Vocal Lessons Article

#10: Breathe With Authority!


There have been many books written about what to say in various social and business situations. Whether you are attending a convention, a dinner party or a business meeting, you want to make a lasting first impression. We all want to be thought of as: poised, mature, passionate, thoughtful, fun-loving, and self-aware individuals. Achieving such a high level of communication seems complicated and daunting. And yet, the most effective techniques couldn’t be simpler.

The key is to focus on breathing and breath support. Whenever I offer a speech client the simple advice to “make sure you breathe”, I can see that look in their eyes. I imagine them wanting to say, “Are you kidding me? That’s something I do automatically!” That’s true. It is also true that if they passed out from anxiety, they would continue to breathe involuntarily. But there’s breathing automatically and then there’s breathing effectively. In both obvious and subtle ways breath support and well-timed breathing increases your ability to effectively communicate.

The first thing to remember is that it’s okay to breathe. People often convince themselves that they should “catch a breath” under the listener’s radar. They mistakenly believe that allowing anyone to see you breathe will make you seem nervous and unprepared. The exact opposite projection is absolutely true. Take a deep breath, pause and say,

“I will find a way to make this work”.

Think about the various perceptions an empathetic listener could have from hearing the delivery of these words. The speaker might be thought of as: determined, resolute, trustworthy, and mature. These are all wonderfully descriptive adjectives for anyone who wants to be a successful business and personal communicator. It truly falls under the category of “it’s not what you say, but how you say it.”

Good breathing simply does not get enough credit. Take a moment to explore you own abilities with a little experiment. Take a deep breath, pause for a beat, then deliver the following phrase with authority,

“You’ve got to be kidding!”

It should feel like the words are coming from your core or “from your gut”. That is a great place to draw from physically, spiritually and creatively. The obvious benefit is that your voice feels “fueled” and sounds more resonant. The subtle benefit is the outward perception that you are passionate, in control and speak from the heart.

You will also notice that focusing on your breathing will slow down the pace of your speech. Far too often, a sense of lacking enough air to finish a sentence or phrase will cause a speaker to start to speed up and eventually start rolling out of control. Breathing will give you the support necessary to end your sentences with authority. Take a deep breath, pause and say,

“Everyone in attendance truly…learned…a lot.”

Landing the last word of any sentence or phrase in a declarative manner requires sufficient breath support – especially when the last word has a large, wide-open vowel like the ah sound in “lot”.

Take the focus on your breath support a step further and make your breathing a part of your creative interpretation. Try speaking the following sentence, as instructed:

“I thought I knew everything about the subject,” (deep breath) “but now I’m not so sure.”

You will definitely feel the effect that breathing has on the message you are conveying. Any listener would determine that your words are thoughtful and considered. This is a wonderful example of the charismatic appeal of speaking with thoughtfulness and dignity.

We are all empathetic listeners. We all want to relate to and connect with shared ideas. Good breathing and breath support slows down the exchange of ideas to allow for a real connection. By speaking with authority we are communicating that the words we are saying are important to us, and consequently, that the words should be important to the listener. This means that we understand the importance of the listener. We all do like to feel important!

The physiology and the psychology inherent to the utilization of good breath support are both comically simple and highly effective. Connecting your body to your communication style and integrating good technique paves a clear path to connecting your ideas with your listeners. Now that you know, go back and re-read the majority of this article out loud. Take a deep breath and do it…with…authority. Now, that is a lasting impression!

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Paul Geiger

Paul Geiger

Associate Speech Coach at New York Speech Coaching