I know, it’s cliche, but getting out of your head is a foundation for more grounded communication. I also know it's not always easy to do however, there are some very simple techniques that you can use in the moment that will help you get there.
Sigh & Slow Down
A Stanford University Study has shown that the physiological sigh is an effective tool to mediate our fight/flight response. This sigh (double inhale through the nose & long exhale out the mouth) helps increase oxygen levels & de-escalate stress in real time.
Tell yourself “I am feeling anxious/ nervous/ awkward & it’s okay, it will pass”
This may sound counter-intuitive but trust me it is the best way to meet an anxious mind. When we try to push or force ourself out of an anxious state it often creates more tension. By accepting where we are we can more effectively meet ourself by becoming present to our body.
Get into Your Body
Once you notice you are in your head (i.e. your narratives, judgements, ideas of how others are perceiving you) bring your awareness into your body ~ notice your hands, your legs, your belly. You can also engage your core, or muscles in your legs & arms to feel more anchored.
If you feel floaty, shaky, constricted, or any other uncomfortable sensation see if you can allow those to exist while bringing your attention to something neutral. This could be in your environment (colours, textures, sound) or an aspect of your body that feels neutral or even good. By focusing on the neutral you will give your nervous system space to find balance.
Step 2: Give it Guts
When we become nervous our diaphragm often contracts & our breath moves into the upper chest. We can engage the diaphragm & core to both access more breath & to relate a greater sense of strength.
Speak from the Gut
Take a deep breath expand both the ribs & the belly. Exhale an audible sigh & as you do actively & slowly engage your belly. Notice how the sound becomes more weighted & feels like it’s coming from the diaphragm. This weight often comes with conviction or a really strong “No!”
As you speak slow down your words & speak from the diaphragm. You may assist this by gently engaging the core as you say your words. Feel it in your belly & notice how the tone lowers.
Step 3: Connect to Your Heart
Conviction is a great skill to have, however connected communication requires softness as well. A demanding or authoritarian voice may carry conviction but it lacks the receptivity that makes conversation feel connected. Connected communication includes a level of openness, to listen & to learn.
Close your eyes & rest a hand so gently on your heart. Say to yourself “I am here” with such tenderness. Feel it & notice how it sounds.
From Gut to Heart
Next, engage the belly & speak as though your voice moves from the belly out the heart. Balance strength & conviction with tenderness. Speak slowly & allow each word to land. “I am here.” What do you notice?
Keeping it Real
The reality is sometimes we are awkward, nervous, sensitive, or reactive when we communicate. It's okay! We are all human. To this day I still feel nerves every time I record a video or present in front of an audience. Understanding that it's part of the game goes a long way.
This physiological connection to voice can also bring up stuff from the past. This is natural, normal, & often a sign that you are learning. Move at a pace that is both challenging & possible. Small steps carry us up the mountain, so if you aren’t able to connect to your body with that one person where you always feel insecure it’s okay! Start slow & if you feel overwhelmed it’s absolutely okay.
(* Also a note, as you go through see if you can feel instead of analyze)
About the Author
Amy Thiessen is a coach, writer, & musician who focuses on helping women connect to their confidence, purpose, & self esteem through voice & communication. Offering a holistic approach Amy helps individuals uncover & overcome their unique blocks around voice & communication, connect to their self esteem & purpose, & ultimately express themselves in a way that is empowered & impactful.
Connecting to voice is layered. For many people it feels intimate & vulnerable. In my 1:1 Embodied Voice program I work with clients to feel a spiritual & embodied connection to their voice through sound & song. Unlike traditional singing lessons this program approaches voice as a gateway for healing, self expression, self understanding, & freedom! Through processes of breath-work, somatic & vocal techniques, sound, gentle inquiry, & individualized ritual you will bridge the space between felt sense of free expression.If this sounds appealing please book a 20 min session with me with absolutely zero strings. Here you can learn more about the 'Embodied Voice' Program & we can check & see if it's right for you. I PROMISE that if I don't think I'm the right fit or I believe there is a better vocal coach or therapist for you I will pass along their info.