Do employees and customers seem to tune you out shortly after you start speaking to them? If so, it could be because your voice sounds tired or that you are speaking in a monotone. Here are four ways to energize your voice and get your message heard.
A stockbroker recently asked me, “Does speaking in a pitch that is not your natural pitch make your voice more likely to get tired and scratchy at the end of the day (or is that just from the whiskey and cigars!)? I think I also tend to lapse into a monotone if I speak in my natural pitch.”
Actually, a healthy, energetic voice depends on:
1. Correct Pitch
All voices are beautiful if properly played. Some of us are flutes and some of us are cellos. Speaking in a voice that is too high or too low for your particular instrument for any length of time puts tremendous strain on the voice and can definitely make you sound tired and scratchy. We all have an optimal pitch, the place where your voice sounds its best. Speech pathologist Dr. Morton Cooper tells us humming is the best way to find your optimal pitch. Simply hum a simple song like “happy birthday” and then speak. Your speaking pitch and your humming pitch should match. Use a tape recorder or enlist the help of a friend to check your pitch.
2. Correct Tone Focus
If your voice still tires easily, the problem could be that you are speaking too far down in your throat. The throat alone does not have the power to resonate or project the voice. For your voice to stay healthy and sound its best, it should resonate evenly between the nose, the mouth, and the voice box. This area is known as the facial mask. To find your facial mask and focus your voice, simply say “um-hmm.” When you feel a slight buzz in your lips and nose you will know your voice is properly focused. Practice saying um-hmm throughout the day to keep your voice in focus.
3. Good Breath Support
Make sure you are breathing correctly. When inhaling, your chest should remain relaxed and not rise. Your waistline should expand when you inhale and contract when you exhale. Unless you are panting from exertion, this movement is small and almost imperceptible. To feel the muscles used for breath support, place your fingertips just below your ribs. Now make a quick short cough. The muscles you feel contracting against your finger tips are the muscles you use for breath support. Breathing for good speaking does not require a lot of effort. If you generally feel relaxed and healthy you are probably breathing correctly. If not, a yoga class can be extremely helpful.
4. Clean Living
My financial friend may joke about the whiskey and cigars, but I want to reiterate how bad this is for the voice. It’s commonly believed that a low, sultry voice can be a woman’s most attractive and fashionable feature. That’s fine if you’re born with it. But I have actually met women and men who smoked and drank to acquire that low sexy voice artificially. I’m all for having a good time but I just want to go on the record as saying that these people are just plain stupid. In addition to putting your health at serious risk, heavy drinking and smoking harms the vocal chords through dehydration and irritation.
Speaking in your natural pitch shouldn’t make you sound monotonous. It should make you sound great! The average pitch range is quite adequate for interesting speech. It’s very hard to hear ourselves as others hear us. Call a few friends and ask them what they think. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised.
(Note: a persistent sore or scratchy throat or a chronically weakened voice could be the sign of a serious medical condition. If you suffer from any of these symptoms please get it checked by a doctor).