Voice Work for Listening

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Can we harness our breathing to have a peaceful inner flow (like this river!) while we listen, so we can cultivate compassionate listening? 

Talking is only one side of communication. And sometimes, when I look at the larger sociopolitical landscape of our world, it seems like there is a lot of talking. Platforms are sprouting up everywhere that allow people to make their viewpoints known across any medium. There seems to be much value placed on self-expression across these multiple platforms. This is why communication coaching on how you talk can be so valuable.

However, what seems to be lacking across these platforms is any emphasis on the importance of listening. Whether we’re talking about Twitter or a difficult face-to-face discussion, the only value seems to be on getting heard. I as a communication coach am often guilty of this. I want to empower people’s voices— that is at the heart of what I do. Sometimes, though, I’m putting too much emphasis on being heard, and not balancing that out with teaching my clients to listen, which actually, for many of us, is the harder thing to do: listening without interrupting, listening without immediately reacting, taking the time to consider another point of view— listening compassionately.

With that in mind, if you would like to train yourself to be a better listener, here are some simple steps to follow the next time you are in conversation. These steps are particularly important if you are having a difficult discussion or talking to someone whose opinion you disagree with.

Step 1: Breathe. I cannot talk enough about how crucial this step is. A lot of us hold our breath while we are listening to others. Sometimes this is why we can become so reactive— because our bodies are starting to panic from lack of oxygen. You don’t have to control your breathing, just make sure you aren’t holding it. You can even notice how what you are hearing is affecting your breathing rhythm. Breathe throughout the listening process and use your breathing to help you allow the other person to make their whole point (instead of interrupting halfway through). This also keeps you from focusing on preparing what you’re going to say next, which is what most of us do when we are listening, rather than actually listening. And definitely take another breath right before you respond, to make sure you don’t launch into a reaction you will regret later.

Step 2: Stay aware of your body. Often, especially when a viewpoint is difficult to hear, our energy tends to shoot upwards and we lose our grounding. This can lead to holding the breath and all of the pitfalls of breath-holding that are mentioned above. So keep checking in with where you are being supported by whatever surface you’re on while you’re listening. If you are sitting, where do you feel supported by the surface you’re sitting on? If you’re standing, where do you feel supported by the floor? It’s possible to be aware of these sensations as you listen to the other person talking, and helps you stay grounded as you do so.

Step 3: Listening is not about being an open receptacle for other people’s thoughts and feelings. You are allowed to have thoughts and emotions about what other people are saying. You are human too. Non-reactive communication and allowing others to speak does not mean you don’t get to feel. But using your breathing and awareness of your body to stay grounded helps you to acknowledge those feelings without immediately communicating them, including nonverbally, while someone is talking (which is another way of interrupting). Clock your feelings, allow them in, but keep breathing and grounding yourself so that you can honor that it’s someone else’s airtime. When it’s your turn, you’ll get to voice how you feel. Giving yourself this time also allows for a shift to happen in how you feel, if that’s in the cards.

Step 4: Be aware of how much space you are taking in the conversation. If you are doing all the talking, then you’ve left no room for listening. Start to monitor, in your daily life, how much you are doing the talking when in conversation. If you’re noticing a pattern of over 50% talking over 50% of the time, consider making an adjustment. Stretch those listening muscles. I have had students in the past who have misinterpreted an empowered voice with being able to talk for as long as they wanted to, and thinking that others would just have to listen until they were done because they had the right to speak. That is no longer empowered or empowering communication. Empowered communication, in my humble view, also seeks to empower others. If it becomes about talking as much as you want, all that is is an attempt to dominate. I believe that my students were simply overcorrecting. If you feel you may be overcorrecting as well, use this awareness of space to find balance.

Listening is not easy, which is why we have to train! Try to implement these simple steps, maybe even one at a time at first, and notice what happens in your personal and professional relationships. We truly believe that listening is the missing key to a lot of current world events, both big-scale and small-scale. We would love to hear how it’s going for you!

take good care,

Christine

Mind Your Energy!

London Skyline

Hello Friends!

As you might have guessed, the photo above was taken from a skyscraper in central London (we have mixed feelings about skyscrapers in London but they do make for some beautiful views). What struck me on that particular day was the contrast of the stillness, the peace, the lightness of the sky in that high up glass space with what I knew was layered underneath it: all kinds of energy moving in every direction, buzzing throughout the city from every floor of the buildings to the street, to the trains rumbling through the underground. It was a moment of accepting the power of stillness simultaneously existing with the power of dynamic energy.

That feeling is the inspiration for this week’s audio guide. It’s a brief guided meditation designed to connect you with the energetic voice, a moment of calm before you step into a more energetic situation, or when you’d simply like to have the moment of calm.

Let us know what you think!

Take Good Care,

Lindsay & Christine

Keeping it Fresh: setting goals & evolving your practice

 

Hello Friends!

If you’ve followed our posts for awhile you know we love considering all things cyclical and seasonal at BeSpoke Communication. So as summer draws to a close we are taking a few more opportunities to rest, travel, and spend time with family but we are also thinking about what’s next. Key to maintaining a communication skills and presence practice is assessing where you are and what you want focus on moving forward. The foundation of core components like supportive posture, breathwork, mindfulness, and articulation exercises will always be there but depending on where we find ourselves, our attention and approaches will shift and vary. So from time to time it’s worth thinking about what you need from your practice overall and how it can support your goals.

We’re taking some time to focus on this too. As our last post mentioned, we’ll have a little end of summer hiatus where we’ll be creating some new content together and ramping up our plans. It would be great to know what you would find beneficial, what you think about when it comes to communication skills, and how you like to work.

Don’t be shy! We’d love to hear from you.

To get the ball rolling, here are some prompts to get you thinking, writing, drawing about how you’re feeling, what areas are going well, where you’d like to place more attention, and what impact you want your communication skills to have on your life. We’re not trying to give anyone an existential crisis so this could be as simple as being confident in your next performance review or taking on a monologue in a new accent. Or it might be something bigger. It’s all about where you are and what you need.

  • What is going well in your practice right now?
    • Think of something physical that’s feeling good
    • Think about an aspect of your mindset that’s positive
    • Think of one of your favorite personal speaking habits
  • Where are you feeling challenged?
    • Are there physical obstacles for how you want to communicate?
    • Think of where you can cultivate some positivity in your mind
    • Is there a communication habit you would like to shift?
  • What are the goals you’re working towards right now? What would you like to be working towards?
    • Think of a few short term goals, perhaps consider these categories:
      • Personal
      • Professional
      • Family/relationships
    • Think of a few long term goals, again considering these categories:
      • Personal
      • Professional
      • Family/relationships
    • Using whatever arises think about how your communication skills can support these goals and areas of your life:
      • What skills will help you physically?
      • What will help mentally?
      • What habits do you hope to develop in your communications?

Hopefully this gives you some food for thought! Let us know how you get on and we’ll look forward to evolving together this autumn!

Take Good Care,

Lindsay & Christine

 

 

 

 

 

 

De-Stimulation Sequence

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Hi Friends,

Feeling a little spread thin or stressed out? Here is a sequence that uses mindful voice work to help you de-stimulate your nervous system and chill out. This sequence is great for relaxation all by itself, but also great for your voice. Relaxed bodies lead to more relaxed breathing which leads to easier speaking. So get into something comfy and create yourself a nice little atmosphere (why not a candle? Maybe some flowers? Who says voice work can’t be romantic?) and enjoy!

Take good care,

Christine & Lindsay

 

Be a Springtime Blossom! Tips for Spring Allergies and Vocal Care

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Hello Friends!

First of all, Happy Spring! We are very happy to see flowers blooming, the days growing longer, and even getting that little bit warmer in London, although like all early spring days things are certainly changeable. For some (including me), this changeability can cause imbalances in the sinuses and, trying to be as tasteful as possible, hefty production of mucus, which can leave my throat itchy and uncomfortable with post-nasal drip and bring an unhealthy rasp to my voice. It’s not fun and can impact range, breath support, and resonance. But no one should miss out on the fun of spring and of course there are always ways to support ourselves through pungent, pollinated times.

To that end, we thought it would be helpful to share some strategies for coping with the allergy and sinus challenges spring can pose. Because we are not ENTs or allergists these are not medical suggestions but natural means for relief that we have found effective. Please ensure you seek the advice of a doctor for your allergies, especially if you’re being severely affected. We just hope these thoughts will encourage some mindful self-care.

1. Starting with the obvious and eternal advice: HYDRATE

We regularly mention hydration on this blog so I’ll stick to the spring-relevant points here. When temperatures are going up and we’re feeling warmer and perhaps sweating a bit more, drinking hydrating fluids is very important for overall health. In the case of assisting allergies and sinuses, maintaining a good level of hydration can dilute mucus thickness and combat the drying effect that allergy medications like antihistamines and decongestants have on the throat. Just remember drinking water does not instantly hydrate your throat, vital organs reap the benefits first. By some measures it takes at least 20 minutes for your throat and vocal folds to feel any benefit of drinking water while some sticklers say overall hydration is only achieved after 4 hours. Don’t drive yourself crazy with these timelines, just drink throughout the day. A glass of water first thing in the morning and before bed will help too. Spring is a great time of year to make some trendy water infusions so pile in the mint, strawberry, and cucumber!

2. Take a sinus rinse…NETI POT

We could probably write an entire manifesto on Neti pots. Using them has been a game-changer in terms of caring for our voices while living in a big city and suffering from sensitive sinuses. Because they only use salt packets and water we’ve found them to be a great alternative to nasal sprays. Neti pots and salt packets can be found in the allergy treatment sections of drugstores or on Amazon. A written explanation of how to use them is difficult but luckily the amazing Adriene Mishler of Yoga With Adriene has a video on the subject. Check it out and see what you think. For our part, we’ve looked back.

3. Soothing Smells…AROMATHERAPY

This is a simple suggestion, but sometimes experiencing lots of congestion during warmer weather can feel very oppressive. A little essential oil action can go a long way. My preferred oils for this scenario are peppermint and eucalyptus. Just putting a few drops on a tissue, holding it to my nose and gently breathing in goes a long way. I also like to place a few drops on my pillow before bed. Whether it’s essential oils or a lavender infused eye pillow, soothing smell and sensory stimulation can be an easy way to alleviate pressure and provide yourself with some lovely smells!

4. Maintain useful habits…BREATHE AND MOVE

When we don’t feel well it’s tempting to feel like moving should be put on the back burner. Despite this, stretching and tying movement to breath offers the chance to find gentle relief through working muscles and moving the breath, which will gently work on the throat and sinuses. Turning to Adriene again, this is a sequence I like to do when I’m feeling particularly bad (it’s really great for a bad cold as well as allergies).

5. Fresh air, plenty of sleep, good food…SELF CARE

When your allergies are making you all kinds of sniffly don’t shut the windows and stay in a stuffy room, let some air in and get outside. It will help you acclimate to the changes in pollen levels and avoid the dust you find indoors. Pair this with getting enough sleep and eating plenty of good vitamin-packed foods. Dust off that nutri bullet, personal blender, giant blender and make some smoothies! In short, find ways to give yourself extra healthy support.

Please let us know what you find most helpful and we would love to hear your favorite strategies!

Take Care and Be Well,

Lindsay and Christine

Open Your Heart! (Be our communication Valentines?)

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Hello Friends, 

So it’s mid-February, the Valentine’s Day displays are upon on us. They’re cheesy, some of them are fun, some of them makes us deeply frustrated with society, but at the very least it’s possible to find good deals on wine and chocolate regardless of your celebration inclinations.  We both like to be a bit “light-hearted,” if you will, (sorry I can’t help myself) about the holiday, so we thought let’s make a self-love sequence that focuses on keeping the heart open, literally and metaphorically.

Extremes in the chest impede our ability to breathe with ease and support. Collapse through rounded shoulders or forcing the chest forward through shoulders pressed back leaves the body vulnerable to tension and sends a consistent message of stress. Whatever your stance is on the metaphorical concept of an open heart, the physical situation bears on our ability to access our thoughts and feelings with clarity and presence. So grab an empowered, upright seat and take the time to give your heart some love this Valentine’s Day. That’s all we ask from our communication Valentines.

Let us know how it goes and remember:

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” -Oscar Wilde

Lots of Love,

Lindsay and Christine

Post-Turkey Tummy Time!!

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Just one of our very lovely Thanksgiving occasions!

Hello Friends!

A week gone, we hope anyone partaking enjoyed a very Happy Thanksgiving!. In difficult times we are very grateful to have loved ones around us and for the ability to share our ideas and experiment in this space.

Now, it’s no secret that we both are ardent supporters of occasions that require a love and commitment to eating, but occasionally this can lead to stress…especially in the tummy area when its been overloaded by decadent vegetarian stuffing and divine mashed potatoes. This of course can lead to some rough digestive feelings, which we know impacts our ability to communicate. This sequence is designed to give you a little easy tummy love any time you might need it.

This is a floor sequence so grab a mat, towel, or just settle down on a clean carpet.

Let us know how you like it!

Take Good Care,

Lindsay and Christine

Voicing the Inner Voice; Gratitude

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My safe space. Where’s yours? 

Hey Y’all,

Happy Thanksgiving Week! Because of all the craziness going on in the world, we thought this would be a good time to tune in to your inner voice. Since it’s Thanksgiving, we’re practicing voicing the mantra ‘I’m grateful’. Put on something comfy, find your safe space, and tune in.

Take good care,

Christine and Lindsay

 

Managing Nerves: The Moment Before

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My cat, Sadie. I think this photo perfectly captures what so many of us feel like the moment before a performance or presentation! 

Hi Friends,

We have many posts on the site that help you warm up and prepare ahead of a performance or a presentation, but what about that moment right before you get up to speak? That moment, while you are waiting, is often nerve-wracking. This is a short sequence that coaches you through where to place your focus in that moment before, allowing you to stay present, rather than in another world thinking about how nervous you are. You can listen to it ahead of time and then keep the sequence in mind whenever you are in ‘the moment before’. The sequence is very simple but very effective!

Let us know how it goes. Sadie the cat wants to know!

Take good care,

Christine and Lindsay

Stress Bustin’ Breathing and Snazzy Sighing!

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Illustration from Madison Cavanaugh’s The One Minute Cure

Hello Friends!

I hope your October is ending well, and if you’re into Halloween that you’re getting ready for some spooky fun. This week’s sequence might awaken your inner ghost with some sighing or simply afford a bit of tranquility with attention to the breath.

Let us know how you get on and if you find this helpful in bringing you to a happy place!

Take Good Care,

Lindsay and Christine