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.