A beautiful voice…
A friend told me the other day that he thought Stephen Fry had a beautiful voice. I pressed him to tell me more about it. “It just has a fantastic rich tone,” he replied, “It’s a great voice.”
On one level I agree. But his remark takes me back many years to a moment in a shabby room in Rome entirely dominated by a grand piano. I am with my maestro for my daily singing lesson and he is speaking forcefully: “What’s this with beauty?” he rants. “A voice doesn’t have to be beautiful; it has to express something! Why do you sing?! You have to know why you sing!”
This has been a bit of a theme this week. I gave a presentation on Hypnotic Voices at the NLP Conference a couple of days ago and as so often the subject of what and why came up. Many trainee hypnotherapists are taught what to do to produce a deep voice in order to connect better with the deep unconscious of the client. But the voice – even a deep one – is powerless on its own to connect – it’s the intention behind it – the why – that counts. We need to ask about the effect of our voice on the client – it’s about purpose and connection.
There’s a notable difference between the warm resonant statement of someone whose intention is to produce a warm resonant voice and the warm resonant statement of someone who feels warmth towards the listener and resonates in tune with them. The sound of the former – the person creating the ‘voice’ – has a slight stiffness as he or she manipulates the physical space inside for the ‘warm’ sound, whereas the sound of the latter is more flexible, has more overtones – and is infinitely more interesting to listen to.
It’s great if we can tell the difference. Beware the empty sound bite!
How to speak with influence
The impact of a voice cannot be separated from its meaning. Now, the way to a voice that expresses meaning is different from the way to a beautiful-sounding voice – very different actually. If we think in terms of producing a nice-sounding voice we will be interested in technique alone and ask the question, “What do we need to do to sound good? What’s the technique?”
The renowned hypnotherapist and teacher Stephen Gilligan says that his student hypnotherapists are always asking, “What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?” They want the techniques, and fast. Trainee coaches are often on a similar quest regarding powerful questioning tools: “What do I ask? What do I ask? What do I ask? Give me the techniques!”
“What?” can only get you so far. The way to an expressive voice as to successful hypnotherapy or coaching goes on from “what to do” or even “how to do it” to “why”; it’s an exploration of the live relationship between me and you expressed in my intention – the meaning and identity I bring to it.
This what versus why turns up everywhere. When doctors wanted to understand living human beings they studied dead bodies. They began to tell us what happened when you ‘fell’ ill or “caught” a virus. But why you at this particular time in these particular circumstances should be susceptible to one of the millions of viruses in circulation, ah, that they could not tell us.
Orators studied discourse. They discovered the rhetorical question, the rule of three as in “friends, Romans, countrymen” and the three dynamics of persuasive dialogue. They taught these things and yet it didn’t add up on its own to profound oratory. The great speakers used these devices – so much was true – but using these devices did not on its own produce great speakers. We can see this in some politicians well-schooled in oratory today…
In my NLP Conference talk I referenced the work of the extraordinary hypnotherapist Milton Erickson. Erickson used his voice with great mastery but he didn’t put vocal expression into what he was doing; rather, his meaning produced expression in his voice – entirely the other way around. To produce mastery you can get only so far through recreating tone of voice, volume, pitch and so on. You have also to understand the why and introduce your intention into that connected trance space and let go with trust. If given freedom to do so the powerful authentic voice emerges naturally from that intention within.
How do you do that? The means to the why is more likely to be discovered through light-hearted exploration than through dreary technical drill. The great news is that the discovery of this inner intention shortcuts the what – the technique – and you find you have the skills anyhow.
This what/why question has wide application. The next time you are in the throes of “gotta do, gotta do, gotta do” maybe you’ll just step back for a moment and ask yourself “Why? – what meaning am I making of this? What’s this really about? What’s my intention here?” And find your answer in the silence.
Free copy of article on hypnotic voices
I have written a few-page article on Hypnotic Voices that you might find useful if you are interested in influencing people with your voice. Just drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’d like to read it and I’ll email you a copy – there’s no charge.
If you are interested in one-to-one coaching – face-to-face, by telephone or Skype – that’s also a great way to learn how to communicate powerfully so do contact me to discuss it.