Your voice reveals a lot about you and it can help, or hinder, your career. The key to a confident, clear voice is all in the way that you’re breathing and you’re probably not doing it right.
“Over time, shallow breathing has become normalised, but that doesn't mean it is normal. Shallow breathing is associated with our ‘fight or flight’ response. It’s tension,” says voice expert Nina Allinson, who works with NIDA’s corporate clients.
The issue is partly cultural: “As a society, we’ve forgotten how to breathe properly. When we breathe deeply, we reset our nervous system – but we’re so habituated to shallow breathing that breathing properly – from our diaphragm – feels abnormal!
“It matters if you want to lead or communicate anything with authority or presence. Shallow breathing gives you a thin and powerless voice. Deep breathing gives you the full, resonant voice that is congruent with qualities people seek in a leader: credibility, trustworthiness, warmth and authority.
“It’s an authority that is registered almost subconsciously. The foundation of voice work is about deep relaxation and awareness – letting go of habitual tension.”
It could be that your stomach is not as naturally flat as might be desirable, if you are sucking in your stomach, you’re not breathing properly – deeply, from your diaphragm which disempowers your voice and puts you in a state of physical tension.
“Give yourself permission to take up space – physically and metaphorically. You don’t have to look a certain way. You don’t have to suck your stomach in!,” Allinson says.
If you are giving a presentation, you don’t have to fill every moment with words, NIDA’s corporate training calls this ‘the power of pause’. There’s a difference between an empty silence full of panic, and an empowered, pregnant pause.
“The same can be said for the pace at which you speak. If you’re giving a presentation and you’re rushing through your sentences, you’re throwing your points away. You’re not owning your message. The feedback we most often give our clients is slow down.”
Part of how women make themselves smaller is often through voice: using softer, higher voices (than would be natural to an individual) and non-threatening ‘uptalk’.
The term might be unfamiliar, but ‘uptalk’ is familiar to everyone: delivering suggestions or even corrections with a rising inflection at the end, so that they sound like questions. This comes from a place of ‘not wanting to threaten’… but it also comes from a place of not giving yourself permission to take up time and space, physically and metaphorically.
“Voice is a choice. We choose how we want to present ourselves, so don’t neglect the impact your voice makes – as a first impression, how you’re subconsciously perceived, and how you’re regarded as a professional.”
NIDA Corporate offers online training options using practical methods you can implement straight away. Find out more