Last Summer, The5Voices Company, was approached by an Outdoor Activity Centre to run a voice training course for their instructors.
As anyone who has worked in the Outdoor Activity industry will be well aware, there are many physical and voice difficulties that can occur when working outdoors, especially in bad weather or in demanding terrains. But many come into this business with limited preparation for the sprains and strains that can develop, including the voice.
What we were trying to do at the Outdoor Centre was to address some of the health issues that can occur before any damage becomes acute.
Also, we wanted to bring into the training The5Voices unique research-based findings of how vocal tone affects the ability of a learner to absorb new information. Have you ever considered that how we speak to another person has a definite effect on their comprehension and performance? Probably not! Very few people do.
The medium for your message is your voice. It is the tool we use most to present the information the students need to improve their skills.
The sound a voice makes influences the human brain.
The writer Maya Angelou observed, “I have learned that people will forget what you have said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Using your voice with too much power and firmness, will upset concentration, and increase the levels of Cortisol in the brain and body.
Importance of Tone Colour
These reactions lie behind motivational relevance, and emotional significance. The main chemicals involved are the hormones Cortisol and Oxytoxin.
Too much shouting and extra firm tone produces a fear response and is the body’s way of facing any perceived threat. The Fear response includes four main reactions:
- Fight where the listener can get aggressive towards the speaker, (a common response in classrooms)
- Flight where your body urges you to run from danger,
- Freeze is the body’s inability to move or act against a threat,
- Fawn is your body’s stress response to try to please someone to avoid conflict.
There are good social reasons for being defensive against a perceived threat, and those reasons are stronger than reasons to attend to a gentler tone. Cortisol release is linked to the fear response of fight, flight, freeze and fawn.
It primes the listener to be more receptive to what is being said, be more trusting of the speaker, and more likely to be responsive to the information being conveyed which encourages better learning.
We respond to how we are spoken to and act accordingly. (Blair 2021)
Neurotransmitters, our chemical messengers, are present in the way we react to the situations in which we find ourselves. We cannot help it; our brain chemistry reacts to the sounds we hear.
It is a primordial response programmed into our brain since the beginning of human existence. The release of cortisol gives us the capacity to run away from danger. The
The Outdoor Activity Centre Programme
The use of voice is often something that is overlooked as a skill that can be learned and practised to make a positive contribution to the communication needed to promote trust and encouragement.
The5Voices specialists developed a bespoke programme that would address as many of these issues as they could in the 1hour x 4 sessions that had been allotted.
To fulfil the needs of the skeletal and muscular aspects of the job, we were joined by our colleague, a physiotherapist who develops the human body, breathing and the diaphragm in her work. Our second co-partner was a voice teacher and Speech and Language Therapist and Dr. Lesley Hendy, also a voice teacher who is the co-author of The5Voices and has been working in the field of voice for the last 30 years.
The cohort for the course was quite small, 10 participants, which meant we were able to make initial assessments before the voice course began. Each instructor was allotted a 10-minute slot before the course began to evaluate and discuss what each instructor wanted from the course and if there were any outstanding problems that would need to be addressed as the course progressed.
The programme was carried out over four weeks in January; one hour each week which gave time to cover all the aspects of voice and voice care.
We began with physio and how to manage balance, mobility, and motor function especially in outdoor settings. In the second week the programme then moved onto breathing and the importance of the diaphragm. The diaphragm, located below the lungs, is the major muscle of respiration and is so important in the development of good vocal tone. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that contracts rhythmically and continually, and most of the time, involuntarily. Upon inhalation, the diaphragm contracts and flattens and the chest cavity enlarges. Time must be spent in teaching instructors how to engage the diaphragm. As much of the work for the voice is dealing with the outdoor environment, a trained diaphragm is essential for good voice projection.
In the last two weeks we introduced The5Voices techniques – how to find centred-neutral and the other tones. Also, the use of resonance, pitch and articulation in the production of effective vocal tone. Volume, control and support were also covered. Throughout the course, the participants were given guidance on voice care and how to warm up the voice before use.
The instructors were a delight to work with, showing engagement and commitment. We wish them success in the future.