One of the mistakes you’re likely to make when you begin voice and speech training is to assume it’s going to be easy. If your voice is too quiet you just need to speak up. If you talk too fast you just need to slow down. You underestimate the challenge of changing the way you speak.
Don’t get me wrong; the physical activity of voice training isn’t hard. The required skills aren’t difficult. Any voice student can tell you that. What you probably aren’t expecting is the psychological challenge of changing how you sound.
Your voice is deeply rooted in your personal identity. Whether you like or dislike your voice, it’s still very familiar and feels like part of who you are. So changing how you speak seems like you’re being a different person. This is where resistance comes in.
At a subconscious level you desire safety and stability. No matter how much you consciously want to grow and develop your potential there’s a part of you that doesn’t want change. Change is disrupting, it exposes you to the unknown. The primitive part of your brain wants to avoid that.
When you start to transform your speaking voice, part of you is trying to do one thing and another part of you is working against it. If you’re not prepared for resistance it will sabotage your practice. Resistance will hold you back and keep you from finding your whole voice. So what can you do?
First, expect resistance. It happens to everyone. If you assume your progress will be an uninterrupted climb to success you’ll be unprepared for the reality of voice training. When you do encounter resistance, and you will, you’ll be confused, frustrated, discouraged and prone to giving up. Be ready for resistance.
Second, learn to recognize resistance. It’s hard to deal with resistance when you don’t even know it’s happening. Behaviors such as not practicing, missing lessons, skipping certain exercises or wanting to quit when progress seems slow are all signs that resistance might be at work.
Third, accept resistance. Your tendency might be to deny it or feel guilty about it. Resistance isn’t bad. It’s a natural protective instinct. Rejecting it or fighting it will just make it more intense. Tell yourself it’s okay to feel resistance. It’s human. When you acknowledge and respect it, it will tend to dissipate.
Finally, find ways to work with resistance. My advice is to take the task you’re resisting and find the smallest step you’re able to accomplish at that moment. For example, if one day you can’t bring yourself to do your whole practice then just do a few strategic exercises. If you can’t even do that, just do one exercise. Lower the level of action until resistance isn’t as strong, and do what you can.
One of my clients said that structure helps defuse resistance. For example, if you don’t have specific time for practice in your schedule, it’s very easy to skip it. Resistance flourishes in a lack of structure. Structure and accountability help to expose and weaken resistance.
Here’s advice from another client. When you’re in resistance, take a minute to write down all the benefits of voice training. This helps to shift the negative perspective in which resistance thrives. It strengthens your motivation and gives your practice new meaning.
Transforming your speaking voice isn’t just about changing how you sound; it’s about changing the way you interact with the world around you. That’s serious business, and it won’t always be easy or exciting. There will be times when part of you will resist that change. Expect resistance, recognize the signs and be ready with strategies to resolve it. Your chances of success will increase dramatically.