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In Our Own Backyard...Speak up!

A few days ago I listened to a speech language pathologist on The Today Show. She said the human voice is an important tool in conveying authority and confidence. She said the key to developing a strong, powerful, dynamic voice is proper breathing, from the abdomen rather from the chest. She said there's a lot of research that points to the fact that people with strong, powerful voices are perceived as having greater self-confidence than people with softer voices.

If that's the case, I ought to be President.

Even though I was as shy as they come when I was growing up, I've always had a loud speaking voice. As a matter of fact, so does my sister. She was a flight attendant for many years, and she often said when she'd give the air safety instructions over the airplane's PA system, folks would practically hit the decks!

When someone commented on how loud our speaking voices are, we'd often tell them that it's because our dad was somewhat hard of hearing in his later days. I'm not sure that's the real reason, but it kind of took us off the hook. Given the statements of the language pathologist on The Today Show, however, I'm thinking I probably developed a loud voice to try to convince others that I wasn't as shy as I actually was.

I tend to speak loudly without even realizing it, and for no particular reason. I don't raise it in anger or aggression, because that's not my personality. I simply - project. I can be sitting in the middle of the office, or the middle of the living room, or the middle of a restaurant, and it's not unusual for whomever I'm visiting with to kind of give me the "tone it down" signal. My husband said he once located me in a congested mall, simply by the sound of my voice over the din of the crowd.

After our first grandson was born, we'd go to visit him and his family, and I always knew he was napping when our daughter would meet us at the door, look pointedly in my direction, and hold a finger up to her lips in an unspoken plea to keep my voice to a whisper.

I recall once having a high level discussion with my supervisor in the middle of Mexico Lindo, and just as I felt I was making my most compelling point, he glanced nervously to one side and the other and then gave me the "tone it down" signal. Despite my embarrassment, I realized that the point I was making was totally lost.

One year my husband and I traveled to Montana in the fall. We stayed at our son's house. He was away at the time, but he left behind instructions on how to find a hiking trail where he had sited lots of elk. At the end of his detailed message, he commented, "If you follow these directions, you're sure to spot a whole herd of elk. But Mom," he added, "- try not to talk!"

Having a loud voice is not all bad. I once had an offer from a local radio station to go to work for them as an announcer because they said I spoke so loudly and clearly. And for many years, I was asked to announce for the 4-H Horse Show at the Carlton County Fair because I could project my voice over the PA system with very little effort. It wasn't unusual for someone to come up to me afterwards and say, "Hey, I heard you at the fair!"

Last weekend I signed up to read scripture in church. As luck would have it, the minister was beginning a series of sermons on the book of Genesis, and my assignment was to read the entire first two chapters. I got the usual butterflies as I was waiting to walk up to the front, but as I opened my Bible and began to read the familiar words over the microphone, I kind of lost myself in it and all went well. After church, an elderly gentleman came up to me and said, "Great job reading Genesis! I think you should be assigned to read scripture permanently!" His wife added, "I think you sound like one of those reporters on MPR!"

And then, a third person chimed in enthusiastically, "And besides, I could hear every word you said!"