By Lin Parkin
April 5, 2011
Vox Daily welcomes guest blogger Lora Cain!
Communicating effectively can be a challenge for both men and women, however, women have a unique set of challenges to overcome.
Lora offers up ten practical tips that will help women to be heard more in both their personal and professional lives.
Learn more in today's Vox Daily.
By Lora Cain
A lot of women complain that they hate the sound of their "squeaky" voice and that others don't listen to them because of it. But changing your voice has to do with more than just pitch and tone - it's your breathing, even the shapes your lips make and especially your attitude. Here are 10 tips for women to have a richer, deeper voice that can help you be heard even more in your professional and personal life.
If you're speaking softly, talking with your head down or starting sentences with "I'm sorry, but...", you're telling others that they don't need to listen to anything you have to say. Say this every morning as you're brushing your teeth or in the shower: I deserve to be heard. Then notice what you do when you're talking to others.
Do you look them in the eyes when you speak or do you need to lift your head? If it's too intimidating to look directly, pick the spot between their eyes and just above, where the third eye would be.
If people are often asking "What did you say?" that's a clue that you need to speak up. When telling a story about others or events that happened, women are notorious for saying "I'm sorry, but..." and then making their point of what they thought the other person should have done or what should have happened. It may sound like you're being humble but you're actually apologizing for expressing your opinion and that's what others hear. You have a right to your thoughts and opinions - speak them.
It's important to get a good night's sleep for many reasons but specifically to help your voice. The larynx completely relaxes during deep sleep and that allows you to have a deeper sounding voice all day. Even more important, watch your stress levels. Not only does stress lead to heart disease, diabetes and obesity, it also tightens your throat, neck and jaw muscles and makes it difficult to avoid squeaky voice syndrome.
We can't live without breathing but so many of us do it wrong. We breathe quick and shallow gulps rather than the full bellied inhales we need to completely oxygenate our blood and entire body. Practice inhaling on a count of 5 and exhaling on a count of 5. Your fullest sound will come through breathing from your diaphragm. Put your fist against your abdomen just below your lowest rib. Say some sentences and notice if your fist is vibrating or even moving along with your words. If not, you're speaking out of your "head voice" which can be overly high and even nasally. For a deeper sound, speak with your "chest voice" that is connected directly to breathing from your diaphragm. Practice making "puh" sounds with your fist against your abdomen so you can feel it pushing out. Tell a story to yourself in the mirror and notice when your diaphragm is moving and when it's not.
You may have had a lot of practice as a kid learning to talk in class with your friends without moving your lips but it can be a detriment as an adult. Speaking clearly can be less about your sound than the sounds you're making. Stand in front of a mirror and over exaggerate each long vowel sound one at a time. If you look ridiculous, you're doing it right. It's a singer's trick and it works very well for speaking. Saying tongue twisters quickly are another help. Some favorites are: bad blood, good blood and red leather, yellow leather. Find your favorites on the internet and practice until you can do each three times very fast.
Practice growling. Really. You may not even know what the deepest part of your voice could sound like. Growling like a bear, roaring like a lion or even grunting like a gorilla may surprise you at just how low you can go. And it can give you another option to use besides the tighter, higher, squeakier sound most women get when they're upset.
Everyone knows that it takes fewer muscles in your face to smile than to frown. But did you know it also changes the tone of your voice? When you smile, your voice literally has a smile to it and that comes across to others. It's especially important when you're on a phone call and your voice is all the other person has to go on when they're communicating with you. There are serious moments when a smile isn't appropriate but a friendly attitude that is repeated in your voice can go a long way in even the most important professional and personal discussions.
Women are also notorious for ending every sentence as a question rather than a declarative statement. It may sound to you that you're being more positive by having your last word end on an upward note. But it says to others that you're not sure what you're saying and they don't have to take it seriously. Let them know that you know what you're talking about - period.
This may be one of the hardest suggestions as so many women can't even listen to their own voice mail message on their cell phone. Buckle up and get yourself an inexpensive digital hand-held recorder. You can use the feature on your phone if it's excellent quality. What you hear in your head may be completely different than what you actually sound like. It may be better and it may be worse. But the only way you can tell what's working in your practice and what isn't is to listen. Get one of your favorite books and read a paragraph into the recorder. Notice what you like and don't. Then practice your breathing and speaking techniques and see what's working.
It's important to practice in the mirror but it's so in the moment you can't tell exactly what you're doing. Most lap tops have a web camera where you can record yourself or get a cheap used one on Craigslist. Film yourself practicing your exercises and then speaking normally so that you can see how you're actually coming across to others.
It's been proven that maintaining a health diet and exercise schedule is easier when you're doing it with a friend. Connect with another woman who's working on her voice and practice together. Ask each other to point out when you're falling back into your old sound and habits so you can make the changes right then.
Have you figured out any tips for your voice that have really worked for you? Did you have trouble getting people to listen to you? What did you do to finally get heard?
Lora Cain is a nationally known voiceover talent and communication expert and the first female to ever guest announce Wheel of Fortune. You can vote for her to get the full time job through April at www.WheelofFortune.com/feedback. You can like her on her fan page on Facebook and join her on Twitter @LoraCainActs.
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