What Does Your Voice Express?
BY YOUR appearance you give people a certain impression as to the sort of person you are. That impression, of course, is based only on what they see. People also base their judgment on what they hear. In fact, far more revealing, far more indicative of your personality is your voice. It can proclaim ever so many things, which may or may not be true. Yes, the very sound of your voice can do good or harm to yourself and to others.
Have you not found it so, that how a person says a thing, the tone of voice in which he says it, inclines you either for or against him and what he says? If his voice is warm, friendly, kind, pleasant, is it not likely to win you far more than if he sounded cold, harsh or strident? Yes, because we all are influenced by emotion, and the tone of voice in which something is said conveys either a favorable or an unfavorable emotion. Thus some forty years ago, President Roosevelt by his Fireside Chats, delivered in a warm, friendly, sympathetic and reassuring tone of voice, instilled hope in many of his listeners.
Not that how something is said is more important than what is said. Not at all! Better to hear the truth told in a cold or unpleasant voice than to have falsehood spoken with a smooth voice. But the truth said in a kind, friendly, winsome way without a doubt will be more effective than if spoken in a harsh or unpleasant tone of voice.
A Marvelous Instrument
Well has it been observed that no musical instrument can compare with the human voice in the variations of tone it can produce. And man alone has the ability to use his voice to produce speech. As evolutionist Hooten admits in his book Up from the Ape: “All of the anthropoid apes are vocally and muscularly equipped so that they could have an articulate language, if they possessed the requisite intelligence. . . . There is nothing about a snout that prevents its possessor from speaking, but there is something about the brain that goes with a snout that makes speech impossible.” True, parrots can repeat the sounds they hear, but their bird brains do not know what they are saying. Speech expresses ideas. No ideas, no intelligent speech.
Not only does mankind have the power of speech but practically all persons can improve the quality of their voices. The possibilities are there. As has well been said: “You cannot tell, by any anatomical means, the larynx of a prima-donna from that of a woman who has the voice of a raven.” And again, “There is little or no discoverable difference between the vocal mechanism of the savage and that of the most accomplished singer or speaker.”
So, regardless of how your voice may sound, you can improve its quality, and it is to your advantage to have your voice sound as pleasing and effective as possible.
Just what does your voice sound like? It is difficult for you to determine this. Why? Because it is natural for persons to be partial, and so inclined to think their voice is quite all right. Then, too, you hear only sound waves coming through the air when others speak. But when you speak you receive not only these sound waves but also the vibrations your voice makes through the bones of your skull. This causes you to hear your voice with more resonance than it actually has. That is why most persons are disappointed when they hear their voice for the first time as recorded by a good tape recorder. And even then it is necessary for you to hear your voice repeatedly before you will be able to hear it as it actually sounds to others, that is, be able to evaluate it objectively!
The Physical Factors
There are several basic factors that determine what your voice expresses. One is the way you use your vocal organs.
Take the matter of posture. A good, upright posture is essential to producing a good voice. Why? Because your voice depends upon your breathing, and good posture is necessary for good breathing.
Proper breathing is diaphragmatic breathing. The tendency of many is to use merely the upper part of the lungs, but for a good strong voice, and one that does not tire easily, you need to get into the habit of diaphragmatic breathing, involving the lower, larger areas of the lungs. Most persons do not speak loud enough, and faulty breathing may well be the reason.
Proper use of your voice also requires that you keep relaxed—your vocal mechanism, the throat, the jaws, and the entire body. Why so? Because tenseness of one part of the body tends to make the rest of the body tense. When you are tense your voice is likely to be harsh or strident—not at all pleasing qualities. Or it may merely be too high in pitch, thereby losing some of its power or effectiveness. Make an effort to be relaxed and most likely you will sound relaxed.
Ever so many persons speak with poor articulation or enunciation. This may be due to a structural defect in the mouth. But, on the other hand, these weaknesses may be due to a careless or slovenly manner of speaking. By giving thought to the consonants these persons can improve their articulation. Others may have poor articulation because of speaking too rapidly, such often going with a nervous temperament. These can improve by deliberately slowing down and, in particular, dwelling more on the vowel sounds. This at the same time will result in a more sonorous, pleasing and musical quality of voice.
The Psychological Factors
Of course, the physical factors governing voice quality which we have just considered represent but one side of the coin. The other side, which might be equally if not more important, is the psychological and personality factors. These involve the mental, emotional and religious aspects of speaking.
In fact, so much is this the case that a textbook on voice training states that the training of the voice must go hand in hand with the training or improvement of the personality. Granted, the improving of the personality is more difficult than the training of one’s voice, yet the fact cannot be overlooked that the improvement of the voice in some respects depends upon the improvement of the personality.
It therefore follows that if you are an outgoing, confident, cheerful, friendly person, your voice will reflect these favorable qualities. On the other hand, should you be timid, morose, indifferent, or should you be arrogant, intolerant, critical, harsh or emotionally distraught, your voice will display it, even as it betrays your physical condition if you are weak or sick. So if you do not want your voice to give others these impressions, then you must eradicate such qualities from your personality and replace them with optimistic, sympathetic, alert and confident characteristics. You will find that, to the extent that you painstakingly make efforts to express such qualities, others will respond in kind, helping you in your efforts.
Applying the Principles
Giving thought to what your voice expresses will help to make for better relations with all with whom you have to do. It might even be said that the matter of voice quality is implicit in the counsel given in the Holy Bible. For example, wives are told by the apostle Paul to accord their husbands “deep respect.” Unless the wife’s voice is deeply respectful, any respectful words she might utter would be only hypocritical.—Eph. 5:33.
Similarly, in regard to the attitude of children toward their parents, God’s Word commands children: “Honor your father and your mother.” Genuine honor and respect are indicated by the tone of voice as well as by respectful words.—Eph. 6:2; Heb. 12:9.
In all our communications with others, we should want our voice to express accurately what is in our mind and heart. When you speak to those in positions of governmental authority, does your voice reflect a feeling of honor and respect for their position? What does your voice reflect when you speak to your employer? That depends upon what is in your mind and heart. Likewise when speaking to overseers in the Christian congregation, if you truly feel honor and respect for them, that is what your voice will express.—1 Thess. 5:12, 13; Heb. 13:17.
Perhaps more than others, those who preach the Word of God from the public platform should be concerned as to what their voices express. If a public speaker is soft-spoken by nature he will need to give thought to strengthening the tone of his voice if the subject he is dealing with calls for a powerful delivery or the expressing of strong righteous indignation. Another, whose natural delivery is loud and bold, will need to give thought to using a softer tone of voice when dealing with such subjects as prayer, kindness, mildness and gentleness. And, of course, all such also applies to the reading of the Bible from the public platform; the ‘music,’ as it were, must match the words.
No question about it, our voices are capable of great variety. Whenever we speak we have a message to give. Make certain that your voice matches your message. In this way you can best honor your Creator, can best communicate with your fellowman, and will also derive the most satisfaction from using this marvelous instrument, your voice.