This week I’m pleased to present a post by Barbara McAfee. She’s wonderfully gifted and caring, and I’m honored to have her on my blog this week. Barbara’s first book Full Voice: The Art and Practice of Vocal Presence will be released on next week. You can support Barbara and purchase her book the day it’s released, October 4, at your favorite bookstore or on Amazon.
I’m Barbara McAfee and I’m a midwife for voices. Lori invited me as a guest blogger here because she sees how crucial the voice is in fundraising, nonprofit management, and leadership.
My work as a voice coach over the past twenty years has convinced me that our voices are rich with untapped potential. For as essential as voices are in our day-to-day life, we spend very little time or attention on how to use them well.
Your voice is the vehicle for creating any idea, campaign, or relationship in your life. Think about it. How else do you get an idea from inside your head out into the world unless you speak or write about it? It can only grow, develop, and come to fruition through ongoing conversations with others.
Your voice is also a critical component in virtually all of your relationships – at work, at home, and in your community. You convey a world of information to the people around you just by the way you sound. Long before your listener decodes the words you are speaking, they have decided whether or not to trust you based on your voice and body language. And if your tone of voice is inconsistent with the words you are speaking, your listeners will get confused and may tune out altogether.
So how can we tap the power, wisdom, and intelligence that reside in our voices? Here are three simple and surprising steps to getting started:
- Play with your voice. Pretending to be someone else – Darth Vader, Luciano Pavarotti, Julia Child, the Wicked Witch of the West, or a cooing baby – will help you break out of your unconscious vocal habits. Once your voice gets a chance to stretch out in this exaggerated way, it will be easier to expand the range and expression of your everyday voice.
- Sing. Singing uses more physical energy, breath, and facial expression than regular speech. Make a play list of songs you can’t resist singing. Use your commute or your workout to sing yourself alive.
- Pay close attention to how other people’s voices sound. If you took away their words, what would the sound of their voices alone convey? How would you describe the quality of their voices: loud, soft, husky, breathy, soothing, harsh, rushed, grounded? What is your instinctual response to their voices? What are they saying underneath their words? Cultivating this awareness of other people’s voices will make you a more accurate listener and a more eloquent speaker as well.
Here’s the best news: expanding the range, color, and expression of your voice helps you access other gifts in your life. Using your full voice makes you feel more alive, embodied, resilient, and energized.
Barbara McAfee is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and the author of Full Voice: The Art and Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) which will be released next week on October 4. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.