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Your Angry Voice Demolishes Your Brilliant Argument


Diane Neuman

Sound trumps logic!  The QUALITY OF YOUR VOICE hits your listeners with more impact than does the quality of your argument! I have absolutely no doubt that you are capable of formulating a sensible, clear, logical, passionate statement or response.

It is understandable that in the intellectual or political passion of the moment your voice will rise and tighten. You and I can probably get by with this less-than-lovely sound among family and friends. However, you simply cannot afford this carelessness at any social or business event. The more important your argument is to you, the more you need to be aware of how you sound!

Why Does An Angry Voice Matter?

As sophisticated as we are as a species, we still have a few remaining survival instincts. MOVEMENT IS ONE. That is why there are handsomely paid experts who train speakers how to gesture (or not). A speaker can repeat the exact same speech but change his posture and his gestures and the audience will respond differently to each variation.

SPACE IS ANOTHER. Why are you uncomfortable when a stranger stands too close to you in a bank line? Even if that person is a harmless 80 year-old woman, she will annoy you.

Another protective primitive instinct is TONE OF VOICE. An unpleasant or angry voice triggers the listener’s primitive response. Your unpleasant tone reaches their brain a split second BEFORE they can process your information.

Does This Mean I Should Never Be Angry?

Hardly! Very angry men and women brought about some of the greatest changes on this planet. I should hope that you feel passionate and angry about so much injustice and cruelty in our modern society. But the more important your argument is to you, the more important it is that you deliver it in way that does not cause your listeners to shut down and tune out.

What Actually Happens To Change My Voice When I’m Angry?

Your voice is only as good as your breathing. Repeat after me: YOUR VOICE IS ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR BREATHING. Try inhaling and talking at the same time! Funny, huh?

The breath is pushed out and sucked into your lungs by the muscles sandwiched between your ribs and by the big elastic floor of your ribcage. Each exhalation slips across your vocal cords on its way out and you make beautiful words by an incredibly sophisticated and complicated dance of tongue, jaw and lips.

Your breathing muscles freeze up when you are angry frustrated and stressed. When your chest, neck and jaws tighten up, your deep slow steady breathing becomes shallow and erratic. As a result your voice becomes erratic, high-pitched and strangled. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PLEASANT, ANGRY VOICE.

How Can I Change How I Sound When I’m Angry?

1.  Take your time. Don’t rush. A two-second delay will allow your brain to refine your thought. You sound unsure when you rush. Also you don’t allow time to build up air under your vocal cords.

2.  Watch an outstanding person whom you admire being interviewed or grilled on television. The more difficult and challenging the host becomes, the calmer the guest seems to be. Would you still admire that person if he or she began to yell and sputter? It’s difficult to give credibility to a shrew.

Change usually begins with awareness and so it is with changing your voice. You’ve already come most of the way if you have finished this article. Practice points #1 and #2 and you will soon discover how important it is that the quality of your sound matches the quality of your argument.

Diane Neuman founded The Yoga Workshop in San Francisco where she taught for 11 years. Neuman wrote and illustrated HOW TO GET THE DRAGONS OUT OF YOUR TEMPLE (Celestial Arts). Currently Neuman writes and illustrates a health blog that draws on her 50 years of studying yoga, advanced breathing techniques, stress management and relaxation exercises. To find her blog and learn a new breathing lesson every week, check into Breathing Deep Exercises.

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