We get busy or anxious, tense or intense and we hold our breath. Or breathe with only a fraction of our natural lung capacity. And our sound suffers as a result.
You’ll feel better if you breathe fully. And you’ll certainly sound better too. Which is why I’m so often talking with my clients about how they breathe. Whether you’re speaking to an audience of one or a 100, you will come across as more credible, more authoritative and more natural if your voice is fully supported by the breath.
I’m not alone in my suggestions that most professional people (and maybe most people, period) would do well to focus some attention on their breath.
A friend sent me this Management Tip from the Harvard Business Review the other day. (Thank you, Gail Haller.)
Focus on Your Breath to Sound More Persuasive
Breathing plays a big role in how you sound. The ability to harness your breath is critical when you’re speaking up in a meeting or giving a speech or presentation. To speak with more confidence and power, focus on your breath.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your arms up over your head. Breathe in deeply. As you exhale, slowly lower your arms down to your sides. Make sure your shoulders are back, not hunched. This is the best posture for speaking: you are standing tall, owning your full height, and resonating confidence.
Put one hand on your belly button and one hand on your chest. Breathe deeply and notice which hand moves. Keep your chest steady and breathe into your stomach. Then exhale slowly, and speak “on the breath.”
Also, make sure to use your breath to support your words by letting it out steadily while you are speaking.
Personally, I breathe better barefoot. Sounds silly, I know, but just try putting your bare feet flat on the floor. Press down just a little bit and align your body over its base.
Now imagine your breath coming from the power center in your lower belly. Or even from your legs and feet. It’s not literally true of course – the air comes and goes from your lungs.
But when you use your powerful imagination in this way, your actual, literal lungs will expand in response to the mental image you’ve created. You will connect to the energy centers deep in the core of you. And your voice will be stronger and truer as a result.
Experiment with it, and comment below to tell me how it goes.