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Can you really change your voice?

06 June 2011

Years ago, a professional woman said to me: “No, I am stuck with this voice. You can’t change your voice.” I was perplexed and a little sad.

The voice has an extraordinary capacity to express the infinite complexities that make us human. When you are born, your voice expresses over 8 octaves (see the famous Roy Hart http://www.roy-hart.com/8_octive_voice.htm).

Believe it or not, you once had a voice that was full and expressive (unless you were born with a pathology). It is your birthright.

So how do we get this less expressive adult voice?

Very early on, we adapt our expressive self through mimicry and learned behaviours. We learn that to express fully is unfavourable. We get messages in our different cultures and families such as: “Little girls should be seen and not heard”, “Stop whining”, “Pull yourself together”, “Grow up”, “Don’t speak until you are spoken to” etc. These messages register emotionally and psychologically in the suggestible beings that we are as 2,3,4 year olds.

In turn, the body and voice, begin to contract and repress the actual desires that we wish to express. And here is the birth of the civilized voice.

Over the years, our natural voice becomes more contracted and the civilized voice is further shaped by the emotional knocks and bumps of life; finding your place in your first school, fitting in with your friend groups, the search for identity through puberty, evolving through your rights of passage from a girl to a woman, establishing your voice in the world through university and your career, fitting into the way of speaking in your business.

As you can imagine, the voice creatively adapts to help you ‘fit in’. However, this civilized voice is far from the free expressive voice that you had as a child.

When business people come to me to work on their voice, they are, in fact, overwhelmingly delighted to find that a freer voice gives them a sense of ease, joy and energy. It allows them to express more of their personality and power in communications.

To think you can’t change your voice is to hide your light under a bushel. Your natural voice is your energy and spirit revealed from inside to out. What a gift for both you and your listeners. Free your voice, free your power.

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3 comments

  • Sue Averay

    Sue Averay 7 years ago

    It is my experience that many women underestimate the contribution of their voice to the first impression they make on other people. I thank my lucky stars that early professional positions forced me into being the 'mouthpiece' of organisations. Seeing and hearing myself in media interviews helped me understand the potential of the ways in which I can use my voice, while yoga, singing and Toastmasters have provided me with the technical tools to put this understanding into practice.

  • Jacqui Carling-Rodgers

    Jacqui Carling-Rodgers 7 years ago

    I think girls should be encouraged to do proper theatrical training in primary school. Not only will it give them confidence in large groups, but it also hone their voice so as they grow into adults it sounds pleasant and authoritative, not weak or shrill. Also I believe girls ought to take part in debating to learn how to frame and articulate a message. The good news is these are skills that are never too late to learn.

  • Judy West

    Judy West 7 years ago

    So incredibly interesting Lucy, and expressed so well. I have one of the voices you describe, possibly as a result of having \"fitted in\" too often. A crowded noisy room is a nightmare for me, my voice virtually disappearing - not through shyness but the inability to make myself heard. Can you recommend a voice coach on the Gold Coast?