I’m intrigued by voices and I really like to work with them. Whether it’s my own, or the voice of others. Because your voice is who you are. Just like the eyes, the voice can be a window to someone’s soul. And without becoming ethereal, I want to explain the reason why your voice reflects so much of your personality, and why it’s good to be aware of this.
When we communicate verbally with others directly, the human voice is one of the four means of expression. The others are words/spoken language, facial expressions/body language and attention. The first two are obvious: language as a mental expression of the self, body language as the physical one. But what has attention got to do with this?
I am convinced that your authentic voice, which is able to really reach and touch people, is most powerful when you’re connected to your intuition and your attention is in present moment. When your attention is consumed by thoughts or memories, you’re not present. Having your attention fully and intensely in the now means that you’re tuned in with all your senses, connected and responsive to what’s going on around you.
So the voice is one out of four means of verbal expression. But what exactly is it that we express from ourselves? What is ‘the self’ anyway? I like to look at the self as an ongoing process of experiences, emotions, feelings, thoughts, beliefs, values and intuition. Let me discuss each one of them briefly:
Experiences: All events from your past that stay with you, your memories. Most of this information is unconscious and stored in your body.
Example: when you were young, people would make fun of you while you were singing
Emotions: physical and instinctive reactions to an experience, necessary for human survival. The most basic emotions are sadness, anger, fear, joy and disgust.
Example: “When people make fun of me, this makes me sad”
Feelings: When you have an emotion, you make a specific mental translation out of this. Feelings are individually shaped and can be very refined.
Example: “I feel ashamed about singing”
Thoughts: Mental concepts about ourselves and the world around us. A thought is distinct from a feeling in the sense that it is also formed by sensory information of our experience of the world.
Example: “I’m not good at singing”
Beliefs: When a particular thought is repeatedly thought of, it becomes a belief. Beliefs are assumptions that we make about the world and ourselves that we hold to be absolutely true.
Example: “I’m the kind of person that is not a good singer”
Values: Concepts that we find important to live and act upon. Values guide people’s actions and behaviour and form their attitudes towards things.
Example: Modesty. “I value to be modest about my ability to sing”
Intuition: The centre of all other processes, both mental and physical. Intuition results in direct knowing without any use of conscious reasoning. Personally, I believe that intuition is a manifestation of the collective consciousness.
Example: “I don’t know why, but I just need to sing”
I emphatically think of the above as ever changing, flexible processes, and not like fixed elements of the self. Thoughts and feelings are things that you have, they are not what you are. They don’t define you. A thought is like a wave of the ocean: it comes up, and it disappears again. The thought is merely some piece of content of your life. While you, the ocean, is the context, the space in which the thought unfolds.
In my model all expressions and processes of the self are connected to each other, and they influence each other constantly. So when someone comes to see me with a particular voice problem, of course we work on voice techniques. We also look at body language and occasionally to the use of language. Sometimes that’s just what’s needed: learning new voice techniques, polishing up some old habits.
But when someone mentions stage fright, stress or insecurity combined with voice problems, voice coaching will only make sense if you are prepared to look at your internal processes as well. This could mean you have to recognize, accept and regulate emotions that the voice brings up. Or it could mean you need to diffuse from certain thoughts and beliefs, if they get in your way of speaking freely. And imagine the opposite: maybe you don’t know how to make impact, how to speak from your heart. Then you can learn to connect more with feelings and emotions, and express them through your voice.
Overall, your voice is at its best when you’re not carried away with one dominating thought, feeling or emotion. In an ideal situation, all these processes are balanced. However, since we’re human beings, this will often not be the case. But if you can direct your attention to the present moment, you’re already doing a great job. Trust that everything you’ll need for the task, like your experience, inspiration, preparation or talent, will be there. From that presence, your intuition will give rise to exactly the right words, voice and body language that enables you to connect with your audience in an authentic and powerful way.