Be Loud: Said the Toastmaster

When one of my friend enrolled her daughter in a Karate school, I asked her if she saw any positive impact of it on her daughter. She told me that now her soft-spoken daughter can yell out “Kia”, which in Korean means “energy” and is often shouted out during karate movements.

My friend seemed pleased with that development.

I on the other hand, was incredulous that she is spending all that money and effort just to have her daughter speak loudly.

A few years later, I enrolled my children in Karate. And this is when I understood what my friend had really meant.

She had wanted her daughter to have a voice, a voice that is loud and clear. A voice that is heard by others. Not just a loud physical voice, but also a loud intellectual voice. A voice that stops people from trampling on her and others. A voice that asserts her individuality. A voice that defends her and others from injustices.

As adults, a lot of us struggle with finding our voice. We want to roar but we suppress the volume fearing disapproval and backlash.

Still, not restrained by our inhibitions and limitations, we want our children to have a voice. A voice that is strong, loud and fearless. We want our children to be able to defend themselves – physically, mentally and emotionally- using their voice.

To develop this loud voice, among other venues, some people may go to Karate to learn how to shout “Kia” while some may go to a public speaking class where the Toastmaster* roars “Be Loud”.

To find this voice, our first step is developing a voice that others can hear. A voice that is loud and cheerful when we wish others good day. A voice that is loud and authoritative when we want others to follow our directions. And a voice that is loud and smooth when we are persuading others to our way of thinking.

Medically speaking, the volume of a person’s voice can be due to changes in the tissue or vibration rate of the vocal cords. “As we age, our tissue atrophies,” says Dr. Amee Shah, director of the speech acoustics and perception laboratory at Cleveland State University. “The vocal cords don’t vibrate as fast.” Also, “Some people may be shy and withdrawn and inhibited,” says Shah. “They may not be comfortable in a social situation, they may not be a good speaker. Psychologically, they’re not able to project their voices loud enough.”

For some people however, the intrinsic effort required to be loud may not be enough. They may have physical limitations. People with smaller lungs may have a harder time speaking loudly since the smaller lungs are unable to generate enough airflow.

Now picture this. A stranger speaking so softly that you have to strain yourself to hear them and in contrast, a stranger who speaks loudly and clearly. What impression do you make of their personality? Probably that the softer speaking stranger lacks confidence while the louder speaking one is bursting with it. And who do you hear more? Not just with your ears but with your mind? Thats right, the confident people are always heard. They have a voice, in more ways than one.

So the question is, do you want your voice to be heard above the cacophony of noise?

If so, it is important that you speak loudly. You may say to yourself that I do not want to be loud and off-putting, but generally speaking, one is not able to keep at loud volume of speech for an extended period of time. The loud volume softens to one that is audible and pleasant to hear.

So breathe deeply and speak loudly. Genetics does not determine it. It is all in the environment that you create.

And when you are striving to be a leader, do not forget to add a topping of energy and excitement to your loud voice. You will be amazed at how enthusiastically people respond to you!

*Toastmaster International is a non-profit organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills.


A magazine for communicators and leaders: Toastmasters

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