Do you ever wonder if people really understand what you are saying? Do they seem to misinterpret your words, or accuse you of being unclear? Often our friends will try to be helpful and tell us we are sending out the “wrong” signals. But are they right? Or does that say more about their own insecurities? After all, we are inclined to criticise others on the basis of faults we perceive in ourselves – because that is what we know something about. Indeed, we are experts in our own imperfections.
Here in Australia, I think we have an overly judgemental culture. It’s easy to comment on the mistakes others make, and to criticise failings in each other. This then requires us to get in first, and criticise ourselves, apologising and offering up excuses and reasons for why we aren’t perfect. Some of us do an awful lot of apologising, don’t you think? Or do you think we don’t apologize enough?
Voice is a physical, material substance created deep within the human body, and then released to the outside world. Any comments or observations made about the way we sound has a profound effect upon us, and we tend to take them negatively, whether intended that way or not. But we have no control over what other people think or say, and we certainly have no way of getting inside their heads to know exactly what they are thinking, any more than they can get inside ours.
So I have come up with some Golden Rules for people undertaking voice training. These are rules to help us find, and take control of our own actions and behaviours, providing us with a safe environment to be adventurous within:
- Convert the judge in your head into a very clear, accurate observer.
- Be self aware, rather than self conscious. Notice when you are self conscious, and convert it into self awareness. In other words, when you catch yourself thinking about how you look or sound, from the outside, turn your thoughts to noticing and observing what your body is doing, and how it feels from the inside (physical sensations).
- In class, in training situations, try to avoid making jokey remarks about yourself or your colleagues. Observations which are factual are fine. This doesn’t mean we can’t laugh, o
r enjoy ourselves. On the contrary, we can relax and enjoy ourselves more if we are not expecting, or handing out judgemental comments, even in jest.
- In the class, never apologise, explain, rationalise, excuse. Instead, observe. Whatever you observe, “that’s interesting!”
- Whenever you catch your thoughts wandering, or realise you have the impulse to make a joke or a comment, congratulate yourself on the observation and notice that it is a
n interesting observation and move on. That is being present.
This might seem like a complicated approach to voice training, but I find that a little bit of practice in following these rules goes a very long way towards helping people to be more relaxed and comfortable about exploring their sound, and adjusting their vocal behaviours. They still feel vulnerable, but they have the tools and techniques to deal with that feeling and work with it creatively.
Do you have rules, or guidelines that you have found helpful for your training?