Human speech is a special kind of music. Just as in singing, the instrument we use to play it is the voice. Instead of a song, we project a verbal message. Even though perhaps you can’t carry a tune at all, the way you speak can make all the difference to how any particular message is received. In human speech, the ‘way that we say it’ – your very distinctive individual qualities of voice – can and do greatly influence the person to whom you are speaking. It could be that the tone of your voice is out of kilter. People are intuitive, and you can be sure that negative emotions will always affect your voice tone and will be picked up by whoever’s listening. Any mismatch between what you’re saying and how you say it will instinctively be recognised by the hearer. Imagine a witch on a broomstick cackling ‘I love you’ and you’ll get the general picture. Or, more to the point – how often have you been told to ‘have a nice day’ by someone in a tone of voice that unmistakably says ‘I couldn’t care less’? Ideally, the voice tone provides a flow of heartfelt feeling that floats the message down the channel of authentic communication. Even without words, your tone of voice – the sound alone – can carry with it the universally recognised qualities of caring compassion and human service.
So before you start to speak, check you’re in touch with any negative feelings. You’ll then find you’re relaxed and able to focus on the present moment. Take a tip from professional singers when they need to reach an audience – deepen your breathing, bringing the air into your lungs by lowering the diaphragm rather than expanding your chest. The degree of highness or lowness of your voice is called its pitch. If you tend to have a high-pitched voice, practising deep breathing will bring it down into a lower register. Don’t try to talk when you’re breathing in. This simple procedure will help to make sure your words flow well – that your verbal messages get literally expressed on the even tide of your outgoing breath.
You will also have noticed that your natural rate of speaking tends to speed up when you are excited, angry or anxious and to slow down when you’re sad, bored or depressed. As the interpersonal communication techniques to which you are presently being introduced bring you closer to the ideal, you’ll find yourself more and more able to climb out of these lower, subjective states into a condition of true awareness. You’ll reach a higher plateau of consciousness – what has been called the ‘sunlit uplands’ of the authentic self. At this level, you don’t have to worry about the speed at which you talk. You will be on cruise control. The rate at which you speak will automatically adjust itself to the rhythm of your relaxed breathing. You will also find the volume – the loudness and softness of your voice – will become effortlessly proportionate to the distance between yourself and your audience. The atmosphere of calm this generates around you will be projected toward the person or group of people to whom you are speaking. Without trying, you’ll have made sure there are optimum conditions for favourable reception of your message.