The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Voice

I love the way experiential connections become new inspirations.

Back to School
Yesterday I started coaching cricket again in a particular school I hadn’t visited for a couple of years. I was working with a Year 4 (8-9 year olds) class, and in part of the teacher’s introducing me he told the children how I had quite a soft voice and this meant they would have to really listen to pay attention! Interestingly he didn’t use the word “quiet”, choosing to use “soft” instead – and the thing about soft – like that – is that it is about timbre rather than volume.


Of course once we begin to investigate what I would call the language of meanings (submodalities sounds rather dry and scientific), we get an idea of how we can get more detail into our communication. Rather as a picture can paint a thousand words, certainly the right word in the right place can evoke thousand pictures.
We might say “I love you” to someone and leave it there, even though there may be so much more to be said. Now here’s the thing – when it comes to expressing ourselves in terms of a thousand pictures, we certainly don’t need a million words. In this regard we can now get a truer understanding via those wonderful lines by Elisabeth Barrett Browning:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Language can be amazingly rich in terms of helping us to convey the true meaning of what we want to say to anyone, be it an individual, a small group or a vast gathering. And yet - in our digital age of comms, everything is being shortened, curtailed. Sometimes the only thing that comes out of curtailed, like that, is CURT. I never switch on Predictive Text on my mobile for a similar reason – in the dash to send off a message, the “unmeant” can happen. So when I’m communicating, my mantra is this: –
"I’ll tell you what I mean, what I really, really mean."

Except, of course, when my intention is covert! ☺

Fusion, not Confusion
“So, how important is The Voice in communication, because it’s not all about words though, isn’t it?” I was once asked.

Well for me yesterday, in school, it was hugely relevant – because “soft” gave me a broader channel, a more flexible means of delivering the words. It helped that the children had been ‘switched on’ by their teacher of course, and although I still had to keep their attention through the 100 or so minutes of our double lesson, the seeds of the REAL meanings I wanted to convey germinated mentally more quickly on fertile soil and with ideal climatic conditions.
In my article “Getting Results” – a kind of linguistic Prelude & Fugue -
I did some word-play on the lyrics of the song “T’Ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it” in part of the fugal section. It read as follows:

T’Ain’t what you sing it’s the way that you sing it -
and what you can get with the freedom to swing it -

This am mighty relevant all round for each and every one of us – as it was for me in class yesterday.
I – and everyone else – had the freedom to swing it! Play – learn – have fun – discover new things we can do – enjoy Ourselves. And I know that if there’d been confusion for the children then they’d have got far less out of the experience of the lesson.

A Period of Discovery
And – as an aside here – isn’t “lesson”, like that, such a mis-shapen word in our adult world?
A lesson in school should be a period of discovery, and yet the reshaping starts when we like some lessons more than others. Now if we look at why we like some lessons more than others then there’s always reasons – and it’s not usually because it’s a dull or boring subject. With the right delivery, the content can come alive.
Some people could sing or talk to us about the phone book – and they could make it interesting. Their voice – their vehicle of delivery – would make it so.
I happen to think that all teachers are amazing, for they have to stand up every day and act out a performance that is content-oriented and content-rich. However – there are those who are masters in the art of communication, where all the richness of the meaning of the content gets delivered along with the content itself. Brilliant teachers, and that includes coaches and trainers – whether in schools or in any kind of adult education – are able to get everything across, by having the freedom to swing it!

The Connection
On the blog of Jeremy Jacobs there is brilliant little article called “5 Top Tips for taking care of your voice”.
I read this today and out of the inner resonance came a connection – for me – with my yesterday afternoon with those Year 4 youngsters.
I know how hugely important my teaching a sport, like cricket, in schools for the children. It’s a great game for helping us discover more about life and ourselves. It’s a great vehicle for learning through Play.
And we learn so much more – and quicker – when we are totally absorbed in what we are doing. When that level of absorption prevails, then the well delivered content gets through at an unconscious level.
Now there’s a degree of similarity in those last two sentences that could be deemed as cyclical repetition. And I’ve written them here for precisely that very reason – and pointed them out also, so drawing them into a focus for closer attention. Think of the notice that says “Do Not Throw Stones at This Notice”. It’s not just a notice whose purpose is entirely built upon its own content though is it?

For me, the point Jeremy Jacobs was making is about looking after our delivery vehicle – and keeping it roadworthy for those many miles we travel on the communications super highway. Our voice will need fuel – and the right fuel! It needs good servicing and maintenance.
AND – as we sit behind the wheel, it needs good quality driving! If we crash into things or skid off the road then people won’t have a hope of understanding us. We all want to be understood, and get frustrated when we aren’t. However – the remedy starts with ourselves.

Back to Basics
We all have a voice, both a verbal AND a nonverbal one – and for most of us it is a voice that is rarely heard in the way we would like, for whatever reasons. It is one of the biggest “If Onlies” in life, and yet, because we practice our usage every day of our lives, it can be very straightforward to change and we CAN turn that “If Only” into a reality.

Life is about discovery and learning, living and experiencing – and our voice coupled with how we use language can enhance our lives beyond measure. Now I’m no voice coach or language coach, though I know some amazingly clever, subtle yet brilliantly perceptive people who are. All their advice, however small, however basic, has been so useful and so helpful for me that I know I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the vehicle I am now able to drive and the verbal and non-verbal content I’ve harnessed. Some of my discoveries began way back in my schooldays, some in between times, and a considerable amount has been recently, through both modelling and taking action through gaining and practicing knowledge.

I firmly believe the world will begin to change if we had an education system that addressed the following two things:
  • That we learn how to communicate
  • That we learn how to learn.

That way each person would be able to find their true voice.

It is really that simple and, rather like what happened with me and that Year 4 class yesterday – it all begins with an introduction.

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