is how you speak your identity?

Is How You Speak Your Identity?

Ashley Milne-Tyte interviewed me at  Ashley is a former NPR journalist who’s set out on her own. A really huge topic on NPR is women’s voices.  People are discussing whether a woman has a too-high pitch or uses “upspeak” (going up at the end of an utterance) or “glottal fry” (a crackly voice). Basically how you speak.

Ashley said that many female journalists are criticized for their voices. And that often their reaction is, “That’s just how I sound and I’m not going to do anything about it!” As if it’s a permanent characteristic.

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I was appalled, of course, because I’ve been improving my communication skills since I was at least 12 years old. Do you know the story about Sr. Theresa in 7th grade? She said Americans are lazy and we need to pop our “t”s.

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How You Speak is Not your Identity.

Our speech is not a permanent characteristic.

And why would we think for a moment that we shouldn’t get better at communicating?  Our communication skills are the one single pivotal thing that gets us what we need out of life!

We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for an education and then when we go into the interview we blow it.  We’re scared out of our wits for weeks in advance.  Our true selves don’t show when we’re in more high-stakes situations. 

When we’re in anxiety-ridden situations we start speaking like a robot–choppy & monotonous. We speak too fast and our pitch gets high. Record your side of an interview next time, you’ll see what I mean.

I explain why this happens here Why You Suck at Public Speaking.

This causes us to not come across as smart as we are & can result in someone else getting the job or the gig. So how you speak is one of the most important aspects of you! But it can be changed. Significantly & quickly.

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If you want to be good at something, you learn the techniques & practice them.

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We hire a tennis pro, we take music lessons, we go to the gym, we improve all aspects of ourselves.  Why do we think we should be born amazing communicators?  We aren’t.  

Human brains haven’t evolved our ability to communicate precisely and in a relaxed manner yet.  We’re infants when it comes to communicating.  So there’s no need to feel embarrassed if you want to work on how you speak. In fact, you should feel proud of yourself.

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Great Leaders Work on How They Speak

Every person you know who’s a great communicator worked on it.  Nobody’s yet perfect.  There’s no such thing as perfect.  There will never be a stopping point for our evolution. Evolution plans to get better & better. They also work on their verbal branding.

There’s no reason to say:  That’s just the way I am; I’m not going to improve.  Certainly not with something as important as communicating your message. Communication skills are our greatest tool for getting what we need out of life.  

You may like this article: Eliminate filler words forever!

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Your True Identity is Who You Are When You’re Comfortable

Your true identity isn’t glottal fry, upspeak, speaking too fast, using filler words, etc. Those are speech characteristics that happen to you when the stakes are high.

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Want to be more influential? We all want to communicate our most important messages in a way that encourages others to take action. Whether that action is voting for our candidate or picking up milk from the store, the words we use and how we speak play a huge role in getting the job done.

You don’t use those speaking flaws when you’re super comfortable & when you’re being yourself. You’re being yourself you’re smart, funny, quick, confident & relaxed. When you’re under pressure to perform well we end up with little vocal & speech flaws. That’s when we get nervous & make communication mistakes.

Making “how you speak” reflect your identity is a worthy goal.

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The Good News: We Can Eliminate Vocal & Speech Flaws

If we’re nervous we use a high pitch, vocal fry & upspeak and when we’re comfy we don’t then it stands to reason that we need to work on being relaxed during nerve-wracking speaking situations. It’s easier than it sounds!

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There are lots of relaxation exercises out there. I learned a bunch in Speech Pathology school in undergad & grad school. You can find them on YouTube. I, of course, think mine are the best so reach out to me and you can get a video or work with me on Zoom or Skype.



Here’s how:

  1. Bring your shoulders down to release tension.
  2. Open up your arms when you’re communicating. (Don’t cross your arms!)
  3. Keep your tongue down in the back.
  4. Make sure your throat is open-not “choked up”.
  5. Use air for your speech. Your voice takes a ride on the air.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Do you feel like how you speak is your identity? Do you feel insulted even thinking about making changes to your speech & communication skills?

3 thoughts on “Is How You Speak Your Identity?”

  1. I’m trying to help my son be less anxious and convey his message without being nervous. When he gets approached and has to respond he gets angry as a teen especially with me as mom. He seems to hold a lot in and it’s ok not to be ok so I want him to feel comfortable in those situations. To at least be able to effectively say his experience. Very nice article with extremely important subject that should be more widespread for understanding one another.

  2. My problem is my brain goes faster than my mouth lol. Working on it. I’m in the process of making speaking exercises and these awesome tips a part of my daily life. Great communication is a skill like anything else in life.

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