As the famous American song says, “Make someone happy and you will be happy too!” But making someone else happy just with the sound of your voice? Really? Yes, really and truly. When you convey happiness to others through the sound of your speaking voice it’s amazing how quickly that sound affects them. Your happy voice can give the momentary gift of hope to others and it is a powerful way to communicate confidence and inspire others to be confident as well.
“Voice has a lot to do with how we interact with each other,” Maraliz Campos, a certified sound practitioner and meditation instructor, tells Bustle. “One of the most immediate ways to influence the vagus nerve—the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system that has both sympathetic and parasympathetic functions—is through auditory stimulation. Therefore, the sounds we hear have a direct impact on our stress levels causing us to gravitate to sounds and voices that are pleasurable.”
Science backs her up. Neuroscientists have established that 95% of our behavior is subconscious and habitual and that 5% of our behavior is consciously determined. The good news is that we can use that 5% to change our subconscious programming and the sound of our speaking voice is a powerful tool for effectively reprogramming aspects both in ourselves and in others.
In that same Bustle article, Robin Greenwood, founder of the voice coaching app Astound, added that, “It’s also worth noting that your voice not only affects your listener, but how confident you feel about yourself.”
Over the past two years, it has been very easy to fall into the “victim response” voice: people sound flat, frustrated, depressed, even angry without consciously realizing it.
So while I realize that we can’t all sound like professional speakers (nor, perhaps, should we), nevertheless, taking some of the qualities that make them effective and successful can also help us as individuals as well as others around us. And the two voice skills key to that shared happiness are projection and speech melody. Get better at these and not only will you sound more confident, positive, and persuasive in everyday conversation, but you’ll help other people feel better, too.
Projection is the ability to throw your voice into the ear of the listener. The amount of projection and the degree of loudness in your voice depends on how far away your listener is. Even if you are talking on the phone with a relatively quiet voice you still need to project. When you project you are sending the signal to the listener that he/she needs to open and pay attention.
So try this exercise:
Put your index finger and thumb together and make the OK sign. Pretend that the “O” that is formed by your fingers is the opening of a megaphone. Now put the “O”—the opening of your megaphone—up to your mouth and speak into it. You will find yourself taking a big breath and using that breath to throw your sounds and words into your imaginary megaphone. This is called projecting. And it’s a well-supported and focused sound. Now combine projection with speech melody.
This is the ability to change pitch, either higher or lower, in order to emphasize the words you feel are important and to create a melody to your speaking voice—one that is pleasant, engaging, inspiring, and motivating.
Say “Hello! How are you?” but say it going from a low pitch to a high pitch on the word “hello.” This will engage your listener more easily. Then start on a low pitch for the word “how” and a little higher pitch for the word “are” and even a little higher still for the word “you.” The reason you are going from a low pitch to a high pitch throughout this three-word sentence is because you are asking a question and inviting a response. One always goes up in pitch at the end of sentence that asks a question. (Think of all those parodies of Valley Girls, and the way they can lilt any statement into a question—into uncertainty.)
Even better, try adding one other thing to your speaking repertoire: a smile. Smiling, it turns out, has tangible, and measurable, health benefits, as verified by UC-Irvine professor of psychological science Sarah Pressman, whose studieshave shown that the heart rates of study participants who smiled were lower than those of the nonsmilers.
But it’s also a confidence booster as confidence injector. In Fast Company’s “10 Secrets to Sounding Confident,” Christine Clapp, founder of Spoken with Authority, a Washington, D.C.-based presentation skills consultancy and co-author of Presenting Virtually: A Guide to Public Speaking in Online Contexts as well as Presenting at Work: A Guide to Public Speaking in Professional Contexts, put it quite scientifically: “Smiling not only makes your voice more pleasant to listen to, it also conveys confidence.”