Jim, who was in his ‘30’s, was told by his boss that his co-workers were afraid of him because he always sounded angry. This news came as a huge shock to Jim, who told me that this seemed to come out of left field and he couldn’t believe it. “I never argue with my co-workers and I always do my best to cooperate and be helpful”. Why do they think I sound angry? What is it about my voice that sounds so angry to them?
Jim had a strong voice, clipped the ends of his words and spoke very directly. Indeed he came across as a no nonsense person. However, his speaking pattern was a result of something much deeper.
When I told him he sounded like someone who is always on guard, he said, “Wow, you’re a professional, and you hear that in my voice! Amazing”! As we talked he told me that he had no idea why he sounded that way and that he certainly didn’t want to sound angry at work or in his personal life. “I have a wife and a young child”.
We began by teaching him to relax his breath. He was taking a very short inhale and then holding his breath as he spit out his words. Many people who hold their breath do so because they are speaking fast. However, in Jim’s case, I could hear that he held his breath because he was expecting to be attacked verbally. He worked out a lot and was physically strong, and had no trouble breathing deeply and easily when working out.
By doing a relaxation breathing exercise for 2 minutes every 2 hrs., he became very aware of how much he held his breath and how much easier it was to speak from a relaxed place. Relaxation gave him the space to recognize and understand that, by practicing speaking exercises, he had a choice over how he wanted to sound.
Next I taught him to inhale as he opened his mouth to speak and then to speak on the exhale which gave him a more resonant, relaxed and rich tone of voice. After a month of speaking with breath support, he sounded a lot less defensive and angry. The breath support also brought his voice out of the back of his throat at which point he became concerned that he was speaking to loudly. We followed this with volume control exercises.
While we were working on the loudness exercises, Jim had a huge realization. He said that he sounded angry and feared being too loud, because he had to defend himself and his sisters from his father, who had been a physically abusive alcoholic during the entire time he was growing up. He could now hear that his voice tone of hidden anger was developed as a result.
This voice tone was so much a part of him that it wasn’t until he started practicing voice exercises that he put two and two together. He realized that he had been using this angry voice tone to interact with the larger world. It was a huge breakthrough for Jim and it released him to discover many new ways of expressing himself verbally. Changing the hidden message in his voice changed Jim’s life and gave him the speaking skills and confidence to be an outstanding speaker and communicator. “Congratulations to Jim!”
I recommended that Jim speak with a counselor or go to Al anon to get support for his inner healing.
If you would like to learn more and discover how you can improve your speaking voice, Sandra offers a 25-minute Voice Analysis Consultation, http://www.voicepowerstudios.com/analysis.html