Do you like the sound of your voice? Can your voice be improved? Do you have an accent? In this interview with voice expert Judith Weinman, you’ll learn 5 things you can do to optimize the sound of your voice, how to leverage your voice in terms of your personal brand, and all about accents.
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YOUR VOICE IS A POWERFUL COMMUNICATION TOOL
Your voice is REVEALING
- We had voice before we had words. Consciously and non-consciously, we judge others via their voice.
- Your voice reveals your confidence and energy levels, education level, gender, sexual orientation, attractiveness, intelligence, trustworthiness, and even your physical size and health.
- Women are judged more harshly based on how they look and how they sound.
Your voice is a key part of your PERSONAL BRAND.
- Your voice can be a tool to better communicate elements of your Personal Brand such as your empathy, your global or international perspective.
- Just like your Personal Brand will evolve over time, so will your voice.
There’s no IDEAL VOICE.
- Your ideal voice is unique to you. Your anatomy is unique, your vocal folds are unique.
- If you try to sound like someone else, it won’t be authentic.
3 POINTS ABOUT ACCENTS
1. The most important point is comprehension. Are you understood?
- As long as you communicate with confidence, your accent may be less of an issue than you thought.
2. We should respect and honour others’ accents
- Accents communicate positive things such as industriousness, global experience, and a good work ethic.
- Accent indicate diversity (this is what we want!)
3. English is the universal language of business, so native English speakers often have the “home court advantage.
- The onus is on native English speakers to be inclusive.
5 WAYS TO OPTIMIZE THE SOUND OF YOUR VOICE
1. Warm up your voice.
- Before you go to a meeting or join a work call, get your voice warmed-up like you would any muscle.
- If you already practice power poses (see Amy Cuddy) add a vocal warm up to this prep time. Connect to your body, let your sound out, strike a pose, dance around.
2. Use a range!
- Our identities are multi-dimensional, we have many roles. Consider speaking with authority to an audience versus chatting intimately with a friend.
- Practice by reading a children’s story aloud. Exaggerate the ups and downs, the elongations, the loudness, the softness …
3. Go into character.
- Consider how actors give themselves permission to take on a role.
- Identify the traits you want to work on (different tone or attitude), channel someone who personifies that, and get into character.
4. Move your mouth.
- You know that saying, “lying through his teeth”? People are more credible when they move their lips and their jaw.
- Confident speakers are more likely to commit, open their mouth, and allow their words to flow out.
- Holding or rushing your breath makes us sound tense and anxious. Instead, slow your breath. On the inhale, we pause and find our thoughts. We speak on the exhale.
- Slowing your breath tells your brain and your body that you’re calm and present.
- Accent on Speech: www.accentjweinman.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Judith recommends:
- Talk About Talk #2 “Using Your Voice”with opera singer Bradley Christensen
- Talk About Talk #43 “Posture and Breathing” with Dr. Nadine Kelly, YogiMD
- Book: How You Say It: Why You Talk the Way You Do – And What It Says About You, by Katherine D. Kinzler
Dr. Andrea Wojnicki & Talk About Talk
- Website – https://talkabouttalk.com
- Free Newsletter – https://talkabouttalk.com/blog/#newsletter-signup
- Email – Andrea@TalkAboutTalk.com
- Free 20min consult – Book Andrea
- LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreawojnicki/
“ our voice reveals who we are, who we think we are, perhaps, who we’re trying to be, and even who we’re trying not to be. It’s a reflection of our personal history, and experiences, where we grew up our culture, and other factors. And in a moment, it can reflect our confidence level, our energy level, and our overall comfort in the given situation.”
Greetings and welcome to Talk About Talk. I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki (please call me Andrea!).
Welcome to Talk About Talk episode number 89. Today we’re talking about YOUR VOICE. Our voice is critical to what and how we’re communicating, but many of us don’t spend a lot of time and energy focused on our voice. Well, we should, and that’s why we’re here.
Are you an ambitious executive with a growth mindset, looking to advance your career? Well, you’re in the right place.
At Talk About Talk, we focus on communication-skills-topics like personal branding, confidence, networking, and yes, your voice. This is the important stuff they don’t teach you in school. That’s ok though, because I got your back. If you check out the TalkAboutTalk.com website, you’ll find online corporate training, 1-on-1 coaching with me, the archive of this bi-weekly podcast, and the free weekly communication-skills newsletter. I really hope you’ll go to the website and sign up for the free weekly communication skills training newsletter. But you can choose what works for you!
OK – I’m really excited to introduce my guest Judith Wineman. I met Judy on LinkedIn recently, and I’m so glad we connected! Judy is a corporate Speech, Voice and Communications Trainer at her Manhattan firm called “Accent On Speech.” In this interview, youll learn how to leverage your voice in terms of your personal brand, all about accents, a list of 5 things you can do to optimize the sound of your voice, and more!
Let’s get into this interview now. I’m going to briefly introduce Judy, and then you’ll hear my interview of her. Then at the end, I’ll summarize the key learnings.
So as always, you don’t need to take notes, because I summarize everything for you at the end of the episode. And you can always access the printable episode shownotes on the talkabouttalk.com website. So, while you’re listening, you can just keep doing whatever you’re doing – driving or walking or housework, or hanging out on the couch. You don’t have to lift a finger to take notes because I do that for you. You’re welcome.
OK – Judy. Judith Weinman is communications trainer and speech/language pathologist based in New York City, where she specializes in improving speech and communication skills, public speaking/meeting skills, accent modification, enhancing the voice, inter- and intra-office communication issues, as well as writing skills.
She has over 25 years experience as a licensed speech/language therapist and working with individuals, groups, and corporations such as Bloomberg, IBM, and Citibank to function more successfully and harmoniously, through addressing communication barriers that can impede progress. She has a BA in linguistics, an MA in communicative disorders, and she’s also had theatrical training in terms of voice, singing, acting and movement. Yes, she has a fantastic voice.
ANDREA: Thank you so much, Judy, for joining us here today to talk about the sound of our voices.
JUDITH: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here,
ANDREA: I have to admit to you just right out of the gates that I am feeling so self conscious about my voice speaking. I don’t particularly love or hate my voice, it’s kind of, I guess I’m neutral about it. And I wouldn’t say that I’m self aware of my communication in general, just given what I do for a living, but talking to you, I’m smooth.
JUDITH: Oh, oh, that’s something that really drives me crazy. In a way when people say they feel self conscious about their voice or the way they speak. Because first of all, most people struggle with their vocal image. In some respect, I really cut people a lot of slack. And I’m not judging. When I work with clients, we talk about how they feel about their voice, and their speech, and their comfort level with their own voice. And if there’s a gap between how they sound and how they feel, we’ll work on it. Because that really affects your well being your state of mind. If how you sound doesn’t truly represent how you want to be presenting yourself to the world.
ANDREA: There’s an interesting analogy here, right in terms of us being sort of queued up thinking about our appearance, and how we look to others. And now we’re thinking about how we sound to others. I think it’s fantastic to have the self awareness. So I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad by saying that I thought, Oh,
JUDITH: yeah, you know, it, it’s true. And I think women, well, I know, the women are judged more harshly based on how they look and how they sound. So I am especially empathetic, and a proponent for to women, to feel comfortable with their voice to own their voice, to not be judging themselves left and right, based on how they sound, that there’s such a history of prejudice and women’s voice, and bias and allowing women even to speak on the radio. And it’s mind boggling what women have dealt with, with regards to voice and looks. So yeah, that’s one of my passions is working with women to rid themselves of that self criticism of debt that we have batters, our voices.
ANDREA: Amazing. I can’t wait to get into that. But before we do get into that, I just want to take a step back. And you said there’s how we are feeling, right. And then there’s how we are perceived by others. And I’m thinking there’s like a, there’s a third circle here, if you want to make a Venn diagram, where it’s how we want to be perceived by others, right? So it’s how we are perceived, how we want to be perceived and how we feel. And we can kind of get all of those converging to an optimal to an optimal state, then that’s really what we’re seeking here. And I guess what my first question then is, can you start by sharing what we are implicitly communicating with our voice? So what are the, I guess adjectives or the traits that we’re saying about ourselves through our voice?
JUDITH: Sure. Well, like we just were speaking about our voice reveals who we are, who we think we are, perhaps, who we’re trying to be, and even who we’re trying not to be. It’s a reflection of our personal history, and experiences, where we grew up our culture, and other factors. And in a moment, it can reflect our confidence level, our energy level, and our overall comfort in the given situation. Research shows this is interesting, within 30 seconds of hearing a voice we are judging a person’s size, height, education level, gender, sexual orientation, attractiveness, intelligence, and trustworthiness. So the voice goes is goes deep, you know, it’s almost more it’s more primal than speech. We had voice before we had words, we pick up cues from a voice that we are not aware of. It’s not conscious. But we are judging, a person after just a few lines. It’s truly amazing. We’re high tech computers, when we hear, interpret and decipher a voice.
ANDREA: This during my brain, my brain is exploding as you’re just firing through all of this. I’m like, Where do I begin? So I love your list where you said, research shows that we’re communicating all of these things, right? And it’s it, everything that you could communicate. I even read recently may have been in a blog that you wrote actually, about how we are even implicitly interpreting other people’s health based on their voice, you can we can implicitly diagnose people as being healthy or unhealthy, which may explain why certain voices are more appealing in some way, right? They may sound more credible, more confident, and more healthy. So in terms of our voice, can you run us through A list of the different ways that our voices may vary?
JUDITH: well to speak to what you were just talking about. I think if there’s a harsh quality or a strained aspect of a voice, it implies a lack of perhaps self care, and wellness. And we hear that. So if there’s a strain, or we’ve maybe been abusing our voice, we hear that we pick it up. But what are we signaling with our voice? And you’re right, absolutely, each of those factors contribute to the overall impact we have with our voice. So tone, I’m going to start with tone. If we’re pushing our voices, in any place in our bodies and our throats, we’re going to diminish the impact we make speech and communication is all about creating spaces within ourselves, open spaces and not closing ourselves off. And connecting to our breath in such a way that our thoughts just play over our breath. Our voice travels over our breath with our words flowing. So if we’re fighting our breath, but we’re holding it, a person picks up on it, they’re not relaxed, they’re not connected to their breath.
ANDREA: So I have to say, you probably have found the same thing that breath is this phenomenon, I suppose that is so integral to so many things. Yeah, right. It’s like I, every time I turn around, there’s another fantastic podcast or article, a research study that says, breathing isn’t just bringing oxygen into your body. It’s doing all of these things. And one thing that I that I did here, when I’m doing my podcast, for example, if I’m recording a podcast, I will make especially the strong statements, the proclamations on the exhale. And I’ve heard that strong presenters, people that are giving speeches, keynote speeches, they will actually practice inhaling between the main ideas and exhaling the ideas, right? So using their breath to project to physically project their voice.
JUDITH: Yeah, but it’s all speech is produced on the exhalation. Hmm, right? So otherwise, like me talking like that. But but I think I understand what you’re saying is, in order to speak effectively, we have to take an adequate inhalation. Ah, we create space in our body. Ah, and if we’re holding our breath, we can’t think clearly find our thoughts. we pause. We inhale on the pause, we find our thoughts. We deliver them on the exhalation. Yeah. And if we’re holding our breath, we’re going to make ourselves tensor. By the way, there’s a natural relaxation reflex on the exhalation. So if we’re accustomed to speaking with a nice inhalation, and a long exhalation, we’re just calming ourselves down through our speech. We’re helping ourselves to remain calm, and grounded and present. but I want to make sure I answered your question. People expect, they think that they’re supposed to rattle off a string of sentences and there can’t be a pause. And it’s not natural. We stop, we pause, we think we find our thoughts. And then we deliver them with our words. That’s human, right. And people are afraid of pauses.
ANDREA: Yeah, that’s, that’s really interesting. It’s almost like a cliche, right? That silence is golden, or embrace the silence. And it is a common thing. We race to fill the silence with our voice.
JUDITH: Yep. And so much of the communication takes place in the silence. So allow us to sink in, right? Yeah.
ANDREA: No, I think I’m gonna leave that in. That’s funny.
JUDITH: Okay, so I started with tone and breath. I work with men sometimes who don’t open their mouth, so they have a lot of jaw tension, or the whole there’s their sound back in the back of their throats. Okay, so if you don’t move your mouth a lot when you speak, you’re going to, you’re going to sound mumbled because and also you probably going to talk fast because I can talk really fast if I don’t love my mouth. Okay, so it won’t be the voice. Do you want to projected in the front of a courtroom? Right? Okay, you’re here, you’re further divergence, ladies and gentlemen. You know, that expression is lying between to his teeth, … It doesn’t sound fully committed, like maybe he doesn’t fully believe what he’s saying. Or he’s not confident about his message, right? Because if you’re confident you’ll commit, you move your mouth. You allow your words and sounds to flow out. You’re not holding in any way if you’re holding back What do you hide in our voice and speech thinking? It’s also why
ANDREA: I never thought of that before. So I have heard that showing your hands implicitly shows your audience or the person you’re communicating You have nothing to hide, because you are literally showing them what’s in your hand, I’m not holding a gun, I’m not holding a rock that I’m going to throw at you. I’m showing you my hands, I have nothing to hide, you can trust me. But actually using your mouth and opening your jaw, you’re also communicating enthusiasm, if nothing else, right?
JUDITH: Absolutely. commitment to the word you’re speaking and the words you’re shaping and sharing. Right? You should teach the word you’re speaking one of my teachers wants to have. Yeah, absolutely. And that’s just another form of protection and holding back and one of the many habits that we create over time to protect ourselves. If you change the way you speak and sound, you will affect the way you feel about yourself, change your voice and change your future. That’s what I truly believe. And we can get stuck in a certain identity even I’ve worked with young women and business, and they still sound like they’re in their sororities. And when they’re talking to business, it’s not going to convey the credibility that they’re looking for. And it can be so hard to let go of this identity, because it’s what they’ve been using for maybe four years or so.
ANDREA: And it’s related back again, to just being self aware. So do you sound like the person you used to be? Or do you sound like the person that you want to become? Right?
JUDITH: And we’re constantly changing, and our voice has changed over a course of our lifetime. And once in a while, it’s important to check in just my voice represent who I am now. Am I still talking with a little girl voice? Or am I still talking from my throat? And then when I speak to be heard, people call me harsh or abrasive? Well, it’s because you got used to speaking with your throat, there’s a theory that some women are afraid of feeling their power, space within their bodies, their torso, especially, and reaching those lower fundamental, frequent those frequencies and feeling their power. Because they don’t want to come across as dominant or too strong. Sometimes women aren’t even aware of it for women. Do you want to come across as strong and credible? Yeah, I do. It’s important to me, I’m all for that. Well, then, let’s let’s let’s investigate this. But in your 40s…
ANDREA: Oh, my gosh, Judith, my brain, again, is just going crazy. So I do a lot of work with my clients on personal branding. And I talk about explicitly and implicitly communicating your brand. But I’ve I’ve rarely spoken with someone on. So what is your voice communicating? Is it consistent with your personal brand, right? And there’s a massive opportunity there to talk to people about once we’ve articulated your personal brand, how can we signal those things through your voice?
JUDITH: Well, our personal brand can be more than one thing. It might be one of credibility and authority. It also is one of warmth, and, and relatedness. And, and wow, I can relate to this person. So in depending on the context, if you’re part of your brand, if you’re presenting to a large group of people, you might want to cultivate a strong authoritative sound and one that carries throughout the hall if you’re in a bland space, right? They need to feel your presence based on that space. And that’s appropriate. And you need to be flexible, even within your brand. Because then when you’re having a conversation with a friend or a client one on one, you might you know, use more a warmer tone. And but that’s part of who you are, too. You’re, you’re not one dimensional, human being are multi dimensional.
ANDREA: Youre reminding me of a girlfriend of mine, who I admire her so much. She’s very, very strong, personally and professionally, she’s very admirable. And she’s she’s a great business person. She’s a very successful executive. But if I go for a walk with her, you know, just around the block, or we go for a power walk. I feel like saying to her, turn your volume down, not everybody needs. Right. So it’s like that part of her personal brand being this strong, successful executive. It may be to be filtered out a little bit through her voice when she’s not in that executive context.
JUDITH: This is really interesting. People become comfortable with an identity that they’ve honed, and that’s the like we’re talking about, that’s the voice they’ve become comfortable with. It’s the one that works. And it’s absolutely fine to talk like this sometimes like with your friends. You’re cutting yourself off from the different aspects of your personality. If you rely on that one character that one person So now, because you’re much more than that, and sometimes I’ll work with clients on something called voicing the shadow. And it’s about if you allow yourself like women fear, sounding small or delicate. And sometimes we’ll just play with characters, depending on what their goals are, of course, but you might speak 10 different ways in a given day. Because a voice is flexible, it needs to be flexible, to express all the different parts of who you are. I’ll work with these men who very sound very professional, but then when they need to tell someone, okay, we’re going to have to layoff 100 people, they can’t use this strong, but this place that they become very comfortable with and honed for their career. Right? Right, I have to be flexible, you have to be open to the different voices that are within you, depending on the situation.
ANDREA: So what are the levers that we have to change our voice? So obviously, well, not obviously, but you did mention breath and posture. And in terms of cadence, just embracing the silence? What are some of the other things that we can turn up, turn down and play with the at physically or even a mindset that will change the way our voice sounds?
JUDITH: Sure, some of my clients tend to speak in a bit of a monotone, especially people tend to push their voices down in order to try to sound deeper or more authoritative, they ended up end up just sounding monotone. And that’s another that’s an issue in itself, because we have to train them to work within their range, and understand what resonance means. It’s very safe to kind of stay within a rigid range. Occasionally, I’ll do exercises with a client, say I’ll have them read aloud a fairy tale, once upon a time, and really exaggerate these aspects of voice, the ups and downs, the elongations, the loudness, the softness, to explore the dynamism that they are capable within their voice, but that they are not just not used to accessing on a daily basis. But when shown and reminded, wow, this is what you can do with your voice, how powerful this can be if you bring some of this into your meeting, or conversation, right. So it’s difficult for people to access a voice they’re not used to using. So I also have a background in singing and acting and improv. And character use is a great strategy for finding another voice that we might not use on our own. But once we explore that character, and ah, we’ve been that loud, preacher, man, and then I have you get up and deliver your speech without voice now just tone it down a bit. Oh, you found that feeling and sound within yourself. You’ve got that? See there? It’s just reawakening it or eliciting it or bring it right.
ANDREA: Amazing. I love that. So people are giving speeches, I have coached people to emulate to borrow someone else’s confidence. And I have the story about how I went out on stage at a university theatre where I was teaching over 1000 students and they make me up and I said, I felt like Madonna and I was a little bit nervous. But I had this it occurred to me, maybe I can channel The Madonna’s confidence. And I walked out there and I felt like a rock star, right? But actually, maybe mentally practicing that. Like I can imagine Madonna greeting her audience. Hey, everyone, right?
JUDITH: I love it, Andrea, we allow ourselves to do different things when we become another character. That’s why I also I do accent modification. And I find that with actors, they are so much more willing to do a different accent or have sounded different way. They’ve given themselves permission to be different. It doesn’t it’s not phony, that being a character. So when you’re a character, you allow yourself to feel a different way that you wouldn’t it within the confines of your own ego and identity. Ah, where allow yourself to play. Ah, because we don’t say so much as adults we play is. Right. And it’s a great way to access these different sounds and voices that that are within us. Sometimes I’ll have a client belt out like a woman who tends to hold back and we’ll start a session we’ll just belt out and Aretha Franklin song, right. So she’s not pulling back. We’re thinking forward – forward momentum, right? Because we’ve noticed a tendency, she kind of even pulls back in your body forward, sing it out. And you’re Aretha, who you know, she’s talking Who are you? There’s so many tricks and strategies we can use to borrow these parts of our voice.
ANDREA: So one of the questions that I wanted to ask you is about the ideal voice, which you know, based on what we’ve already been talking about, it really depends On the context, I’m still gonna ask the question, but understanding there’s going to be a lot of caveats here, right? So in a business context, so for example, if you’re seated around a boardroom table, and you want your voice heard, you want to be respected. You want people to respect your expertise, what would the ideal voice so like?
JUDITH: So the ideal voice within this context, because like you said, it’s very context specific. Okay, so an ideal voice is not pushed or strained. An ideal voice is connected to the person, or the breath, an ideal voice is aware of the space that it’s in, and what needs to happen in order for it to be heard and your presence to be felt in within its confines, by every interaction is your gauging, what do I need to do with my voice in order for it to be heard, and to pour in order for my message to be felt. But again, this ideal voice idea, it depends upon the context if you’re culturally, so um, you know, different cultures do voice differently. Japanese men kind of pitch their voices lower than so they would say that’s more of an ideal voice in that context. Japanese women have the highest voices, and it’s expected. So that’s what an all these I these issues related to voice and ideals, there’s so many factors that apply when working internationally, because you need to consider this is a cultural fact. But an ideal voice in a meeting, you want to sound like you believe what you’re saying. You don’t want to be rushed. You don’t want to be holding your breath. But an ideal voice has a unique voice to your anatomy is unique, your vocal folds are unique, right? If you try to sound like someone else, it’s not going to work. You know, you have to pay attention to your rhythm, your breath, or else it’s not going to come across as authentic and real and powerful.
ANDREA: 100% 100%. So this reminds me of Margaret Thatcher about how she took voice lessons just before one of her elections which she then one and then apparently she went on record saying part of the reason that she won was because she changed her voice. And if you go on YouTube, you can watch these videos where they play her speaking before and after. And there is a significant difference in how she sound.
JUDITH: there’s quite a bit of political folklore attached to that Maggie Margaret Thatcher story. And there’s actually no proof that she worked with a vocal coach. Oh, she worked with Saatchi and Saatchi which is a PR firm. But it was an embedded was a decision she made based on her own feelings about her voice and her advisors. I read that when beginning of career, she sounded a bit like a school mom. She had a squeezed voice, and it sounded a bit pushed, and in a big push. And as Britain started to proletarianize her advisors wanted her to sound monitor, but to be able to reach the ordinary people, not just the upper middle class. And so she needed a simple – more to the point like boys, if she said, You can’t spend more than you earn, it would sound patronizing. You can’t spend more than you earn. So she lowered it. She’d also been experiencing dry throat and coughing and sore throats from the way she was pushing her voice when we were thrilled. And she was losing her voice and unable to speak, and certain context. So she did lower her voice, again and again, that does go along with this issue that women have had throughout history and with their voices and being judged.
ANDREA: It’s not just how we sound it’s how we look. It’s how we present ourselves. That’s what we talk about. It’s the whole deal, right?
JUDITH: Absolutely. Yeah. And one could argue she, she had to make herself sound like a man in order to be respected. I truly don’t believe that’s the case, I believe. But if she had understood how to use of voice helpfully, and ask yourself, it wouldn’t be about trying to sound like a noun. It would be creating a resonant sound with her natural voice, because she was pitching her boss awkward. And, you know, so it’s tricky, and a lot of it comes down to this margaret thatcher’s story. Yeah.
ANDREA: Yeah. Well, it’s kind of like the cliche voice story, I think. But it reminds me also of a quote that I heard you say in a previous podcast of yours that I was listening to where you talk about the home court advantage, and this was in the context of different people’s accents. So when people go to new cultures, new countries, where people speak Certain Way, and their voice may sound different, it may make them self feel self conscious. And they may want to kind of minimize the sound of their accent, if nothing else to optimize the clarity of what they’re trying to say. So do you have any guidance for people in terms of accents?
JUDITH: Yes, listen, English has become the global language for business. That in itself sets up an inequity issue, we talk about diversity inclusion. So both non natives and natives need to be aware of the issues that arise when dealing with this. The number one concern is that a person is understood that their speech is clear enough to be understood. But many of my clients who have accents are completely fluent, and might have one or two words here or there that are a little hard to understand. But what they are often working on and striving for, is to master the music, the intonation, and the ability to express themselves with nuance more effectively, I’d say 90% of my clients say I don’t want to get rid of my accent, I just want to feel a more organic connection from my brain to my mouth. And to feel really comfortable in my sound. Like I had an Indian client who was let go from a position. He was an accountant, because he was quoted as on the phone are saying $70 million when he had actually said 17 17 $17 million.
JUDITH: Right. 17 numbers 17. And in addition, clients were asking to work with other accountants because they were having trouble understanding him. Now, I don’t believe this should be an issue that should be addressed or talked about on such eggshells, I believe he should have felt comfortable enough to ask for the support. And I believe that HR should have been supportive enough to say we really value having you and I don’t think it should be this issue of Oh, it’s such a taboo thing. It should be an open discussion. There should be no stigma, oh, my God, they speak another language. That is that’s more than most Americans speak. And when I work with American business people, and they go over to Japan, I’ll train them. This is what you do, this is what you don’t, you’re going to be perceived as rude if you do this, etc. And to go back to the playing field issue. So if this Indian speaker is working in an American firm, and most of his firm is made up of Americans support him.
ANDREA: Yeah, it’s not it’s not a stigma. I like that word you brought in the word stigma. And it’s almost like the onus is on us. If we are the native language speakers, and we hear someone else whose accent sounds a little bit different. It’s not a bad thing, right? It’s a signal of their experience, which is the very beginning.
JUDITH: interesting. There’s different perceptions about accent I, when I hear an accent, I’ve always loved accents. Yeah, well, they have a different viewpoint. And that’s what we all want in business in a meeting you want various viewpoints, it also shows that they’re industrious, and then educated and hardworking. Now those are natural bias that occurs in human beings, infants will go to a voice that they’ve heard in vitro, at five years of age, kids will be friend, a kid who sounds like them over a kid who looks like them. In other words, how they sound is more important than how they look. So we have these natural biases that are instinctive. Yeah. But knowing this having this awareness, we can do something with that. And also, it’s been proven that business people may perceive someone with an accent as being less savvy, less culturally savvy, right? But studies show that when an accented person speaks with confidence, that completely disappears, right? But the challenges with my clients is speaking with confidence. Because they’ll oftentimes they’ll Fear not saying something correctly and end up not speaking up.
ANDREA: Or it could be for at least two reasons, right? It could be because in their culture, the ideal is to not speak with such outstanding confidence, you need to be a little bit more meek. It also could just be that as you said before, we are innately primed to seek similarity. Yeah, but but you know, I know that some of your work focuses on diversity and inclusion. And so if we know that we have this innate focus to seek similarity, we should be challenging ourselves to enlighten ourselves and part of diversity and inclusion. include people with other accents right? Full stop.
JUDITH: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, yeah, I worked Yeah, I worked with this is Eastern European woman. She was from Poland. And she came to me because she felt like she was being kind of socially isolated within her office was mainly women. It was American men. When she felt that she wasn’t being like she wasn’t being invited to lunch, along with honors, and jokes weren’t kind of shared, she just felt a sense of non belonging. And then when she came in, I discovered that she had kind of held back voice and her face did not move very much when she spoke. And it was a bit monotone. But what I discovered through talking with her was that she had a terrific sense of humor, she was funny. And what was puzzling, is that this company prided itself on diversity and inclusion, if they weren’t aware of the bias that they had for this woman’s voice. So I believe it’s a two way street goes, people shouldn’t be educated about bias and voice. And she wanted to adapt to her situation and circumstance. So we worked on, for example, bringing out her sense of humor, so that it translated with her voice. It just wasn’t translating. Again, speaking to the home field advantage, we all get to work at it. Yeah. So she actually enjoyed the process of finding these different ways of expressing herself. And she found it quite enjoyable.
ANDREA: Sounds empowering.
JUDITH: It is exactly. Some person Yes, this is my Polish self. This is my American self. This is my like when I you right? Right. And you can access different parts of your identity, it can be really illuminating and fascinating.
ANDREA: Yeah, I can imagine working with you would be exactly that. very empowering and inspiring. And every time you’re talking about one of your clients, or, or perhaps a stereotype of someone you are taking on that persona, you I’m watching you on the screen, and I’m hearing your words and your tone. And you are an incredible actress Judy, you really? Yeah, it’s fun. It’s fun. It reminds me I read a book called how you say it by Katherine Kinsler. She’s a linguist, I believe, and she goes through a ton of research. It’s a very dense book, I loved it. But she talks about how a lot of what we think we’re perceiving with people consciously and non consciously is focused on appearance, you know, and then maybe where someone where someone is from, but we don’t really think about how are we gauging that and she said, The research shows that your voice and specifically your accent, people make judgments about you immediately and strong judgments, be they positive or negative about you based on your accent, right?
JUDITH: Especially accents of people who have been marginalized and oppressed. We also have bias against with familiarity bias, familiarity breeds contempt. There’s quite a bit of truth to that, even with accents. And with women, I had a woman come in and she told me that a banker at her firm told her we don’t need sorority sisters working at the firm. And it was it’s the opposite of a supportive role model. Right? So it was it was but that’s what I don’t want to be I’m hearing in your voice when I maybe have part of his that is in me and that I don’t want to be and I resent you for it. And I’m gonna take it out on you. yeah, we feel our insecurities. And we hear and it’s, it’s reflected in another person who, but yeah, and it’s up and it’s not fair that certain accents are biased against more than others. Nothing in life is fair. Right? in every culture does it German hot northern German from southern New England, the Irish, they are the mack daddy. So with accent, right? It’s true. Voice It is like the smell for of animals for humans.
ANDREA: Oh, I love that. I love that analogy. I love that analogy. So before we go on to the five rapid fire questions, Judy, I’d love to ask you how, regardless of what our voice is, what our accent is, how can we look after our voice? So I’m thinking about so if I’m about to turn my mic on for recording a podcast, or if I’m about to give a speech, or I’m about to give a presentation in a big meeting? What should I do in the short term, but then also, what habits can I adopt to optimize the sound of my voice throughout my life?
JUDITH: One thing we talked about breath, even when you’re not speaking, be mindful of your breath. You go into a meeting, pay attention, if you’re holding your breath, breathe. Because when you go to speak, if you sound like you’ve been holding your breath, you’re going to sound rushed.
ANDREA: And I also noticed, just as I was asking that question, you took a sip of water. Is it true that taking a sip of water will make your voice sound better?
JUDITH: Well the vocal folds need to stay hydrated. Absolutely. It’s important to drink water. And for vocal hygiene, we don’t push the voice. I worked with a Coxon once who she was used to pushing her voice. So that’s vocal abuse and you do that enough. You’re going to damage your voice.
ANDREA: I’m guessing the same for Vocal Fry?
JUDITH: vocal fry isn’t necessarily abusive to the vocal folds. Oh, Yeah, it just doesn’t sound good. It sounds like you’re dis engaged from your breath. And it’s also frequently just associated with an adolescent sound. So nothing to for your credibility. Before you get on a meeting, I work with clients who may be sitting at their computer for hours on end, and then have a call or a meeting and find themselves needing to kind of find their voice and the first five or 10 minutes of the meeting, what they should do is do some work ahead of time before you get on the call. Jump around the room. Oh, sing around, leap around, do some trills, get your voice warmed up, so that when you get on that call, you’re running on all four cylinders. And you don’t have to spend the first five minutes warming up right
ANDREA: it’s almost like you’ve got momentum.
JUDITH: Yes. Right. You know, and with Amy Cuddy, you know, with the power poses, well add that tenfold, you have the power poses, you’re connecting vibration to your body, you’re letting your sound out, oh, I’m the queen, you dance around. And oh my gosh, what you’ve just done with your voice and preparing you for this meeting is it’s better than taking a pill.
ANDREA: Amazing. I love that. So so And what about making our voice last for our lifetime? Is there anything that people do? You know, I’m thinking also of singers or people that do a lot of public speaking. So how do they look after their voice in the longer term,
JUDITH: there are days when I speak all day long. And I’m my voice never gets tired or rough really, because I’m, I know how to use it. If you are using your voice in a helpful way, it will last you a lifetime. If you’re not pushing or straining, okay. And oftentimes people don’t know they’re clamping down on their phone, the muscles around their vocal folds and creating strain, or a lot of throat clearing. That over time can affect voice over it. Interestingly, men’s voices tend to get higher as they get older, and women’s tend to deepen. Yeah, but that’s aside from quality, the clearness and the lack of noise and your breath should be fine as you age. I can speak all day, with this gentle bringing together my vocal folds, because I’m using my breath efficiently and effectively. No problemo, I’m nonstop.
ANDREA: I feel like it’s all about the breath.
JUDITH: If there’s one thing it’s like tension and tension and space, making ourselves big, not small, making ourselves relaxed, not tense, and yes, connected to our brand.
ANDREA: Amazing that is going to definitely end up in the show notes. Okay, let’s move on then to the five rapid fire questions. Are you ready?
ANDREA: Question one. What are your pet peeves?
JUDITH: Okay, well, I live in Manhattan in New York City. And one of my pet peeves is when people walk on the left side of the sidewalk. That drives me crazy. I like to order another pet peeve. And I hope you don’t think that sounds snobby. But because I’m really not a snob, this issue with pronouns with is for Sheila and I, and so little in me that drives me bonkers. And Robert and myself are planning a party. Oh, Robert and I are planning a party.
ANDREA: I share that one with you, Judy. I actually tell my kids take the other person out of the sentence. Imagine this shoe and how would you say it now add that back in? You’re good. That’s not a big deal.
JUDITH: It just drives me nuts. And another one. Not to get gross but i think is my pet peeve is when women pee on the seat. You know, it’s mind boggling. I go to the Met. I go to the to museum and it drives me crazy. I don’t get it. I might want to edit that one out. Andrea. It’s a pet peeve. It really was one of the first things that came to my mind.
ANDREA: it’s staying. That’s hilarious. Okay, second question. What type of learner are you
JUDITH: a kinesthetic, really,
ANDREA: I thought you would say auditory?
JUDITH: Well, I can hear something. But if it’s taught to me in a voice, I don’t connect to or I don’t find engaging, I’ll tune out. But when I have to do something, and I go through the motions, and I noticed all the issues that arise when I’m doing this that I wouldn’t know about if I just heard about or watched I Oh, okay, I feel it. I’m aware of these very subtle movements or our thoughts and
ANDREA: you are a natural actress. As you’re answering the question your body is, is communicating the answer. It’s amazing. Okay. I told you. I’m convinced. Okay, question number three, introvert or extrovert.
JUDITH: I am I believe I have both of those in my personality like most people, but I do believe I have a bit more of the extreme versions of those through school. I think I went through my kindergarten year not saying a word. So I yeah, I’m naturally very quiet person and a listener and observer. But I also have a very strong part of my personality. That is entertaining. I like to, and I like, I like to be president and kind of, so I finding the balance between those is the challenge for me in everyday life.
ANDREA: I can see that I can see that OK. What is your communication preference for personal conversations?
JUDITH: Yeah, I text, but I don’t like texting, typing and I think I record my message on text. I looked it for editing and I send it because so yeah, because it is just the quickest, most efficient.
ANDREA: Yeah, I do that when I’m in the car and I say please blame Siri for typos. OK, last question. Is there a podcast, blog or an email newsletter that you find yourself recommending lately?
JUDITH: Yours. And I look at your summary notes that are just so well done and so painstakingly clear. It’s just really, really well done. I gotta lot from it. Another one is that I love John Mcwhorter’s podcast Lexicon Valley. John Mcwhorter talks about linguistics and how language changes, overtime and cultural differences, and he’s also a lover of music, and he incorporates musical interludes and personal anecdotes include related to the topic, and is just terrific. I love it lazy, another woman who I really discovered through LinkedIn and her name is Elena Preslova. She’s an organizational psychologist, but she talks about these very complex issues in such an accessible way from my voice of kindness. Just love her. She reminds me of my mom.
ANDREA: Oh that’s so mice., OK, I will leave links to that podcast and the organizational psychologist in the show notes. Before we finish I wanna ask is there anything else you want to share with the listeners about how we use our voice?
JUDITH: Well I would say our voices are so much more flexible and valuable than most people think or understand. The voice is a vehicle for exploring who you are and learning more about who you are and the various ways that you can express yourself.
ANDREA: Thank you so much Judy. Your message is empowering, inspiring and I really learned a lot. Thank you so much.
JUDITH: Thank you, it was my pleasure. I really enjoyed it.
Well, I’m definitely feeling more conscious of my voice now that I’ve had this conversation with Judy. But that is a very good thing. We should all be more conscious of our voice. There’s so much opportunity to enhance our communication effectiveness through our voice.
Thank you so much to Judy. She left me feeling inspired. Did you feel the same? And yes, her voice is lovely, isn’t it?
You can find Judy’s coordinates, (her website, how you can connect with her through social media and so on) in the shownotes on the talkabouttalk.com website.
OK – As promised, I’m now going to summarize some of the key learnings. I’m going to summarize what we learned about ACCENTS, and then I’m going to share a list of 5 things that can help you leverage your voice.
But first, I want to emphasize a few thoughts regarding our voice and our personal brands (surprise surprise!) I don’t know if you’ve ever consciously considered this, but
Your voice reveals who you are. Your voice a KEY part of your personal brand.
Judy said, and I quote, “our voice reveals who we are, who we think we are, perhaps, who we’re trying to be, and even who we’re trying not to be. It’s a reflection of our personal history, and experiences, where we grew up our culture, and other factors. And in a moment, it can reflect our confidence level, our energy level, not to mention a person’s size, height, education level, gender, sexual orientation, attractiveness, intelligence, trustworthiness, and yes, even their physical health.
I’m thinking it might be easier to identify what our voice does NOT reveal!
Given all this, I want to underscore the significance of our voice in terms of implicitly communicating our PB. If you’re a leader or if you want to become a leader, ask yourself, does my VOICE sound like a leader? Is your voice authoritative?
And just like your PB will evolve over time, so will your voice. That sorority-sister voice was certainly a legitimate part of your identity when you were in college. But now that you’ve established your career and you’re gunning for that promotion? Maybe not so much.
What other elements of your PB can you communicate with your voice? It could be your confidence, your empathy, your global or international perspective.
Speaking of global perspective, let’s talk ACCENTS for a minute here.
It’s not surprising that research indicates that we pick up on accents readily, and we make judgements about people based on their accents. But Judy highlights that as long as you are clear and understood, and as long as you communicate with confidence, your accent may be less of an issue than you thought. The #1 concern should be that you are understood. After that you can play with various vocal elements to communicate your message.
We REALLY should respect others’ accents. And we certainly shouldn’t stigmatize accents. In fact, we should honour them. Accents can communicate POSITIVE things such as industriousness, global experience, and diversity of thought. These are all good things.
English may be the universal language of business. That means that English speakers have the home court advantage. That’s great, but it also means that the onus is on native English speakers to be inclusive.
Now, 5 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO OPTIMIZE THE SOUND OF YOUR VOICE
1. Warm up your voice.
If it’s first thing in the morning or you’ve been sitting quietly in front of your computer for a few hours, get up outta your chair. Jump around. Be expansive. Sing. Trill. Breathe. Warm up your voice like you would any muscle. Now youre ready to use your voice.
2. Use a range!
Most of us don’t leverage the range of our voice.
nsider your range in any one conversation but also across various contexts. One voice for giving a speech, another for giving someone private feedback, another when you’re at the dinner table or at a restaurant.
For example, you can vary the tone, the pace, and the volume, to explore the dynamism that youre capable within your voice, Judy suggests that you consider how you’d read a children’s book with suspense and nuance. Use that range in your voice.
She also reminds us that our identities are not one-dimensional. We have many roles. And similarly our voices should not be one-dimensional. Speaking of roles, the third suggestion for how to optimoize your voice:
3. Go into character.
Channel Aretha Franklin or whomever you need to get yourself into character. If you’re working on a different tone or attitude, or perhaps projecting your voice or perhaps on your confidence, channel someone else who personifies that, and get into character.
4. Move your mouth.
You know that saying “lying between his teeth?” Well, we find people more credible when they move their lips, your jaw. If you’re confident you’ll commit and move your mouth. I never thought about this before. But it’s true, isn’t it?
So we’ve covered 4 of the 5 ways to optimize your voice. Warm up your voice, use a range, go into character and move your mouth. Can you guess #5?
5./Breathe. It’s key.
Breathing is always key, isn’t it? This is an aside, but other than sleeping. There’s no other phenomenon that I’ve heard of recently that seems to be getting so much traction across so many contexts. If we can master breathing and sleeping, we can conquer just about anything. We are born knowing how to breathe and sleep, and yet we seem to forget. Hmm.
So breathe. When we use our voice, when we speak, it’s on the exhale. Pause to inhale. Pausing is a good thing!
Don’t race to fill the silence. Slow down and calm down.
Don’t push or strain your voice. And don’t hold your breath. Relax and let the words flow with your breathe.
Yes, your voice will change as you mature. But it can last a lifetime if you don’t push or strain it. Just breathe. Got it?
That’s the 5 things you can do starting right now to optimize the sound of your voice:
Well that’s it for this episode on USING YOUR VOICE! Again, you can find the shownotes on the talkabouttalk.com website. Just click on the PODCAST tab and you’ll find it there.
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THANKS for LISTENING. I mean it. Thanks for listening and Talk soon!
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