Your voice is the key way you connect with fellow human beings. Learning how to use it well can improve the quality of your relationships, work projects, family life, and community.
It’s a brand new year.
Who are you planning to be as you enter this next turn of the planet?
And what does your voice have to do with it?
Given that your voice is the key way you connect with your fellow human beings, learning how to use it well can have enormous impact on the quality of your relationships, work projects, family life, and community. Whether you know it or not, your voice is communicating all kinds of information to the people around you—your physical health, mood, gender, cultural background, even your sense of identity.
Strengthening your voice helps you reclaim parts of you that may have been suppressed along the way. It offers you the opportunity to break out of perceived limitations and become more fully alive in your whole self. I concur with voice teacher Kristin Linklater when she says, “to free the voice is to free the person.”
Our voices are just like our bodies: they need to be exercised and stretched to stay well. Here are several simple practices that will strengthen and free your voice in 2012.
Cultivate your yawns. | Most of us walk around with tight jaws and throats. Each yawn offers you a great stretch for that area as well as sending a rush of oxygen through your system. Whenever you can do so without causing offense, make the most of your yawns. Stretch them wide and make a delicious “aw” sound. It will give your jaw and throat a luxurious massage and your body a healthy dose of oxygen.
Try “voice yoga.” | Stretch your voice into its full range of sound—high, low, soft, loud, dark, and bright. Most of us use only a tiny part of the vocal range and expression available to us. Your voice benefits from a good workout as much as your cardiovascular system. Use it or lose it. (You can find some exercises to guide your explorations below and at www.fullvoice.net.)
Create an irresistible sing-along play list for your commuting, housecleaning, or cooking time. | Choose songs you love to sing that access a variety of vocal qualities from soft to loud, from raucous to tender. Then open up and sing your heart out. When you grow bored with the songs on one list, create another. Keep it fresh. Singing regularly will expand the range, color, and expression of your voice even when you speak.
Say “no” 10 times in 10 different ways. Say “yes” 10 times using as many different sounds as possible. | Notice your body sensations, how your voice changes, what feels comfortable and what doesn’t. Next time you’re preparing for a conversation, meeting, or presentation, think about how you might best use the sound of your voice to enhance your message. Make certain that what you say is congruent with how you say it.
Let 2012 be your year for speaking up, listening deeply, and living out loud!
By Barbara McAfee | Author of Full Voice: The Art and Practice of Vocal Presence