Very thin people can have powerful voices

“Stage fright is something natural! Breathing and power posing help! "

Constanze v. Rheinbaben has been running her company Rich Impact Speaking ™ since July 2013, with which she offers speaking and moderation training for executives. In this interview, fund manager Anke Dembowski asks the communication expert for tips on how to present yourself well with your voice and posture and how you can best deal with stage fright. In another conversation she talks to her about the questions people go to a speech trainer and about being self-employed as a woman.

Ms. von Rheinbaben, with your company “Rich Impact Speaking” you will practice speaking and voice, among other things. Women have a higher voice than men. What do you practice with them specifically?
Studies have shown that a deeper voice comes across as more confident and expresses a certain degree of relaxation. The other day I had a client who had a very high, thin voice. We cannot change the basic pitch of the voice - whether high or low. Whereby: By humming and specific voice exercises, we can lower the voice an idea, but not by much! We therefore worked all the more on the relaxation of the voice.

Do you have bad cards as a woman with a high voice?
No! Margret Thatcher had a very high voice too, and she was a very powerful woman. Everything else about her, her statements, the body tension, the serenity and relaxation made her stand out. For example, women can work on their choice of words. We often downsize. We women want to have “a little” of something or we do something “just for a moment” instead of leaving the sentence as it is: We want something and we do something!

Many women are afraid of public appearances, but the further up you get in your career, the more likely you have to step in front of an audience and say something. What is your advice to women for public appearances?
They should take up space. Just as women like to make things smaller with words, we often also make ourselves small in space. I have very personal experiences: We are the second generation of migrant children from Lebanon to Mexico. My mother was born in 1927 and had already studied chemistry in Mexico, which shows that she is thoroughly progressive and emancipated. She always raised us daughters to turn our heads and always let us learn a lot. But despite her modern attitude, she warned us girls to keep our legs together when we walk so that you can hear your knees rubbing against each other.

And, is it bad if you keep your legs together nicely?
You see: boys walk with their legs apart and then take up more space, while women cross their legs. We make ourselves small and slim, bow our heads, and often we then also put our hands in our laps, which collapses the chest and makes us even narrower. In this way, however, no voice can arise, but it also becomes narrow in volume and vibration; then it does not transport. In addition, words are often not articulated correctly. They're more of a line than well-filled vowels. Then many women often speak so quickly that they not only take up no space, but also no period of time. All of these things mean that we show little overall presence. It is better to keep the chest straight and high, otherwise the diaphragm cannot relax and the vocal apparatus can fully unfold. Then speak slowly and clearly, calmly taking up space and time.

What is power posing about?
There is also a study by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School. According to their results, we should take up space to show presence and to come across as more confident. It starts with the breath and goes through the language in its clarity, abundance and tone over the extension of the period of time that we occupy up to our physical presence.

How am I physically present?
As women, we don't have to sit with our legs apart to do this. But we should express straightforwardness and sincerity with our posture: I am here! I want to be seen! I want to act in this room! Only in this way can we as women be different from men - not better and not worse, but different. That also strengthens the diversity.

Back to power posing, that sounds like “Chagga”!
I started practicing this in a targeted manner in 1998. In the usual victory positions, raise your arms. This makes deep breathing easier, which, by the way, also strengthens the immune system. You have similar positions in yoga, after all, I also have a training as a yoga teacher. Amy Cuddy's studies show that in these open, large positions, two more things happen: testosterone levels increase, and at the same time, cortisol levels decrease. The hormone testosterone provides, among other things, determination, and cortisol is a stress hormone. That means, just by taking a power position we become relaxed, alert and determined.

And how does it work?
You can stand with your legs apart and put your hands on your hips or lead them up in a V-shape, breathing long and deeply. Not during the presentation or conversation, of course, but before. I do that before every gig, by the way. Then you come across more confident and radiant, and you come in more relaxed. I can only say: take these five minutes before your performance and do these exercises very consciously! It also gives us this empowerment feeling: I've done something! That alone gives a lot of self-confidence. And again and again: breathing is relaxed!

How can the voice then be trained?
The easiest way to train the clarity of the voice is through the resonance space in which we generate our voice. Ideally, we have a dome in the mouth that forms through the palate. It's like the acoustics in a dome. If we make better use of our cathedral in the mouth, the voice can vibrate better from there. This can be practiced by making the vocal apparatus stable from the diaphragm as if it were a metal tube. This metal tube has exactly the strength that we give it.

So is voice pure technology?
Not only, a lot is also psyche. The moment I breathe deeply, I also dive into the psyche. I allow the psyche to shine through, but I don't pick it up directly. Working on the technical side also has an impact on the psyche. As a trainer, I take great care there! I can't and don't want to work in psychotherapy, we always go back to working with the voice. If I noticed a fundamental problem with the voice of a client, I would refer him to a speech therapist.

Stage fright is also an issue that you will cover in your training sessions. Do you have a tip on how our readers should deal with stage fright, e.g. before a public appearance?
Around 80% of people experience stage fright and it is completely normal. So most of them are nervous when appearing in front of an audience; Even professionals get an adrenaline rush on stage. There are a few very simple manual tricks from breathing technique: Breathing through the left nostril causes the body and mind to calm down. To do this, cover the right nostril with your thumb and breathe. Do this just before your gig, maybe two or three minutes before, in the bathroom or something. Another trick is to breathe calmly. Make sure that you exhale twice as long as you inhale, so count to four when exhaling and to two when inhaling. Long exhalations are relaxing and calming. The very fact that we are engaged in breath counting makes us calm.

And then?
Actually, it's about the first moment. Once you're on stage and it's flowing, everything usually goes well. I invite my clients to enter into a dialogue with their listeners, through eye contact and by sensing what kind of energy is in the room. But you can only do that once you have overcome your first fears.

Thank you for these good suggestions and the interview!

Photo by Maximilian Probst: Constanze v. Rheinbaben at the day of the TIME



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