I've been here before. Somehow, I've found myself caught up in an argument with an acquaintance about something that I strongly believe in. Even though I know my facts better than him, my voice is shaking, my breath is short, and my face is flushed with complete redness.
I can't seem to compose myself and with each passing argument, I feel like he is winning. Not in facts, but in calmness and composure. I mean, at this rate, he might as well be defeating me with facts because my delivery is absolutely horrific.
I'm stammering because I am so upset about what I'm hearing from the other side, frustrated that I can't seem to get my point across, and even more annoyed that I can't get myself together. What is wrong with me?
Cue in Arthur Joseph, the creator of Vocal Awareness, a proprietary and trademarked method of exercises that helps people develop their best use of voice. He uses a combination of body language, intonation, range, and depth (just to name a few), to help everyone from NFL athletes to politicians speak in their most powerful state. He is also the founder of the Vocal Awareness Institute and has over five decades of experience in helping others find their most authentic self.
We had the opportunity to chat on the phone about his work and what started as a simple interview of questions led to an hour-long chat about him helping me find my most authentic self. Although I'm still working on myself (aren't we all?), Joseph says that you don't have to intimidate yourself with being perfect today.
Whether you're looking to become more confident in your day-to-day interactions, nail your next presentation, or simply feel more in control in negotiations, you can start right now.
Begin with a slow, silent, and conscious loving breath.
Oftentimes, we are hurried. We get flustered before we've even had a chance to register what's going on, and the disappearance of a proper breath leads to poor results. Joseph explains in his book, Vocal Leadership:
"Your inhalation [should last] five to six seconds. It is never rushed or forced and is always silent. Rushing and then presenting creates untold tensions in yourself and in your listener. By retraining your breathing patterns, you are shifting behavior from rushing and presenting to a redefined focus where you gain control (70)."
Perhaps you don't have time for a long breath before beginning every conversation. The moral of this step is make sure you're checking in with yourself and sending out the best of intentions and the most authentic version of yourself as you begin to speak.
Have a persona statement.
This is you in a sentence. Ask yourself first: how would I like to be perceived?
Smart, kind, tenacious go-getter, ambitious, capable? Go ahead, write it all down.
Next, you have to believe it. Joseph says in his book,
"Replace the phrase 'I want to be perceived as...' with 'I am.' (47)"
Don't be afraid to be honest here. No one else will read your words - just you. What next? Read it out loud. Chances are, you'll need this next step to fully complete your first step into Vocal Awareness.
Place a period at the end of every sentence.
Have you ever caught yourself saying something, realizing you're unsure whether what you're saying is true, and then finishing your sentence in an upward question-like intonation? Joseph says it's time to get rid of that bad habit. Starting with your persona statement, circle the period at the end of each sentence.
Then re-read it out loud with punctuality.
I am smart.
I am kind.
I am tenacious.
State it out loud and believe it. Whether you're re-stating your persona statement or talking to a colleague, speak confidently and end each sentence with a period. From here, watch yourself, your body language, and your overall energy shift with confidence.
Although this is just a small look into what Joseph has to offer, it's the first step anyone can take to truly own their voice and then receive immediate results. It's a practice, of course, but Joseph says it best on his website:
"It is never simply what we say but how we say it that matters. It is no longer acceptable to merely convey the message but, equally importantly, to embody the messenger."