What Babies Can Teach Us About Better Speaking

 In Presence, Vocal Production

Breathing is a good idea. I think most of us can agree on that. And most people figure there’s only one way to go about it. Breathe in, breathe out. Simple. And yet, even though as babies we breathe efficiently and effectively, over time, hunching over desks, or sucking in a gut for passing admirers effects the way we breathe, limiting the choices we have to persuade and engage an audience.

The effect of poor breathing on your voice and your presence can be huge; your energy is diminished as is your volume, tone quality, and physical stamina, and even your confidence. Poor breathing limits your ability to prepare well for speaking. It limits your ability to control your delivery through variety and pacing. In short, you may be surviving at your desk, but bad breathing may be killing you as a speaker.

How does good breathing support good speaking?

When you breathe as you were meant to breathe, you are more relaxed. Poor breathing is a lot like hyperventilating all the time; short, quick breaths don’t allow there to be a natural exchange between oxygen and CO2, leaving the breather feeling stressed and off center. Good breathing allows you to leave pauses in your talk, pauses that are good for you but also good for others because your audience gets time to take in what you’ve said.   And finally, sound moves on air; good breathing energizes your voice and carries it across a room much better than just shouting.

What is good breathing technique?

Have you ever watched a baby breathe? His little tummy goes in and out. Adults, however, usually breathe so that their ribs go in and out and their chest goes up and down.  Next time you see a baby breathe, study carefully. Except for the tummy hanging out all the time, babies have what we want when it comes to breathing.  Here’s how to get it:

  • Sit on the edge of your chair with both feet on the ground, but one slightly behind the other. Your legs should be active, as though you were about to stand.       Raise your arms over your head. Relax your abdomen and breathe in deeply, letting the air first drop into the abdomen, and then expanding the lower rib cage.
  • Your lungs will be fully expanded even though it feels like the air is in your stomach. Slowly exhale, keeping your ribs expanded. Let your abdomen contract as you exhale, almost as if you were doing a crunch.
  • When you have expelled all of your air, quickly let the abdomen relax without dropping your chest, and inhale again. Then exhale as described above.

Obviously, you won’t go around with your arms over your head all the time, so the next step is to try the same technique with your arms down, then standing, then walking, etc. Pretty soon you’ll be breathing like a babe and feeling much better too. Notice too that when you breathe this way your stomach gets more toned from the ab action. Nice.

This month is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Celebrate your lungs and lung health by breathing better. For more ways to support lung health, please visit Lungforce.com.

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Connect with the author on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/k8peters

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