in which carrots coaches her voice

New weekly pick!

I hate recording the outgoing message on my voicemail.  While telling my caller that I’m unable to pick up, to please leave a message, I’m anticipating that awful moment when my cell phone will cruelly play the whole thing back to me.  Really, is that what I sound like to other people?  And, if so, why haven’t my friends gagged me yet, forcing me to communicate in sign language, through a small chalkboard, or perhaps with the assistance of a helper monkey particularly adept at arranging alphabet blocks?

So yeah.  I’m self-conscious about my voice.  During my second year in graduate school, it sunk in that I’m pursuing a career that requires a lot of talking in front of others.  I should try to manage this particular anxiety, I realized.  It is difficult, after all, to lead a discussion on Oscar Wilde while preoccupied with the repulsive shrill that creeps into my voice when I find a student’s comment interesting.  Mr. Wilde in particular would find both the preoccupation and the shrillness off-putting.

When carrots is faced with a challenge, she takes action! Well, sometimes.  In this case I did.  I registered for a day-long public speaking seminar, held in one of the Big Impressive Rooms in the library and led by a respected voice coach: a professor from DC who advises politicians and other important people.  The day was a practice in humiliation and required those enrolled to carry folding chairs above their heads while reciting tricky sentences.  Seriously.

It also involved a solo performance by yours truly.  Professor Voice Coach asked me to read an entire page aloud from a novel.  Pronouncing only the vowels. FUN!  Or, as I would have said that afternoon, UH!

The seminar was, however, useful.  I collected a few clever strategies to trick that nasal whine out of my voice.  I also learned to plant my feet deliberately under a podium to avoid shifting my stance while I talk, a nervous tic.  And I learned that, as a woman, I should lower my voice when speaking in public.  It makes listeners take you more seriously, apparently.  Which just bites.  Because some high-voiced people have very important things to say.

Despite the rigors of the seminar, I’m still self-conscious about my voice.  Just a few days ago I spent far too long comparing myself unfavorably to a dear friend who has a voice that sounds like awesomeness on toast.  But I am comforted by the fact that I am not alone in my outgoing message anxiety.  Danny and I talked about it as we drove home from a friend’s Memorial Day barbecue.

“I hate hearing a recording of my voice,” he admitted.  “I hate the way I sound.  In my head, I sound like Cary Grant.”

For a moment, he gazed off into the distance, imagining a voice life in classic movies.


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