This week in the studio has been a fun-filled authenticity fest.  Actually, most weeks are that way but this week prompted me to tease out what makes a voice authentic and why that matters.

First, a definition from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Authentic

1: a : worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact
b : conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features
c : made or done the same way as an original
2: not false or imitation: real, actual 
3: true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character

 

For our purposes, I will focus on “3: true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”  In the paper “The neural integration of speaker and message” Neuroscientists from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, Netherlands discuss their findings regarding the judgments we make when we hear a voice.  A primary finding was that humans judge whether there is congruency between a voice and the identity of the speaker and that these judgments precede language.  In other words, the sound and quality of the voice is judged to be authentic or not before the content in language is parsed.  The decision to trust the authority of the speaker happens before the content is understood.
At the beginning of an opportunity to connect with other people, we are contending not just with the content, but also with something few people work on, the voice itself.  From the study above we can surmise that the concept of congruence is the key.

So, what can you do with this information?

The human voice is a highly adaptable instrument that is often treated as if set in stone.  Just because you do not currently love your voice, that does not mean it cannot improve and/or change significantly for the better.  Even if you have a vocal gift, further attention and training can move good to great and even extraordinary.  So the first thing to understand is that your voice is not fixed and that it can be improved.

What are the barriers to an authentic voice?

The primary barrier to authenticity in voice-use is tension.  Tension shifts alignment and affects the efficient use of air.  Paradoxically, the misuse of air can be the cause of tension in voice-use.  Since it is often hard to determine where the problem began, both areas (Physical tension and breath-use) must be addressed in order to maintain health and authenticity in voice-use.

So what’s next?

I sincerely hope that what is next for you is an active curiosity about what your voice’s capabilities, and an active study of how it works.  Whatever physiological and/or psychological impacts are unique to you and your vocal instrument, you owe it to yourself to know this unique and exceptional communication device.  If you invest in this part of yourself, the impact of your words won’t be content dependent.  It will be authentically, you.