Is listening to recordings of your voice unpleasant?
One of the best ways to hone your public speaking skills or presentation skills is to record your voice when you practice. Listening to the playback helps highlight verbal crutches you may want to eliminate such as, ‘um’, ‘like’, and ‘so’. It also provides a way to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and ask yourself: When do I sound the most clear and concise? At what points do I lose focus or lack volume? When trying to emphasize a particular thought am I straining vocally? These things become easier to identify and fix when you use a recording of yourself to prepare. Yet many of us would rather eat glass than listen to the recorded sound of our own voice.
It doesn’t even sound like me.
Many of our clients say they don’t like the sound of their own voice. I often attribute this to previous negative public speaking experiences. Maybe that failed book report from fourth grade is haunting you. Or the time you crashed and burned giving the speech at your grandmother’s 75th birthday. But it turns out bad past experiences are not the primary culprit – science is!
Jonah Bromwich, a reporter for the New York Times recently explored why so many of us find the sound of our own voice off-putting. Bromwich chatted up John J. Rosowski, a professor and researcher at Harvard Medical School who focuses on the middle ear and William Hartmann, a physics professor at Michigan State University specializing in acoustics and psychoacoustics. (Side bar: how fascinating is the concept of psychoacoustics? A whole branch of psychology devoted to the “psychological and physiological responses associated with sound”?!?)
Ok, so according to Hartmann, because our vocal cords vibrate when we speak we experience the sound of our own voice internally. The vibrations of our voice “are conducted through our bones and excite our inner ears directly.” To make things even wilder, other factors influencing how we sound to ourselves include the interaction of these vibrations with “cerebrospinal fluid, the clear liquid that sits within the brain and spine.” More science!
Why do I sound so weird to myself?
Here’s the thing: the most typical pathway we experience sound through is external. Vibrations from the air pass through the “chain of our hearing systems, traversing the outer, middle and inner ear.” When we hear a recording of ourselves our brain experiences the sound of our own voice through an entirely different channel than it normally does – hence the weirdness. This just further supports Bespoken’s belief that there are no ‘good’ speakers or ‘bad’ speakers. It also explains why many of our clients shy away from taping themselves when practicing their public speaking and presentation skills.
Now that you know why you dislike the sound of your own voice, and that it’s perfectly natural and normal, you have one less excuse not to utilize this effective and useful tool the next time you’re preparing to speak publicly.
Athletic coaches. Vocal coaches. Acting coaches. Cooking coaches. Business coaches. Life coaches.
I’ll say this about Westerners; we really like our self-improvement regimens. We don’t always stick with them, but we do like them.
In fact, that’s why we hire coaches in the first place.We need experienced people who can help us find and stay on the path towards maximizing our potential.
But why work with a communication coach? Communication is a natural human ability. You open your mouth and words come out. It’s pretty straight forward, right?
Actually, it’s not. Unless all you want to do is just bark at people and be heard. That doesn’t take a whole lot of work.
But if you’re actually interested in communicating with people in a way that gets positive results, here are five reasons to consider working with a communication coach.
A COACH CAN HELP YOU MASTER THE ART OF COMMUNICATION
Tiger Woods was born with a talent for playing golf. But he didn’t come out of the womb hitting eagles.
Tiger needed help developing and refining his natural talent. He had the potential, butit was his golfing coach, Butch Harmon, who actually helped him win eight majors.
We all have basic communication skills. Most of us can successfully navigate through a Wendy’s drive-through window and get the food we ordered.
But do you know how to communicate with people in a way that is engaging? Compelling? Honest? Effective?
Can you clearly articulate ideas and solutions as they pop into your head, right at that moment?
What about your body? Are you able to walk into a room with the kind of presence that commands everyone’s attention? Are you using your body to communicate your thoughts and intentions in a powerful way?
If you said “yes” to all these questions, then you don’t really need to read the rest of this article.
But if you, like most people, have said “no” to any of these questions, then there’s probably room for improvement.
And it’s important to remember that you CAN improve. You might not be communicating at the level you want to today, but you can get there.
A communication coach’s job is to help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
COACHES CAN HELP YOU CLARIFY AND ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS
Maybe you want to be able to give a successful and persuasive presentation to a group of business investors.
Maybe you want to know how to make it through a job interview without breaking out into a cold sweat.
Maybe you’re an employer, and you need help communicating assignments and directives to your employees.
Or maybe you just want to feel more confident sharing your ideas with other people.
Your goals will determine the type of coaching you need. That’s why it’s important to be clear about what your goals are.
If you don’t know where you want to go, you’re going to go nowhere.
A coach can help you examine your goals and create a path towards meeting them. Even the simple act of speaking your goals out loud to your coach can help you see those goals more clearly and determine how feasible they are.
Once you’ve shared your goals, your coach can then set about the task of creating certain milestones of achievement –- sub-goals that need to be accomplished before your final goal can be reached.
A COACH OFFERS AN IMPARTIAL EYE
You are the ultimate blind spot. You can’t see yourself communicating while you’re communicating, so it’s hard to see how effective you’re being.
You might try to “read your audience”, but it’s not as if they can give you constructive feedback like “stand up straight” or “breathe more deeply.” They don’t even throw tomatoes at you like they did in the old days.
A coach is an audience member who speaks back, providing you with an outside, impartial eye. They can see what you can’t see. If you’re unable to hold an audience’s attention while you speak, a coach can tell you why that’s happening. They can help bring unhelpful habits to your attention so that you can correct them.
And the best part is, they won’t throw a tomato at you. Not a single one.
A COACH HOLDS YOU ACCOUNTABLE
I used to take piano lessons when I was a kid, but I didn’t just practice the piano only when I had the actual lessons (well…sometimes I did). I was supposed to practice every day, and then when I showed up for my lesson, my teacher would evaluate my progress and get me ready for the next level in my development. When I didn’t practice my lessons, she could tell, and I’d get a lecture.
When I put in a good week of solid practice, I actually looked forward to my lesson because I wanted to show my teacher how much I had improved.
I said earlier that there’s a difference between having an ability and having mastered that ability. Mastering the art of communication requires the application of time-tested communication techniques as well as consistent practice.
If you’ve ever tried a self-improvement regimen, like exercising, changing your eating habits, or not saying anything at all when you can’t say something nice, you know how difficult it can be. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
Knowing that we have to report back to a coach on a regular basis helps to maintain the discipline we need to put in that continuous effort. It’s not that we’re doing it for the coach; it’s that we’ve made a commitment to ourselves to improve our communication skills. Your coach’s job is to help you keep that commitment to yourself.
A COACH IS A PART OF YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK
Life is full of failures and setbacks. Your big presentation might not go as well as you hoped. Or it might have gone great, but you still didn’t get the job position, close the deal, or make the sale.
During those times, you need someone who can help you stay positive. You need someone to encourage you to keep your eye on the prize.
You’re probably familiar with the “underdog sports team” movie genre. The underdog team makes it to the championship game. They get the crap kicked out of them during the first half. During halftime, everyone on the team is depressed. They want to give up.
But their teary-eyed coach gives them an inspirational, rousing speech. He/she tells them they’re the best damn team he/she ever worked with, and no matter what happens, they should be proud of themselves for making it this far. So they should just go out there and have fun.
We all know what happens next.
The underdog team goes back out for the second half and beats the favored team by one point, right as the buzzer goes off.
Sounds cliché, I know. But clichés are clichés for a reason…
This is what coaches do. They help you keep moving forward when you have every reason not to. And they’re able to do that because they’ve been through the fire themselves. They’ve known the sweet taste of victory as well as the agony of defeat. Because they’ve been through it all, they’re in a much better position to help guide you to victory.
Have you ever hired a communication coach or another type of coach for the purposes of self-improvement? What was your experience like? Did you benefit from working with a coach, or do you feel like you could have improved on your own? Post your thoughts in the comment section below!
D.G. Watson is a playwright, comedian, and freelance writer based in Las Vegas. Follow his shenanigans on Twitter @digiwatson.
Bespoken co-founders Leah Bonvissuto and Jackie Miller channel years of professional theater experience into training people to be better communicators and powerful speakers. Our work is customized, on-your-feet and interactive, and designed to improve communication and presentation skills, confidence, presence and emotional intelligence. Rooted in powerful yet practical theater techniques, we provide personalized, in-the-moment feedback to optimize retention and growth. We believe everyone has an innate ability to communicate powerfully and purposefully.