An Interview with Barbara about Full Voice
Why did you write this book?
I didn’t have my own voice for many years. The process of recovering my own “full voice” led me naturally into coaching other people in finding theirs. For the past twenty years, I’ve witnessed people from all walks of life – executives, physicians, trainers, consultants, coaches, nurses, ministers, speakers, parents, community leaders, writers – harness the power of their voices to their purpose. They not only learned to use their voices more effectively in how they communicate, they accessed aspects of themselves they’d left behind. We discovered that opening up your full voice leads to a fuller life.
Why is voice important?
Most of us engage in many conversations during the course of a day: with family members, colleagues, clients, customers, and community members. These conversations are the raw material for creating anything, because the voice is the only way something can travel from your imagination into the outside world.
The sound of your voice has a profound impact on your listeners. Before they can even process the meaning of your words, they are accessing all kinds of information about you based on your voice – things like your age, gender, physical size, class background, ethnicity, education level, and emotional state.
And if the way your voice sounds is incongruent with your message, the listener will be too distracted and confused to really hear what you have to say. Learning to use your voice with skill is essential, considering how many important conversations you engage in
Can a book about voice help people really change the way they sound?
When the invitation came to write this book for Berrett-Koehler, I had the very same question. I’m used to working with people in my coaching studio, in workshops, or at conferences. Translating this very physical, multidimensional experience into words on a page became the central challenge of the book. My reviewers and editors all tell me I succeeded in doing so. I include a variety of exercises in the book and offer free online practice videos to support readers in practicing their new sounds. The videos guide you through a warm-up just as if you were in my teaching studio.
What makes this approach unique?
My background is a strange hybrid of singing, business consulting, speaking, personal development, and voice coaching. My approach to voice blends all of them. Many vocal methods are organized around narrowing the voice to one perfect, ideal sound. Full Voice does just the opposite; we open up the full range, color, and sound in the voice – even those sounds that you’d never use in daily life.
I use the Five Element Framework to demonstrate five distinct sounds available in everyone’s voice. Each sound is linked to specific gifts – like authority, passion, compassion, clarity, and inspiration. For instance, if you need to project authority, you’ll be able to access the earth sound in your voice. If you need to extend compassion to someone, your water voice will make your words sound more compassionate.
Opening up the range and color of your voice impacts other aspects of your life. Your identity – who you say you are – expands to include a broader range of humanity. You reconnect with parts of yourself you may have left behind.
How long does this take?
Most people who practice the Five Element Framework exercises start noticing subtle changes in the way they speak and listen almost immediately. Even so, entrenched vocal habits take time and practice to outgrow. The reasons for those habits can run deep. Changing your voice often entails expanding your self-concept, reconnecting to your body, deepening your breathing, or stepping into unfamiliar territory. I hope this book offers you the tools, practices, and encouragement to embark on a lifelong curiosity about voices – yours and everyone else’s.
Who benefits from the work?
Well, that’s easy: anyone who talks.