Transcript: Empowering Women To Use Their Voice To Be More Confident

by Allegra M. Sinclair  - August 24, 2023

I’m pleased to offer AI-generated transcripts for each of my podcast episodes. I believe these transcripts will be a helpful resource for you to revisit the wisdom and insights shared in the conversations. However, as advanced as technology is, it might not perfectly capture or interpret some words or phrases, especially industry-specific jargon or names. Therefore, please understand that there may be minor typos or grammar inconsistencies in the transcripts.

Intro: Welcome to Your Confident Self, the podcast that empowers women to step into their boldest, most confident selves. I’m your host, Allegra Sinclair, and I’m here to help you unleash your full potential in every area of your life. From the boardroom to the dance floor will explore practical strategies and mindset shifts that will help you show up as your most confident self in every situation. Join me each week as I either bring you a lesson straight from my own executive coaching practice or I dive into conversations with inspiring women who have overcome their own fears and self doubt to achieve amazing things. From entrepreneurs and executives to artists and athletes, my guests will share their stories and insights so you can learn from their experiences and apply their lessons to your own life. Whether you’re ready to ask for that promotion, start your own business, or simply feel more confident in your own skin, your Confident Self is the podcast for you. So grab your headphones and get ready to unlock your full potential.

Allegra Sinclair: Hey, everybody. Welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. I’m being so selfish today, but I’m being generous and selfish at the same time. So I’m selfish because I personally am wired for sound about the topic we’re going to cover, but I’m being generous and that I’m sharing this amazing resource with all of you instead of keeping her to myself. Today we’re talking about your voice. What does my voice have to do with confidence? Allegra well, hang on, we’re going to tell you, but we’re talking about your voice. Your voice as an instrument, your voice as an instrument of good, your voice as a powerful thing that you have going on. You going for you rather with regard to building your brand and career. So you think your voice is just how you sound. It is not. Your voice is a tool that we’re going to use much more intentionally moving forward. So my guest today is Mary Chan, and Mary is a podcast strategist, voice coach and voiceover artist who believes in empowering women to reclaim their voice. Born and raised in Vancouver to immigrant parents, mary was told to stay quiet. Can anybody else relate to that? I sure can. So today, Mary gives women self confidence with their voice because she felt that she didn’t have one growing up. After working in radio for 20 years, she struck out on her own and founded her company, Organized Sound Productions, which is a podcast production and consulting company. And she is here to shower us with all sorts of expertise and tips on using our voice more confidently. Thanks for being here, Mary.

Mary Chan: Such a pleasure, Allegra. Thank you so much for having me.

Allegra Sinclair: You are very welcome. I am fascinated by voice, and I can say this with no ego involved. I sound exactly like my mother did when she was alive. So the fact that I say I’m fascinated by my voice doesn’t mean I’m in love with myself, y’all? It means when I hear it, I remember all the feels that she gave me when she talked. And I remember the impact her voice had on other people. I don’t feel like it’s the same for me, but I am just enthralled with the idea that our voice can be a tool for us. So tell me a little bit, because being raised by a Jamaican daddy, so I have an immigrant parent too, being raised by a Jamaican daddy and a southern bell mama, I was also raised in the children should be seen and not heard school of disempowering young girls. So tell me a little bit about that. When did you discover that you didn’t.

Mary Chan: Have to stay quiet? Oh, yes, I was always told in Cantonese, my dad being from China, my mom being from Hong Kong, my dad always told me in Cantonese, mocho. He yelled and screamed it much louder than that, but essentially it means no noise. But because I was born in Vancouver, my Canadian mind translated that into shut up. And I just kept hearing the words shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up so many times. So it wasn’t until I decided to get into radio as a career and coming from an Asian family, that is totally not kosher.

Allegra Sinclair: Oh, really? Why?

Mary Chan: Well, just because it’s very typical of traditional families to get you into a career that’s financially stable. Right. So we’re talking doctor, nurse, accountant, things like that, that are always needed within the community. You will always be paid for that. You will always be able to find a job.

Allegra Sinclair: Got you.

Mary Chan: When I was in high school and we had that career prep class in grade eleven and twelve, you did that huge quiz. And by the time I was done with it, the answer spat out and the top three things were like, movie director, Hollywood producer, or Radio. And I was like, well, I can’t do Hollywood. I’m this short little Chinese girl. There’s no way that I can do Hollywood. But Radio.

Allegra Sinclair: Well, you could now.

Mary Chan: Well, I could now. Definitely. But this was I’m talking late 90s here.

Allegra Sinclair: Okay. Yes.

Mary Chan: And so, yeah, I’m just like, okay, Radio, that sounds like, really fun. I listened to the radio all the time because I was missing that connection and I wanted to connect with people because I was kept getting told to be quiet. Right. And so radio was my connection to that world and I listened all the time. And when that career prep test told me I could be working in that industry, it floored me. I was just like, okay, how do I make this happen? I didn’t really care what my parents thought or anything like that. I was just like, this sounds like fun versus a nine to five job. And I wanted to do something fun.

Allegra Sinclair: That is a fascinating confidence injection. So you went from being told not to make any noise to, hey, how do I do this thing? That is radio. That’s fascinating, because I might have thought you’d be a little apprehensive about that. Right.

Mary Chan: Well, it also helped that I’m the youngest of three, and so in our family, the boys are touted to be, how do I say, the one that they look up to. Right. The boy the oldest as well. And so my brother was the oldest, and then there was my sister, who’s next oldest. So she already took care of the older daughter role. Right. So being the youngest girl, they didn’t care too much about what I did.

Allegra Sinclair: There was that freedom in that. All the rules had been broken already.

Mary Chan: Exactly. My brother got yelled at a lot. He felt like he was more confined to things that he had to do. And then I was just kind of ignored over here. And so when I kept getting ignored and I’m like, Listen to me, listen to me. I have a voice. I want to say something. Nobody cared. And so I just thought, Well, I just want to do something fun then, if everybody is just working so hard all the time. My mom had three jobs. It never looked like any fun. And I’m like, well, what’s the point of all of that?

Allegra Sinclair: Okay, so you were primed. You were in perfect position to want to do something different and take a.

Mary Chan: Little bit of a risk, I think. So I was lucky enough to have that. And so, yeah, I found out there was a great radio program in my city. I went and did that two year program, broke the news to my parents that I wasn’t going to university and getting that academic degree thing, but they seemed okay with it. The funny thing was that my dad, they don’t speak English very well at all, but we still watch the evening news every night on TV. And he remarked, and he said, oh, well, the people that are reading the news, they wear a different outfit every day. They must get paid really well.

Allegra Sinclair: Okay, so radio was an appropriate career because you would have to wear a different outfit every day, which translates into being paid well.

Mary Chan: Yeah, that’s what he figured.

Allegra Sinclair: All right, dad.

Mary Chan: I slipped into this career with my parents approval, thinking that it would be financially stable. Little did they know, this is radio, not TV, and the industry has totally shrunk in the past decade or so. So anyway, long story short, I get into radio, and this is the days before cell phones where you can record yourself and stuff. And I recorded my voice on a cassette tape as an assignment. And when I played it back to myself, oh, my gosh, I could not believe my voice sounded like this. I was really high pitched, and I was just this tiny, tiny sounding little girl that didn’t have that confidence that I thought I did because I just kept talking like this. And being on the podcast, I’m five foot one, you can’t see me, I’m a very small person. And so what had happened after the fact, I realized it was because everybody kept saying I was cute and remarking on my small stature that my voice fit that mold versus this really is my voice. Where this register and frequency is now. This is where I truly shine in believing who I am, what I have to offer, versus this other little girl who is decades ago was so unsure of herself, she was trying to fit everybody else’s mold. And so she came up with this voice unconsciously. So through my radio career, I realized this isn’t me. I want to be who I am. What does that sound like? And this is me now.

Allegra Sinclair: That is so interesting. I think I read on your website that the voice we have now is different than the voice we had when we were born. So now what I’m understanding is we can have different voice at different voices, rather at different points in our career based on external factors. So it’s not just me physically and my voice and how I’m showing up or if I’m sitting up or whatever. It is very much about the people around me shaping my voice.

Mary Chan: Yeah, the voice you were born with is not the voice that you have now and probably still won’t be the voice that you have as we all grow older as well. Even think about it, children’s voices have a very high pitch to begin with. Right, so like my little high pitched voice I was talking about, yes, it probably was that voice for me because physically your vocal cords, which makes the sound of your voice when you’re small and when you’re younger, they’re very, very short. So they’re all high pitched and the people go through puberty. That’s when your vocal cords actually elongate. So your throat gets longer, your larynx gets longer. And that’s why men go through the deeper voice change than women do just because we have a shorter larynx and vocal cord. So that’s the anatomy of things. However, the voice that we have today is really honed in through all the people that have been in our community. So like you were saying, your voice sounds like your mom. Well, yes, because you and your mom probably had a great connection growing up. Or there was that connection, that tie. People always say to me that I sound like my sister. So even though we might sound similar to people in our community, each voice is still very unique. It’s like a thumbprint. No one’s voice is exactly the same as somebody else’s voice. But because we unconsciously want to feel a belonging, we want to feel that we belong in this family, this tribe, this community. Our voice evolves and changes based on the people we want to belong with. So my parents, coming from Hong Kong and China, as I said, they had an accent versus the Western Canadian accent. And so since I was born in Vancouver, I even noticed at a very young age that people were treating my parents differently. And so I believe that subconsciously, I decided I needed to sound like the rest of my community. I wanted to sound like my teachers who were so well spoken, they had this air about them, and I was like, they’re getting the respect my parents aren’t. I want to sound like them. And I think that’s how voices evolve, dependent on where you are. Everyone has an accent. But because my parents were from a different part of the world, their accent was just a lot more noticeable in a different.

Allegra Sinclair: Different so if I went to Canada, I would think everybody in Canada had an I’m like, so a yes, legitimately, they came from Hong Kong and China, so they were bringing those accents with them. But also, when you were saying everybody has an accent, I was like, yeah, people from Canada have an accent.

Mary Chan: Yeah, I know. You forget that because you’re in your community. All the know. I was even on a zoom call the other day, and someone’s like, wait a minute, where are you from? I detect a Canadian accent. I’m like, really? You do?

Allegra Sinclair: And they’re like, yeah. I think it’s interesting that my voice is different now than before, but I also think this so since I left working inside a corporation, I think my voice is very different now. I think my voice is deeper, and I think my voice is more powerful because I think as I stepped outside of corporate, which everybody doesn’t have to do, but I stepped out of corporate in order to be more of who I am, my voice then matched that person. But inside corporate, I made my voice smaller because often in corporate, I was trying to make me smaller. So my voice obviously would get smaller just like everything else, right? I was showing up in a way that that voice matched. But now, yeah, I think my voice is very different. It’s the same, but it’s not the same. So if I listen to podcast episodes I did ten years ago, my voice is very different than it is today.

Mary Chan: And also, too, the comfort and that confidence that comes with being in the voice that you have, we’re no longer hiding. And I think that’s kind of what I was doing, too, with my voice, was that I was hiding who I really was because I wanted to fit in with everybody so much. And so I created this mask that I have for my voice. And you know what? That’s not a good or bad thing because people do that all the time, and even on a day to day basis, like, if you think about who you talk to, whether it be your mom, whether it be your partner, your boss. You put on a slightly different voice. It’s the same voice, but it is going to be a little bit different. And you would still speak to them in a slightly different voice based on the content. Right? Like, if you’re talking to your partner and you’re just really excited about something coming up this weekend, you guys are going to go do this, maybe your voice is going to get a bit more high pitched because you’re really excited about something. But then if you’re talking about really something serious, okay, we have to sit down and we need to talk about this. Your voice is going to lower, and that’s just the natural rhythm, and it’s still your voice, but it is slightly different because you need to change your voice based on the person you’re talking to, the situation you’re in, environmental factors, your community, all of this stuff.

Allegra Sinclair: So there are so many places I want to go with this, and I want to go all at one time. And inside my head, I’m like, Slow down, girl, you have a whole 35 minutes. Just calm down. Don’t ask her everything all at one time. So I want to talk a little bit more about using your voice to convey confidence or using your voice to help you feel more confident. Because when you started talking about how you spent 20 years in radio, probably most of the people who are listening to us didn’t spend 20 years in radio, but they have spent no, but they’ve spent 20 years communicating. They have spent 20 years using their voice as a tool, unintentionally. So what we’re going to talk about is using it more intentionally. So whether you’re having to present on a zoom and you’re thinking, oh, my gosh, I’m boring myself, what is happening here? Right, or you’re having to do a presentation in front of a group of people and you feel like you’re yelling, right? There are lots of different opportunities for our voice to work with or against us. So tell me some tips that I can maybe apply immediately or practice to use my voice in a more confident way.

Mary Chan: Yeah. There was one thing you were saying about being bored, right? It’s that monotone voice, putting people to.

Allegra Sinclair: Sleep because you think that’s your professional, credible voice. You feel like you need to talk like Dan Rather, and then you listen to it later and you’re like, Good Lord, I am liquid. I am living saminex. I wanted to take a nap in the middle of my own presentation. Right? We don’t like that when we hear ourselves. That’s one of the reasons we don’t like to hear ourselves.

Mary Chan: Yeah. And I think that is key right there. People think that we need to put on this certain voice, whether it be the professional voice or the broadcast voice. I hear that a lot with podcasters because they’re like, well, podcasting is like radio, right? So I want to put on that radio voice. But radio voice or broadcast voice was something that was made up like a hundred years ago. Some dude over in England somewhere just decided, oh, this British accent that I have, and there’s the American accent. What can we do to make things sound more pleasing to everyone? And they just made up these sounds and decided, okay, this is what a good voice sounds like, right? So over the years, broadcasters have used that as a standard, and we call it a broadcast voice, broadcast standard accent. People are trying to emulate that. But what I find really interesting as well is I had this lovely young lady, we had a discovery call, and she just wanted to get some voice coaching done. And so I was talking about, okay, what are your goals? What are some voices that you love to hear and you want to maybe take in some of those tones? And she’s like, Well, I don’t know because she works in journalism. And so she was told by her boss she needed to record her voice for overlaying some script for a video. And she was like, yeah, I don’t know. My boss just told me I need to sound more broadcast. I’m like, okay, well, what does that mean to you? And she’s like, I don’t know, like CNN. I’m like, all right, first of all, you are a young 20 ish black woman. Do you want to sound like an old CNN Walter Concrite voice? Is that you? And she’s like, oh, no.

I’m like, well, yes, exactly. If that’s not who you are, why are you trying to meld your voice into this other person, another personality, when seriously, you are going to put people to sleep with if you’re going to try and sound like that guy, right? So in order to be more yourself, you need to figure out, okay, what qualities within a voice do I love and how do I bring that to life? And part of the not putting people to sleep is having some variety in your voice. It’s all about being animated when you need to be be more soft spoken, when you need to be slow right down when you have to, or speed right up because you are excited about something. And this is powerful. It’s going to create some impact. People will pay attention to those pieces of your voice. So I’m not saying like, you need to be calm and slow and the same pitch every single time or high and excited and this really fast speed all the time, but it’s the variety. We want a little bit of everything so that people’s attention are really going to be honed in and wondering what you are going to say next because you’re changing things up all the time and that’s how normal.

Allegra Sinclair: Yeah, I think I heard two things there. So I think they’re under the umbrella of confidence, using your voice more confidently. But very specifically, if you’re worried that your voice is going to be boring, one tactic, one strategy used to get around that is don’t try to be someone else.

Mary Chan: Yeah.

Allegra Sinclair: Because that takes work and focus. Right. It takes you out of what it is that you’re communicating. If you’re busy trying to think, wait, what am I supposed to make my voice sound like? Instead of using your real voice? Right. That takes energy and focus in order to pretend work. Yes. Right. To be this other person. So there was that. But then the second piece of it, after being more yourself, is to let your voice live, like, naturally, the way you would ebb and flow. So if I’m doing a presentation in front of people, I don’t have to get up there and suddenly turn into, like, Max headroom. If my voice pattern normally is I speed up when I’m excited and I lean in and whisper when I want a little bit more mystery. Right. I can do that in my presentation. So there aren’t certain times when you’re allowed to use your voice as a tool and other times when it’s verboten. Right?

Mary Chan: Yes.

Allegra Sinclair: Those are two things.

Mary Chan: Okay. Yeah. But obviously, being women, we don’t always have the luxury of being really excited all the time because then sometimes we’re told you’re too shrill, you have no, like, we have all these things that are coming at us, policing how we sound. Like, when really men have a lot of the same qualities in voice, it’s just that they naturally have a lower frequency, a lower timbre. And so women get policed all of this time. So you also have to gauge who is your listener, who is listening to you, who is in the room, who are you speaking to? And there will be times when you’re like, okay, I don’t want to get into that really high pitched area and think people are going to think I’m shrill, but I still want to have that bit of excitement. So I can still get up into that higher register and still convey that energy that you want and that enthusiasm in your voice, but still knowing, okay, this is the room that I’m in, and this is the playing field that I’m playing with. These are part of the rules. So there is a fine line with.

Allegra Sinclair: That that is interesting. I think it didn’t occur to me someone speeding up because they were excited would sound shrill. But that’s interesting because I have never heard that. But that is fascinating how we’re policed, what excitement is allowed to look like, what passion is allowed to look like, what it’s allowed to sound like. That’s a whole other podcast episode. But one of the things that I do think is helpful is if you can’t breathe, maybe you want to use your voice as a little bit different tool just in general, right? Because physically this sounds so silly, but there are things that you can do physically that help your voice, and one of which is breathing. So if I’m getting really high pitched and shrill and I’m not able to take breaths, it’s going to be hard for me to communicate, period. That’s not about someone necessarily policing that I’m being shrill. But if I give myself a moment and I’ve accepted myself and the fact that I’m a woman and I have a woman voice register, then I think I’m able to lean into what it is that I’m sharing more. I just don’t want people to think they can’t be excited when they’re presenting in corporate, because they can.

Mary Chan: They can?

Allegra Sinclair: Yes, and they should. If you’re not excited, no one else.

Mary Chan: Is going to be. Exactly.

Allegra Sinclair: It’s kind of like I was working with a client who was going to do a presentation, and I was like, so we did this first test run. And I was like, So how did that feel? And she’s like, oh my gosh, it felt great. And I was like, well, tell your face, because your face doesn’t look like that felt great. Nothing about you, your tone, nothing seemed great. It’s okay for your emotion and your feelings about what is happening to show through. Her face looked angry. Her voice sounded disengaged. And I was like, she thought that was great. Well, honey, tell the rest of you.

Mary Chan: Yes.

Allegra Sinclair: I would not have known that, right? Tell the rest of you.

Mary Chan: Your body is part of your voice, and people don’t ever really think about that. So like I was saying, your vocal cords, they’re a muscle. It needs to be worked on. And so your muscle, just like the rest of your body, needs that movement all the time. And your body is going to help you with it. Because when you lift a weight, it’s not just your hand lifting the weight. It needs a bit of your bicep, your tricep, your shoulder, like your hands, all of this stuff. So your vocal cords can’t do the work all on its own. It needs your body to support it. And so breathing is really key. It is the foundation. And what I usually like to do is if people are either speaking too fast, speaking too slow, whatever it is, breath will be that support. So you just need to take a pause. And pausing is totally fine, even in a presentation, because you hold the floor, you’ve got that pause. It’s almost like a little cliffhanger. They will wait for you because they notice you are taking a pause and just have a little breath. And I’m talking about like diaphragmatic breathing.

So this is belly breath around just below your rib cage, around your belly button. Or maybe lower belly as well. Below your belly button. But I usually like right below the ribcage. Right above the belly button. You can put your hand right there. You can put one hand there. Your other hand can go on your chest. So when you take a breath in, which hand is moving, if it’s your bottom hand, then you’re doing the belly breathing, the diaphragmatic breathing. If it is the upper hand, then you’ve got chest breathing going on, which then goes into your fight or flight mode. So when people are hyperventilating, they are breathing from their chest, which means I am getting nervous. I don’t know if I’m doing this right. I’m getting scared. What if I’m saying all the things wrong? Oh my gosh. And you can even hear my voice is just cracking up a bit more because I’m tensing all of the muscles in my upper region, including my vocal cords. And so you can hear that and in your face too, once you get into that mindset of, okay, I’m breathing from my chest. Okay, I’m going to fight or flight. Then you get like I get the furrowed eyebrows, I get a scrunched. Like my lips get more scrunched up and that will tighten all of that stuff up, making you not sound like your true self. Because when you are in the mode of relaxation, you don’t have that fight or flight. You’re breathing from your diaphragm. You’re calm, you’re collected. Your voice naturally lowers into its natural rhythm.

I like to call it the heart voice. So it lays right on your heart and then you get to really connect with the message that you want to share. Because like you said in that corporate presentation, you should care. You should care about what you’re saying. And especially if it’s a cause you’re trying to push for, you’re trying to push for funding for a project or something like that, you are going to care. And when you care, I want to hear that caring in your voice. And again, when I was saying that my voice was lower, I was stretching out words. And I don’t necessarily have to go way up there high into the I’m so excited about this. I need you to care about this voice. It can just be more through your heart’s message. What is it that the other person that you’re speaking to should know about? What is the emotion? This is something that I always say to people. How do you want your listener to feel? If you can think about that, then you can highlight that emotion in your own head, which means that you are going to be carrying that emotion with you versus the nervous emotion and the anxiety emotion. And then your listener will feel that emotion as well. So if you want them to care, if you want them to feel excited, if you want them to feel passionate, then start thinking about that because you’re going to serve your listener more than focusing on what am I going to say? Is this the right stat that I had memorized?

Allegra Sinclair: What’s.

Mary Chan: The next slide. What’s coming up next that all creates all this nervous energy. So how do you want your listener to feel? Is the question you always want to ask yourself.

Allegra Sinclair: Awesome. That is awesome. Because that changes or that influences the content as well as the delivery.

Mary Chan: Yeah, 100%.

Allegra Sinclair: Right? How do you want them to feel? Because if I want them to feel a particular way, then there’s things I probably won’t say and things I definitely want to say in order to help them. Oh, that is really good.

Mary Chan: Yeah. And it takes yourself out of the bubble, too. Sorry. And I’ve noticed it takes yourself out of the bubble. Right. When you are getting ready for a presentation, you’re in this bubble like a fishbowl effect, and you’re just swirling around your same thoughts all the time. But if you can focus on the listener and how they will feel, then it tricks your brain almost into thinking, okay, how am I serving this person? How am I helping? And everybody wants to be a helper, right? So then it takes away that focus on yourself and the role that you’re playing in this. Instead, you’re saying, okay, how am I going to help this person? How are they going to feel about what’s going on here?

Allegra Sinclair: So I know you talk about how you can shift the way you speak so that you communicate more clearly. And let’s say you connect better, deeper, more authentically with your audience. Is that part of getting really clear about how you want them to feel? Or is there some other part of how you shift the way you use your voice to communicate that you think enables you to connect more?

Mary Chan: Twofolds to that? Yes. One, the emotional aspect. But first, the first thing that you really want to do is go back to what we were talking about earlier, figuring out your voice story. So this is something that what I like to do with some of my clients is going back to. Okay, the very first time you remember somebody saying about what it is about your voice. So, again, for me, it was my dad telling me, mocho, shut up. Shut up. For other people, it could be. I had another client once who was in university, and she was going to do a presentation in front of the class, and the instructor went to the back of the room and said, I can’t hear you. Do you always talk like that? Speak up already. And it’s just that tone of voice that she got from him, and so that has stayed with her for years. And so it’s just unraveling those pieces and realizing, oh, I still carry that with me. It’s not doing me a service right now. It’s totally doing me disservice to have that still with me. So it’s unpacking some of those layers about what people had said to you all those years ago and realizing, oh, my gosh, that’s why I do this with my voice. Or that’s why I don’t know if you’ve heard the term like vocal fry. And again, when people are being policed by their voices, mostly women, and when I say women, I usually am generalizing. So anyone that identifies as female have that creakiness at the end of words so that you might fry at the end of a sentence. And it’s just that creakiness in your voice.

Allegra Sinclair: I was like, wait, what is happening here?

Mary Chan: I’m over exaggerating it.

Allegra Sinclair: But people, I was like, so what is it?

Mary Chan: Tell me more about the end of sentences. There’s like a creak in your voice and people call it vocal fry. So at the end of a sentence you might say something like, I had oatmeal today, tomorrow I’m going to have a sandwich for lunch.

Allegra Sinclair: Got you. Okay.

Mary Chan: So it’s just that at the end, some people might say, oh, I don’t like that part of my voice. I want to stop that. But also realize too, why does that happen? Doesn’t have to be you specifically. But why do people pick up on those pieces of voice? And that type of voice really came into the limelight when Kim Kardashian, that era, when they became famous, that generation had a lot of vocal fry. And so because in the media we see people of power now at that age have vocal fry. It’s become a thing where if you didn’t have vocal fry in your voice, the younger generations are now thinking, oh, well, if you don’t have vocal fry, you don’t sound as authoritative. Where the older generation is saying, oh, if you have vocal fry, then you are not authoritative. So we’re having this battle between voices when really vocal fry happens because there’s not enough air coming through your vocal cord. So your vocal cords are these two muscles that they vibrate when air passes through them. And when at the end of sentences, if there is not enough breath to support your voice, there is not enough air to go through the vocal cords. So the vocal cords cords are just kind of flapping away and then it creates this at the end. And so that’s why we have vocal fry. So another thing a lot of people say is like, I want to stop saying um and awe all the time.

Allegra Sinclair: Yes, girl, say it again. Well, I hear that a lot, right? Yeah. One of my favorite clients in the whole wide world reached out a couple of weeks ago because she’s like, oh, I was on a podcast and I kept hearing myself say, right, yes, talk about it.

Mary Chan: So really there isn’t anything wrong with saying um or all those other words. They are actually doing a job. There is a professor that I interviewed on my podcast, dr. Alexandra Darcy amazing work. She created this work called 800 Years of like. And so she researched the word like, UMS, Oz, all of those words and figured out that we’ve been using the word like for over 800 years, it means there’s five different meanings to the word like. And just because we use it a lot for other things. And the older generation was like, oh, got to stop saying like, or you got to stop saying ah. But there’s a use for all of them. Every time we say an um versus an ah, it’s actually doing a job. So when you say um, it’s usually in between two thoughts because you’re thinking one thought and then you’re finishing that thought, but you want to move on to the next one, but then you want to think about a bit more before you actually start stating the next thought. So you say this, this and this. When you actually say ah, that’s usually within the same thought. So you’re in the middle of a thought, but you are trying to figure out what’s that other half of the thought. You usually say ah. So there actually is a use when you say um and awe. And it’s not a good or bad thing. It’s just part of our natural speech. And especially like on a podcast episode when you’re just having a conversation, there’s going to be natural UMS and Oz in place because it is doing a job while you’re speaking and thinking at the same time. And another thing is that one of its other jobs is to make sure to show that you have got some emotional tie to your message. And so the example of that I usually like to use is if you did not have UMS and oz and other filler words in your speech and if you said to someone, you should see a therapist, that comes off very harsh. But if you add in the UMS and ODS and how we would normally speak when we’re having a conversation, you could say to your person, well, I think you should probably see a therapist, right? So it’s doing a job and making sure that your words are conveying a message and the emotion behind that message as well.

Allegra Sinclair: Fascinating. So if you guys could see my face right now, my jaw just dropped because I’m like, wait, um and I have a purpose. Do you know how much time I have spent untraining myself to say um and where have you been for the last 22 years? Because I have done all sorts of exercises so that I would stop saying like, I think. See what I just said? Like, I think. So now I’m so conscious of them, but I am tripping. Um, and I have a purpose. Um is a bridge between two thoughts and is giving me a moment to think while I’m continuing in the same thought. Shut the front door. So does that make you all feel different about your UMS and Oz? Just go ahead and send me an email. It’s and let me know if that changed your life about the, UMS and Oz, just that one sentence right there was worth the price of admission.

Mary Chan: I think.

Allegra Sinclair: One of the other things that you have talked about, though, when we talk about using our voice, and I know you say that the tone of our voice is the most important instrument, and I’m going to let you talk about why that is. But I think silence is also a powerful use of your voice, which doesn’t make any sense, right? Because it’s silence and your voice. But sometimes I think we say, I tell my sister all the time that she uses garbage words because she’s always saying to me, know what I mean? And after she’s done it for, like, the fifth time, I’m like, no. What do you mean? And she hates it, but it’s a sister thing. We’ve been doing it for, like, 15 years. Know what I mean? No. What do you mean? But I say that we create phrases like that because we’re so afraid of silence. It’s okay to be silent. I love that. When you said, it’s okay to take a pause in your presentation, they know that you’re still there. You have gone to sleep. We’re so afraid of silence. We just feel like we have to shove something in there and fill the space when we really don’t.

Mary Chan: Yeah.

Allegra Sinclair: And that’s why silence is a really powerful tool.

Mary Chan: It’s huge. It is one of my five keys. So pause is what I like to call it. Pause. If you need to set something up that’s really, really important, you are going to pause. No one’s going to step over your words because you’re revving them up like a cliffhanger. People are just going to be like, what are you going to say? What’s next? They’re not going to interrupt you because they’re like, oh, you’ve got something important coming up here. So that pause is so important because if you don’t have pause, you also am not giving your listener a chance to digest what you’re saying without again, for the people in the back, without the pause, you are not giving your listener a chance to digest what you are saying. We don’t want to be a fire hose of words, just throwing it out there, hoping something will stick. But if you have a really important message, if you give it that pause, your listener can go, oh, okay, in their minds while you’re setting them up for the next point that you want to make.

Allegra Sinclair: Awesome. I am just waving my hanky. I love that. I work with lots of people who are trying to edit podcasts, right? And they’re trying to take out every breath. And I said, do you realize if you do that, that your episode sounds positively robotic? There’s a natural rhythm to how we speak. And if you take out every breath, people don’t talk like that in real life. And if they do, you make them pee in a cup. We don’t do that. We have rhythm, we have ebb and flow in the way we communicate. And if we don’t, it’s uncomfortable to participate. Yeah, if you’re in a conversation with someone and it is what did you call it? A water hose. It is just straight. It’s automatic gunfire. You don’t even have a chance to think about what they said. That’s uncomfortable.

Mary Chan: Yeah, it really is. Everyone has a natural pacing or cadence to their speech, and it revs up. Like I was saying, when I get excited, that’s what happens to me. When I get really excited about something, and I just go and go and go and going. And it’s that fire hose effect. And I’m just like, okay, wait, take a breath, take a pause. Did you get what I was saying? You got to let them understand what’s going on.

Allegra Sinclair: When someone is really excited and they’re sharing something with me, sometimes I feel like I have to do that and I’ll say, whoa, that was delicious. Can you back up for me? Because I am enjoying it, but it’s too much. I can’t contain all that. But you teased us a minute ago and you thought I wasn’t paying attention. You said something was one of your five keys. Five keys to what? And what are the other four? I’m like, you can’t just throw that out there and then not fulfill the promise. So what are the five keys you’re talking about?

Mary Chan: Five keys. We were talking about amplifying your voice. And so these are my five keys to amplify your voice. So we talked about pause, which actually is number four on my list, but it doesn’t really matter what order they’re in. So number one, I want to talk about highs and lows. So we had talked about that earlier. This is your pitch or your melody. Changing your inflection really helps to build trust. So this is getting out of that monotone voice. Monotone is like the same tone throughout. You are going to be presenting like this, and eventually you are going to put everybody to sleep, right? So if you have high, you’re going to bring your voice up and bring your voice down. I kind of call it like an elevator effect. So if you think of your voice where your vocal cords are, your voice can go up the elevator and go high up into your nasal and up into your head. So that’s high voice and you’re way up there all the time, that means your elevator is stuck. It’s stuck at the penthouse, and it needs to come back down eventually because you can’t talk up here all the time. It actually is very, very hard work to talk up here all the time at the top of your head. So bring that elevator back down and you can bring it down slowly and bring it down to your chest. That’s where the low part is. But you also don’t want to speak low all the time because, again, how can you sustain that? This is not a natural, normal voice.

So you want to have some variety. You want to have a bit of high, and you want to have a bit of low, and you want to have something in between, which what I called earlier, your heart voice right at your heart, right in the middle. That’s where you really resonate with your voice. So that’s one, your highs and lows. Two is your loud or soft your volume. This volume creates impact. You don’t have to be loud all the time to create impact. You can also change it up and be soft and pull people in when you need to. You can’t be loud all the time. Then you’re just screaming at people. But then you can’t be soft all the time because then people are like, what are you saying? I can’t hear you. What? So it’s having the variety of both. Number three is fast or slow your speed. You need to calibrate your speed so that listeners are keeping up with you. Like I was saying before the fire hose, if it’s just way too fast all the time, what are we talking about here? Oh, my gosh, I can’t keep up with you. But at the same time, if you are really slow with speaking my partner does this sometimes. He’ll start a conversation with me, and I’m just like, what are you trying to say? Can you hurry it up a little bit? What’s your point? I say it in a lovingly way.

However, okay, you can’t be slow all the time either. So again, you want the variety of both. You would need to calibrate your speed. Sometimes you need to get really fast because you want to get to it. You want to hit a point, and you’re really excited about something, and then you’re going to slow it right down when you need to. Number four is the pause. So we’ve already talked about that. You’re setting up the cliffhanger, but the fifth one, number five, is called elongation. So this is when you’re slowing down one word or a couple of words, in a phrase, to elongate a word. You’re showing emotion on that. And unconsciously, we already do that. When we elongate something, it’s usually a descriptive word. It’s something where you want to talk about how you really feel about something. That’s when you want to elongate a word. And so with these five keys, it’s not like you’re doing your presentation. You’re like, oh, I need to switch to number two now. I need to be softer. I need to switch to number three. Now I need to be faster. These are just tools in your toolbox, and you naturally pull from them so you don’t stick to one. The whole idea is using a variety of all five of them and mixing them up when you can. And so that is my five keys.

Allegra Sinclair: That is yummy. So I know that you have a gift for everyone within the sound of my voice and they can find that by going to I’m going to make it fivekeys. That’s easy to remember, is it not? So slash five keys so that you can get a reference sheet of those five keys that Mary just walked I as you were talking, I kept switching from one key to the next. Each key you said, I was like, oh, no, that’s the one I really like. Okay. No, that’s the one I really like. But I had to laugh when you talked about Elongating because it immediately made me think of what’s the child’s name on Friends? Could you be more annoying? So Elongation doesn’t always have to signify emotions. Sometimes it’s Chandler Bing being annoying. Could you be more annoying?

Mary Chan: But his elongation of be is the annoyance factor.

Allegra Sinclair: It’s communicating that he is not in his happy place. So, yes, I guess you’re right. Elongation always does that. Well, I have loved this and what I loved most was the fact that the keys to being more confident in your voice are all within your control.

Mary Chan: Oh, yes. It is just a tool.

Allegra Sinclair: So many times when there is something that we want to work on so that we’ll feel more confident, our first thought is, oh, this is what women do. We think we have to throw money at something. Like, I’ll be more confident when I buy that bag or I’ll be more confident. Right. We think that we can invest. No, I’m not going to call that investment. It’s a purse. We think we can throw money at something right. To make us feel more confident, when really the work of confidence is almost always internal. So what I loved is that there are things that you can do immediately, right after listening to this, that will help you feel more confident about your voice. One is accepting and loving. So accept, don’t tolerate. Accept your voice. Then you also talked about using your voice in a way that fits for you, like not feeling like you have to be like someone else or that you have to adopt a different voice because that’s exhausting as you’re trying to remember who you’re pretending to be and trying to communicate. But then the magic of the pause, the magic of um and awe, having jobs to do. So those are not like slackers showed up in your conversation to make you sound less professional. They are doing work and all are doing work. And then the five keys for amplifying your voice, I love that because your voice is a very powerful tool and it helps you communicate who you are and your confidence in who you are.

Mary Chan: Right.

Allegra Sinclair: If I’m feeling very confident, but my voice is very what did you call it? I’m all up in my head and I’m not breathing and I’m not presenting myself in a way that feels like I believe what I’m saying. That makes me sound less confident. So I’m loving that.

Mary Chan: The other voice tip is to stand. If you can stand, even for a zoom call, I would highly recommend it just because we were talking before about your body and how your body is supporting your voice. So if you can stand, you are really giving your diaphragm where you’re breathing more room and facilitating your entire body to move. Because like I was saying, if your body is tense in a certain spot, your voice is going to feel it, and then the person listening to you is going to hear it. So I was actually working with a podcaster once, and she was talking about so we were talking about where do you feel tension in your body when you have to speak up, when you’re doing a presentation, when you’re behind the microphone for your podcast, whatever the situation is, is where do you feel that tension? When that nervousness kicks in? And she’s like, my left leg and my left leg only. It shakes, it starts shaking. And I’m like that’s, right? Because that is where she holds tension. So a lot of people think, okay, my chest, my throat, my face, yes, all of those places can hold tension, but for each person, it’s going to be different. For her, it was her left leg. So now she knows, okay, before I ever do a presentation or whatnot, I’m going to stretch out my leg or I’m going to dance. Because that dancing before getting into her presentation will let that tension in her legs go. So she’ll put on some good music that she loves. She’ll jump around, hop around, dance, and get rid of that leg tension. And that works beautifully for her. So if you can stand, that might help if you have lower body tension as well. Like, I get low back pain sometimes. So standing helps so that I can still move my feet, that I can use my hands still, and my torso is moving so that my body doesn’t feel tight. And if my body feels tight, your voice is going to feel tight, and then it’s going to come out sounding tight. They’ll move and stand.

Allegra Sinclair: I love that. And I am a big believer in standing. Even if you’re in person and everybody else isn’t standing, it’s okay to slide your chair back and stand up because it makes you less nervous, and it already adds import and credibility to what it is you’re about to say. Don’t you feel differently about the person who’s standing to make a presentation than the person who’s sitting there, like, talking off some papers in front of them?

Mary Chan: Yeah. When you’re standing, you are commanding presence. You’re like, I have something absolutely.

Allegra Sinclair: Listen up. You don’t have to say listen up. I’m not telling everybody to go out there and say, listen up. No, I’m saying by standing, you’re communicating, listen up. Well, thank you so much for being here. I told you right up front it was for selfish reasons, and I wasn’t even trying to take notes. I was like, Wait, why are you taking notes? This is recorded. Listen to it again and again and again. I was like, I don’t even know why I’m trying to take notes. What is wrong with me? That was so good. Thank you so much for being here, everyone. When they fall in love with Mary, where can they get more? Mary? Like, what’s your favorite social platform if people want to meet you?

Mary Chan: I do hang out on Instagram every now and then, organize sound productions, and I’m also on LinkedIn, so those are the two places to connect with me.

Allegra Sinclair: We’ll have all the links to the resources that we mentioned today, as well as Mary’s website, mary on Instagram and LinkedIn, the five keys to amplify your voice, and the link to the 18th episode of her podcast so that you can follow up on this episode at your leisure. Thank you again so much for being here, everyone. We will catch you next time.

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Prioritizing Yourself: The Power of Saying No

Allegra M. Sinclair

Allegra M. Sinclair is a professional coach and confidence expert. She hates to see women living small and loves to help them change how they show up in the world.

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