Find Your Voice

“Find your voice” is a phrase we hear in a lot these days: in finding a voice to speak truth to authority, in finding your voice as a women, in finding your voice as a writer or journalist, in finding a voice for a group or community. It can mean finding a clear message, or standing up for yourself in a professional or personal setting; the Democrats or Republicans need to find their unified voice.

 From a voice trainer’s point of view “finding your voice” means literally and physically finding the voice, the sound, which resides in you and flows from you each time you utter a thought. Your voice, the sound that is uniquely and wholly yours, is made up of biology and genetics – what you were born with in the way of size or shape of mouth, throat, nasal cavities, the structure and function of the vocal folds. It also is determined by usage habits, patterns that form when we are children as we first emulate parents, siblings and then peers. What social, educational, gender or racial group we identify with, what part of the country or world we are from also informs how we sound.

 By the time we are adult professionals, using our voices in business settings, our voices feel fixed or set. “This is the voice I was born with,” like the color of our eyes or hair. In some cases that voice serves us well, we are rewarded with compliments, promotions, leadership. In other cases, we receive feedback like, “We can’t hear you in meetings,” “Your dialect is difficult to understand,” “You sound angry all the time,” “Don’t be bossy.” “You sound aggressive,” “Can you give us a little more energy and enthusiasm?”

I am here today to tell you don’t have to be stuck with the voice you think you were born with!

Simple techniques can be learned which give more volume or clarity, which warm up an aggressive or angry sound; dialects can be modified for easier understanding, enthusiasm and energy can be released. The four simple steps outlined below can set you on a path to finding your voice!

The first step to finding your voice is releasing some habitual tension, tension most of us are not even aware of. We carry it with us all the time so we no longer notice it. Simple head and neck releases, easy stretches in each direction the head moves – forward-back, side to side, ear to shoulder, nose to arm pit – slowly, gently. Shoulder circles, arm circles, swinging easily at the waist, hip circles, ankle circles – stretching and shaking major body parts release habitual tension.

Natural alignment is essential in finding your voice as the voice works most efficiently and easily when the body is organized in the way it was meant to be. Long back of neck, shoulders relaxed and down, weight balanced one two feet.

Deep central breathing is crucial – breath is sound. A voice that is fully breathed will be strong, clear and effortless. Voice that is under breathed will sound pressed or lifeless.

Finally making space in the mouth, discovering just how big your “megaphone” is can be startling and voice-changing. Hidden tension in our mouth makes the space small and tight, which muffles sound, dampens vibrations, warmth and expressiveness. All the clarity of thought that is in our heads and our hearts is stopped by lack of space in the mouth. By releasing jaw tension, relaxing the back of the tongue, lifting the soft palate your megaphone enlarges and releases sound that is full, rich and expressive.

Finding your voice is not difficult. But it does take practice because you are changing habits and muscle patterns. A few minutes each day of simple vocal exercises can give you a voice that is strong and confident. It will change the way you feel about yourself and the way others react to you.


Rena Cook

Rena Cook is Professor Emerita at the University of Oklahoma. She is a TEDx speaker, author, voice, speech, confidence, and presentation coach. She is the founder of Vocal Authority, a training consultancy serving attorneys who want to use their voice in more commanding and authentic ways. She has authored several books, including Her Voice in Law, which she co-wrote with Laurie Koller. The book provides additional advice on the above topics and more, and is available at

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