Ear training–How well can you hear yourself?

If you are trying to change an aspect of your sound—be it related to accent, voice quality, articulation, phrasing, or tone of voice, you need to be able to hear yourself accurately to be successful.  Many people are alarmed when they hear how they sound on a recording.  However, as I mentioned in my last post, becoming aware of your sound is a necessary step in learning any new speech motor skill.

Why is accurate auditory self-perception difficult?  Because we hear our own voices differently than others hear it.  That is because we hear it internally via bone conduction and externally via air conduction.  If you plug your ears and talk you may not hear the sounds around you, but you can hear your own talking.

Here are three ideas to improve your auditory perception:

  1. Record yourself and observe what you hear.  Prepare to feel uneasy but trust the process.
  2. Tune into how your speech and voice feels.  Exaggerate the sound you wish to change and focus on it with curiosity.  Experience its quality, movement, vibration, opening, and points of contact.  Notice how the sound changes if you adjust your tongue position, mouth opening, breathing, or other speech-related action.
  3. Listen carefully to others.  Observe their voices and speech patterns.

After you connect the dots between the sound of your recorded voice versus your spoken voice and the feeling of your voice versus the sound, and you have developed your ear to more keenly perceive others’
voices, challenge yourself further:  Be aware of your sound as you speak.  Of course, speech is first and foremost about communication—don’t analyze your voice all of the time.  But in select situations, with certain people, or a few minutes several times a day, tune in and become an expert on your own sound.

Posted on 22 June 2011 | Category: Accent, auditory perception, Communication, General, Speech, Speech production, Voice

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Unconscious Competence

Do you know about the consciousness-competence matrix?  It is a theory of learning that outlines our path from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence and finally to unconscious competence.

In other words, before we begin to gain a new skill, we are unaware of our inability to successfully complete it.  I recently worked with Margaret, who wanted to improve the sound of her voice.  After facilitating a webinar she listened to the recording and was dismayed; she didn’t realize her voice sounded so harsh and nasal.  This movement from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence is often what prompts people to seek training.  My first approach is to help clients become even more aware of their current skill level.  Sometimes they perceive that they are getting worse when they are simply becoming more conscious of their incompetence.

Spirits lift when they move toward competence, albeit a competence that can only be achieved using a high level of focus.  Because we have limited cognitive resources, this is often where training and therapy fail.  We are successful when we are earnestly practicing, but once we enter the real world, we cannot maintain our focus.

Ultimately we want to reach the state of unconscious competence, which is another word for habit.  The good news is that our brains are able to create new pathways with the right input.  Do you know the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”?  I disagree.  A neurologist I know has turned this idea on its head.  He says, “Any dog, any age, any trick.”  So don’t ever think that you are too old or a skill is too difficult.  With consistent practice and patience, you can move from unconscious incompetence to conscious competence.

For more on the four stages of competence, visit:

http://www.businessballs.com/consciouscompetencelearningmodel.htm

http://changingminds.org/explanations/learning/consciousness_competence.htm

Check out our accent modification courses for this summer.  We are also providing additional videoconference options so that you can take advantage of communication training from anywhere in the world.  From now through August, we are offering 10% off any videoconference package of 10 hours or greater.  Try it for free.  Email us or call 630-435-5622 for more information.

Posted on 6 June 2011 | Category: Accent, Communication, General, speaking, Voice

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