Is Your Voice Promotable?

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Voice improvement for your success

Do you like the sound of your voice? Does your tone of voice benefit or hurt you in your life? Would you like to access your strongest and most attractive sounding voice?

I recently hosted an event at a Fortune 500 company, where three senior vice presidents answered employee questions about professional advancement. Prior to the event, I asked a technician if the three executives, whom I had not yet met, should have microphones.

“Oh no,” he replied, “you listen to their voices, and you immediately know why they’re vice presidents!”

In my 17 years of communication training and coaching, I have noticed one consistency about voice: A person with a strong, attractive voice has a big advantage over a person with a weak, unattractive voice. A person with a good voice commands attention, has fewer interruptions and is more likely to be perceived as a promotable leader.

When we analyze intonation, we can generally identify four major types: nasal, mouth, chest and diaphragm.

Most of us have heard someone with a nasal voice. It has a high-pitched, almost whiny quality that can turn people off in a hurry. This is not the type of voice that helps one’s professional or social life.

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Some Asians and Asian Americans use the mouth voice. The mouth voice makes sounds but is not very powerful. I will not go into here the cultural, social and psychological factors that may contribute to this type of voice. It suffices to say that people who use the mouth voice can sometimes feel invisible: They’re overworked, under appreciated, neglected of their needs and passed over for due recognition. The person with the mouth voice cries out to be heard, but more often than not, no one is really paying attention.

Most men and, to a slightly lesser degree, women use the chest voice. This is the type of voice that sounds pleasant enough and can generally maintain listener interest. There’s nothing negative about the chest voice, except that it is not the best possible voice.

For all of us, our best, strongest, most attractive and most natural voice comes from the diaphragm. A person who uses the diaphragm voice commands attention, sounds more attractive socially and is more likely to be perceived as a promotable leader.

What can you do to access your best voice? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Breathe right. People who don’t speak from the diaphragm also don’t breathe from the diaphragm. To breathe correctly, simply inhale and let your stomach rise, and exhale and let your stomach fall. Breathing is the most fundamental activity we engage in to sustain life. Proper breathing can relax us physically, calm us emotionally, solidify us psychologically and sharpen us mentally. If we breathe right, everything else about us will begin to fall into place.

2. Make sounds based on diaphragmic breathing. Whether you’re singing, speaking, chanting, laughing or even yawning, develop the habit of projecting from your diaphragm.

3. Take a singing or acting class.
Many of these classes begin with vocal warm-ups from the diaphragm. And these classes can be a lot of fun!

4. Work with a private voice coach. In my experience, most people are able to access their best (most powerful and attractive) voice in one to two hours. The rest is simply practicing vocal exercises until the new voice is fully internalized.

Your voice is a beautiful instrument, but many of us forget to take full advantage of this wonderful gift. Access your best voice, and you’ll access your best self.

For more information on breathing techniques and voice improvement, e-mail me at the address below.

Preston Ni is a professor of communication studies, Fortune 500 trainer, executive coach, and organizational change consultant. His column appears the first Friday of every month.


Write to Preston at commsuccess@nipreston.com, and access free resources at nipreston.com. © 2008 by Preston C. Ni. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Preston Ni is a professor of communication studies, Fortune 500 trainer, executive coach, and organizational change consultant. Write to Preston at commsuccess@nipreston.com, and access free resources at www.nipreston.com.