Valuable Tips from Voice Expert Petra Berger: The Right Posture (Part 1 of 3)
A short while ago I ran into a dear colleague of mine – voice expert and elocution trainer Petra Berger (www.sprichmitmir.at) – who I greatly admire and whose training courses, in my opinion, fabulously complement my own. Not only have I attended her excellent voice training, I also took voice coaching lessons with her. I was able to put what I learned from them into practice very well, as in the meantime I know – especially as a moderator and trainer – how important the right posture, elocution and diction are.
And to give you a chance to learn from Petra, too, I invited her to produce a blog – in 3 parts -& video series and am delighted to present you with Part 1 today, on the topic of “the right posture.”
Have fun taking up a stance! Ready, set, go!
Posture is important, say physiotherapists and orthopaedic doctors. Yeah, right.
But what does correct posture have to do with voice and rhetoric?
Everything! Posture dictates the entire mode of speaking, the entire demeanour of a person. Posture is responsible for voice and mood. It influences what we say and what and how we feel.
How voice and elocution techniques begin with posture is quickly explained.
Like every instrument and every hi-fi wwwice has a specific technical design, our bodies are also based on a plan, namely bone structure and an ingenious muscle and nervous system.
The spine of an upright person centres itself in its “double S” shape. If you assume a “croissant position” yourself, the muscles have to work very hard to prevent evolution’s crowning glory from falling over. But muscles are never isolated: every tension inevitably results in another tension, becomes automatic and terminates in false posture. Almost 90 % of the problems people who come to me (e.g. speaking too quickly, too quietly, too unarticulated, too constrained) are caused by incorrect and strained use of the human glottis. And often this is not even the fault of some sort of fatal visual appearance. It is a nicely tilted head, a perpetually, slightly raised left shoulder, a pelvis tipped towards the back or a continuously tensed abdominal wall. To put it in a nutshell: the speaking human is, first and, foremost, an instrument whose tuning requires attention. If the instrument is correctly positioned and tuned, then the voice is right, too – as well as the mood.
“Posture” (in German we have the same word for „posture“ and „attitude“!!!) expresses everything about a personality. It is said that the body is the soul’s glove – it expresses what moves the soul, non-verbally. Courage, cheerfulness, stress, apathy, body language expresses everything. All of these sentiments have their own muscle-bone interaction; whether I have guts and have an upright character, whether I have nerve or offer the other cheek. (Language is full of hints!)
Nothing to be said against loafing on the sofa once in a while, of course. That’s all part of it. But do you want your outside appearance to be generally feeble and lethargic? The prettiest young women become unattractive timid mice and the burliest of men juiceless slouches when they forget they are in the public eye. Assertiveness has something to do with pride (not to be confused with arrogance). A proud Massai warrior and a self-confident model have one thing in common: posture! (By the way, I recently heard a model give the following sound advice on TV: “Ass back! Head up! Nose down!” I adorn myself with borrowed plumes and happily pass this advice on.)
The question all over again: “Assertiveness” or “hanging around”?
However, before you too hastily opt for the easy way out, I will tell you one more thing: correct posture not only has external impact, most of its effect is internal! You feel the way you sit, walk, stand. The clever Peanuts cartoon illustrates the point perfectly, when bitchy Lucy nags at despondent Charlie Brown, his shoulders and head hanging, “If you don’t want to feel better, then don’t raise your head!”
Working on voice, rhetoric and personality begins with a simple formula: a relaxed, upright posture feels confident and expresses confidence. Wishing you will always stand confidently in charge of your life,
Yours, Petra Berger
At this point a huge thank you to Petra, too, because this series is a useful brush up for me as well! If you would like to learn more about this topic from Petra, then read the next Blog (mid June) or contact her directly, e.g. for voice coaching, or take part in her speaking afternoons! You won’t regret it!