Or…The Great Cat Email Disaster
Recently Lex, our friendly graphic designer, and I were testing a new system for sending out large group email messages to our clients at voicebusiness. Trying to get the formatting to work on all the different platforms in pcs, macs, smart phones, ipads, webmail etc is a bit of a nightmare, as any of you who’ve tried to do this will testify. Putting together a totally clean new test, ensuring I wasn’t using any material I’d used before, I employed one of Lex’s fine templates to write a not exactly serious email about my young cat Archie and the benefits my clients might enjoy if they were to keep a cat too.
Not realising that Lex had included a test list of 1600 of our clients in our testing section (to show my office manager how to do this) I merrily hit all the buttons and clicked SEND.
On the other end of the phone Lex suddenly realised what I’d done.
Then I realised what I’d done…
We can consciously control many of the muscles in our bodies. Lift up your hand. Wink. Smile. Easy? Now try and recreate that sensation of a cold, icy hand clutching your heart and all your internal muscles tightening up into a ball as you realise that 1600 of your clients have just received a nonsensical email about your cat. You can’t, can you? You might cringe at the very thought of it, if you’ve ever experienced anything similar, but you can’t actually recreate the feeling itself.
Do we have control over our muscles?
This is because we can have conscious control over many of our external muscles, but there are layer upon layer of muscles working down to the very bones and organs themselves. These we can’t control voluntarily, but we can influence how they work through our use of imagery and emotion. I was picturing nonplussed voicebusiness clients reading nonsense about Archie and my body was literally heating up, caused by the emotion of embarrassment that I was feeling. I’m sure the words that spilled from my mouth sounded very rooted in the emotion I was experiencing!
Connecting imagination, emotion and physiology
Look at it this way. You can roll your shoulders round and release tension in your neck, all of which is extremely important in ensuring you can go on to produce a relaxed sound. But if you are feeling scared (or embarrassed!) in the pit of your stomach, how can you relax that tension? This is where the use of imagery and emotion comes in.
This connection between imagination, emotion and the way our bodies respond physiologically, is the basis of the exercises honed over many decades by world renowned voice specialist and teacher, Kristin Linklater, in her work on freeing our natural voices. Her work – which has certainly influenced what I do – is all about how we can recondition ourselves from our habitual ways of communicating by adding the dimension of psychological understanding to physical knowledge of the voice’s production. Kristin started by working with actors, alongside the late Iris Warren, at LAMDA, the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art, (the school where I trained as an actor too, although I arrived there after Kristin had already left.) After an illustrious career in America, she returned to her native Scotland, working and training others who had an interest in developing their natural voices.
Maximum Effect with Minimum Effort
When I am working with clients on their voices and coaching them on public speaking or helping them prepare presentations, I place great emphasis on helping them let go of tension and work from a position of balance. I explain that we think more clearly when relaxed and that exercises beforehand can help us feel much more prepared when in front of audiences. I also work on ways that people can use their natural imaginations, not just in order to produce more interesting speeches, but so their voices flow so much more spontaneously and naturally.
See, in this extract from her most famous book, how Kristin approaches this topic, going right to the heart of the matter. She is alluding to performers here but I think that anyone who speaks in front of any audience is accessing their inner performer. Performers need to be relaxed, more energised versions of themselves, whilst still maintaining absolute truthfulness or authenticity in how they speak. The same applies to public speakers and presenters So look at her words in this context.
“The best actors, and perhaps this can be said for the best performing artists in general (musicians, dancers, singers), are relaxed in performance. That is, they have no extraneous tension. Their muscles are ready to receive the impulses necessary to fulfil the action and will ripple with energies in the service of particular stimuli. When the impulse has been expressed, the muscles release and ready themselves for the next job. Tense, muscular performances may generate external excitement but seldom arouse profound emotional response in an audience. “Maximum effect with minimum effort” is the hallmark of great art. Great art is rooted in truth. Minimum effort demands a commitment to inner processes of imagination and emotion that stimulate the body and voice to truthful expression from the inside out The body and voice will reveal large and small truths most authentically with a certain effortless ease, even in extremity.”
Contacts & Courses
If you’d like to work in-depth on your voice in a fabulous purpose-built base in Orkney and I can’t recommend the Linklater courses highly enough. Sadly, Kristin is no longer with us, but she has left a fantastic legacy and world class Linklater teachers around the globe. – you can find out about them here at Linklater Voice
PS PS PS PS
My initial emotions at the Great Cat Email Disaster turned to a huge flood of relief when we realised I had not hit the final CONFIRM button! Phew…