Words can make us or break us! "I love you" said for the first time with a new partner fills us with joy, while "it's not you, it's me" sends a clear signal we are about to break up with someone.
In the office environment too we use words and phrases also for effect. "That sounds interesting BUT....", "Let's form a project committee for that issue" and "What a fantastic idea". The question is though, how often are you thinking about your word choices?
At the moment, I am reading the book titled 'Words can change your brain' by Mark Robert Waldman and Andrew Greenberg and they discuss that negative and positive words can literally wire your brain chemistry and change neural activity.
Think of the 'killer phrases' used in the office or over used words like 'awesome' and 'game changer'. These words can bring down the energy of a good conversation, leaving people feeling underwhelmed when overused. We ought to avoid these cliché phrases and words as they do more harm. Why do we use them? I suspect often we feel like the need to say something. They become as useless as filler words like 'um', 'ah', 'oder' and 'aber'. We try to inspire, sound witty or intelligent, but miss the point that we can only inspire change in ourselves. People need to arrive at our ideas in there own time. Your word choices can repel or even offend. Another point made in the book is that we all carry different meanings to the same words and in many ways, no two people are alike in their usage of language and understanding of word meaning. Hence the problem with overused phrases.
This brings about immense challenges when we think about how we communicate. It is up to us make sure we are clear and understood, as we intended. I am sure you have been in a situation where you said something and it was taken in a completely different direction by the person you spoke to. Waldman and Greenberg offer many solutions to communication in the book. Several I am working with and thinking about at the moment include:
We all have a voice. Many of us develop our voices during our adolescence from singing in choirs, taking speech and drama training or being in the debating team. Like so many skills though, they are not formally taught as part of a curriculum in schools. Many schools will hold an annual speech contest or debating competition but few students are taught how to speak and present effectively. Even Toastmasters has speeches on vocal variety and speaks of developing your body language, but they don't discuss how to develop your voice.
This is where a Vocal Coach can be someone to think about. For me, voice coaching is not only developing your voice but your whole personality and presence as well.
"If our eyes are the window to our soul. Our voices are the expression of it!"MY journey into the world of voice coaching started when I sought to combine my understanding of voice from the world of Opera I had been involved in for over 10 years as a professional Opera Singer, with my learnings from my ICF Professional Coaching Diploma I completed in 2014. When I then started with Toastmasters back in 2015, I could suddenly see a way I could help others. Bringing my understanding and experience in breathing, dynamics, tempo, vocal range, character development, story arch, stage placement, lighting and working with others together, to help public speakers and those whose 'performance' is in board rooms, meetings and other company or community events. This gave me confidence to be able to help.
Now since 2017, I have offered more and more Voice Coaching sessions. These involve for instance, by using the GROW model of coaching, helping people to understand:
Goal - What do they want to improve about their voices? What aspects of their self would they like to bring into their voice? What personal development can be achieved through vocal development?
Reality - What feedback have they received so far? Many come as someone told them they need to present better, sound less monotone and bring more energy to their work. In reality too, how much does this person want to improve? Do they have opportunities to practice and develop over the next few months? How invested are they in this potentially transformative coaching?
Options - This is where the fun begins. By 'rehearsing' and learning to 'play' with our voices, we can begin to unlock options that might be suitable in different contexts. Sometimes this is where coaching turns into mentoring by providing solid advice on breathing, words, dynamics and other 'operatic' aspects. I bring my full toolbox of techniques and buffet of information to help the client best succeed and to take the 'small steps' towards developing their vocal confidence.
Way Forward - Ultimately though, a person must find their way. My job is partially complete when people takes ownership of their voice and decides from our options, what they would like to try out, implement for a week or even a month and where they want to develop further. Seeing people develop their skills and return excited from new opportunities and progress gives me confidence that what I do works.
Whether I work with Executives, students, Retirees or my fellow Toastmasters, I am always looking for the best way people can empower themselves. To become more aware, intentional and purposeful with their voices. To 'execute' with awareness and vocal power. Being aware of what is the best vocal tone and presence for this moment. There is no one size fits all, but bringing intention allows a person to create impact and give energy to those they interact with. This bring purpose, as the results will be seen for the person. Their objective for Coaching in the beginning can be fulfilled.
If you want to find out more about what I do and how I do it, let me know, I would be happy to talk with you further. firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on LinkedIn.
How much influence do you have over yourself? On others? On your closest friends and loved ones? On the internet and the world? Perhaps less than you think.
These days, many of us want to increase our influence. Me included. I feel the social media pull to contribute, to create content and express my talents and skills to help others. To be of influence to someone. In working with my Mentor and reading again 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' by Stephen Covey, I see that it is not important how far of an influence I have. I will never be Bill Gates, or Gary Vaynerchuck or in popular mainstream media, so I need to reflect and rethink. I need to be of positive influence first on myself.
My Mentor reminded the Q&A group I was in recently, to aim to improve 1% per month. In other words, work on yourself. First. This will positively influence those around you. They will grow and be impacted and influence those around them and so the circle of influence grows. This is the circle we can control. Not how many likes and hits we will get. What aspects of ourselves, can we influence therefore?
For one, we can be responsible for our communication. Many of the 7 habits Stephen Covey discusses can be applied to communication. How we talk to ourselves, realising we have some control in our decisions and abilities and of course how we speak to others. Instead of allowing external influences to take full control, we can be responsible.
In our communication with others:
After nearly 2,000 hours of training adults in Business English around the world, it is important to stop and reflect on what works well and what could be improved. When I first started adult teaching English in Vienna in 2015, teaching was still largely paper based. I would go to class with photocopies and provide students with information in the form of handouts. We would use Google only occasionally and I would try my best to draw terrible pictures on white flipchart paper. Smartphones were smaller back then, iPads were not as powerful as they are now and I also had a 2.5kg laptop, which made it less than ideal as I traveled around Vienna to various international companies giving lessons. One course I did provided the Trainer with a blackboard and chalk and a text book and CD player! Rather old school.
Now in 2020, I see technology like online platforms and devices as being an integral part of the learning experience for both Trainers and Students. Students can prepare for the upcoming lesson, effectively 'flipping the classroom', so you can concentrate on mistakes and things students don't know. More of the class time can be used for 'activation' of the language not 'teaching'. Trainers also don't have to waste time drawing and explaining concepts that can be easily found online.
As an example, I hook up my device to the monitor or projector, access Google image for pretty much any word I need, use websites for current content like news and current affairs and company information, Cambridge Dictionaries for definitions and level appropriate vocabulary, Linguee for translation from native languages, as well as the online learning platform GO! Platform that the company I teach for, MHC Business Language Training, uses for course content, class preparation and homework. Life becomes more and more paperless and my bag lighter and lighter. Students can also access the platform 24/7 from any device!
Another example is how I use my Surface Pro. Over the two years I have had it, the touch screen functionality allows me to use the screen as a whiteboard, meaning while my handwriting is still terrible, I am not wasting flip chart paper. I can add pictures and text using Microsoft Whiteboard and again, enhance the learning experience. Emailing the students afterwards means they don't need to jot everything down for fear of forgetting. They can relax, enjoy the experience and ultimately learn more.
What's App is also a great tool in the classroom. With a group chat students can communicate before, during and after class and I can send photos and links to relevant material, helping those who missed the class to pick up on the things they missed. For recording phrases and words it is also vital. Students often remark 'Wow! I never thought of using it in this way. Indeed, I didn't either until a student suggested it. Now I use it all the time.
In 2020, tech in training is much more than a simple Powerpoint slide deck. I am evolving my training and offering as I go, thinking about the latest features of an App and how they could be applied in my training. Learning powered by online learning platform like the GO! Platform, allows students to access a language and their trainer inside and outside the classroom. It is also fun, and virtually paperless! As a person obsessed with tech and who loves all the gadgets, it is cool to be able to offer my students something new! I encourage you to do the same and enhance the training experience for your participants.
David Corcoran is a Executive Voice Coach. He helps people take responsibility for their communication. This Blog contains his regular musings, thoughts and ideas. He is based in Vienna, Austria.