What Voice Intonation says about you

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Have you ever listened in on people speaking in a foreign language? After a while of listening to them go back and forth you may have figured out the nature of the conversation and what each of them felt.

That’s because you picked up on the intonations in the persons voice while they we’re delivering information to each other. Even if you had been blind folded you would have been able to read all of their cues by the rise and fall of their words.

Our ability to recognize sounds stem from our ancient ancestors, in order to protect us from aggressive animals ready to attack , our ancestors developed a keen sense of sound to differentiate a safe situation from an unsafe one. Women are designed to hear children’s voices and so they tend to be awakened from sleep more often by women than by men because of the higher pitched voices. We are so perfectly hardwired for this!

When we speak we are producing many different kinds of sounds at the same time. We can say the same words in many different ways depending on how we feel about what we’re saying, who we’re speaking with, and the current situation. That’s why you’ve probably heard the common phrase, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it!”

The volume and intonation that each person speaks will be recognized no matter what they say because it is usually their intention that will be perceived.

If we observe the way we feel after we listen to a song that moves us, it has everything to with the way the singer conveys the feeling of what he or she is singing about. The same song can be sung poorly or amazingly depending on how the intonation of the singer matches the emotion of the song.

Over time most of our society  has inadvertently unlearned our basic body instincts and now operates from a logical, intellectualized perspective. While logic and intellectualization are valuable in their own right, what is felt through a more instinctual level is a much more authentic guide.

Here are some Voice Intonation exercises you can try:

Exercise One: Listening

The next time you’re in a cafe or restaurant by yourself, listen to strangers talking. What do you pick up from the sounds that accompany their words? How do you think they feel? What facts are they trying to hide?

Exercise Two: Speaking

Along with a partner, you might try this experiment in showing intention through tone of voice. Decide what you want from your partner and try to express it through tone of voice alone, without meaningful words. Use “blah blah blah”, or repeat any word you like (“umbrella umbrella umbrella”), or even make up gibberish as you go. Find out your partner’s perception of how you felt and what you wanted.

Exercise Three: Tracking

Choose an excerpt from a book to read aloud. Avoid really dense books – look for the more personable writers in your library (poems and short stories are great). Read this excerpt aloud for a voice recorder or camera. After doing this for the first time, play it back to review your base tones and cadence. What does your recording tell you about you?  Does your delivery sound convincing to what you’re conveying?

On the second round, record yourself again making sure to accentuate what you’re reading with a suiting emotion to match your excerpt.

Third time around is the charm. This time, when you record yourself what you’re reading should sound like they are words spoken from your own mouth as if you’d written them. Do you think you can do it? It’s much more possible if you think it’s possible.

How we speak and present ourselves to our peers is essential to our success. Taking a listen to ourselves in this objective way can prove extremely helpful, especially to those who are generally not used to listening as they are speaking.

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Joana Ayala

Co-Founder/Soundscape Director at True Participation
Joana is a zealous life-liver, an artist, and humanitarian. She derives much inspiration from self-reflection, a passion of hers that has yet to cease.
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