In our work as voice and communication skills coaches, Lindsay and I generally work with students on ‘delivery’. That is, how the message (whether that be a play, a story, or a presentation) is being delivered physically and vocally. Key questions we consider are: how can students find open body language? How can they find healthy, full voices that are connected to their message? We spend a lot of time looking at external communication as a means for expressing the internal life of the communicator clearly and engagingly.
So you may be asking yourself why we’ve spent so much time in the last few written blog posts talking less about external communication and more about the inner voice— specifically through the lens of exploring ‘mantras’, or affirmative statements— either through simply thinking them internally or speaking them out loud (and proud!). Well, here’s why: the more I work with students on elements of their external communication, like body language and voice, the more I realize how much the habits we develop around the way use our voices and bodies to communicate have to do with how we talk to ourselves— or the ‘inner’ voice. So while the body, voice and inner voice can be worked on separately, they are intricately connected and sometimes it is worth considering them more holistically.
We are not psychologists and we don’t claim to be. Our work on the inner voice is not about psychological catharsis or healing (although if that is a byproduct— great!). Rather, our work is about acknowledging that the inner voice is a powerful tool for communication. If we ignore our inner voice, it makes it difficult to connect physically and vocally to our message— because we don’t actually know what we think or feel about it! But as with anything else, the inner voice can get into unhealthy habits in terms of how it communicates with us, which can have an impact on our physical and vocal communication. It’s hard to have open body language and speak loud enough for people to hear you when your inner voice is telling you you aren’t worthy of being heard, or you don’t deserve to be in the room.
So we here at BeSpoke Communication humbly believe that if you’re really serious about working on your voice and body language in communication, part of that journey will at some point be benefitted by training your inner voice, or working on your self-talk. Personally, I have found adopting daily, weekly or monthly mantras an excellent way of beginning to train my own (quite unruly, rebellious, obsessive and sometimes rude) inner voice. I started really getting serious about this process back in January during the 30 Day Yoga Challenge we’ve mentioned several times. Similar to training the spoken voice, I’m finding that training the inner voice takes discipline and practice, but it’s worth the time in terms of the rewards it brings. Here is a story about a discovery I made while working actively to train my inner voice that has strengthened my confidence in my communication.
On Day 30 of the 30 Day Yoga Challenge, the task was to choose your own mantra. I picked ‘I choose to enjoy.’ I had struggled with getting into the mantras for the first 15 days, but half-way through, I really started to get into it. In fact, it was after the afore-mentioned breakthrough in our blog post about presence that I began to realize the powerful benefits that can come from taking some control over my self-talk. So by the time I got to Day 30 and I was asked to pick my own mantra, I was ready to go! I choose to enjoy!!
There was a big surprise about how the video was structured on Day 30, which I won’t ruin for those of you who want to do the challenge, but at the time I didn’t enjoy the surprise. At all. In fact, I found it deeply unsettling. I kept trying to keep up with the practice in the video, really not liking what was happening, with my inner voice slowly sinking into a negative diatribe about how ironic it was that I had chosen the mantra ‘I choose to enjoy’ on a day when I was so not enjoying myself. At some point, I moved into a Runner’s stretch. The opening in my hip allowed my breath to open and my inner voice suddenly said clearly: ‘This practice is difficult but I am enjoying this moment.’
That was my way into my mantra. I might not enjoy the surprise, or that day’s practice overall, but I could commit to finding moments within it that I did enjoy. Having the mantra helped me actively look for those moments, rather than totally shutting down or turning negative— which would have had a real impact on my ability to move, open up, and breathe. The experience I was having with the yoga practice, instead of turning negative, suddenly became a positive challenge: where could I look for moments of enjoyment, even in an experience I was finding difficult?
What if we all approached life this way, not just yoga? More specifically, what if we approached our communication in this way? So many of us find speaking in public (whether as ourselves or as a character) a difficult experience. I have found that training my inner-voice with mantras has helped me cultivate a habit of more positive self-talk in general, but also in communication contexts. This has benefited my external communication—- because my body is more willing to open up and I’m more willing to breathe deeply and send my voice to others when I’m speaking–directly because of the more positive way I’m talking and and relating to myself. Even if that moment of communication is difficult.
What do you think? Does this all sound too new-age-y to you? Or have you been doing this for years? Mantras are just one way into self-talk. Have you found another way that works for you? We would love to hear about it.