When we think of someone using voice as a powerful resource, it is natural to think of famous orators, vocalists or singers. In day-to-day conversations and especially in the digital age, using voice to influence is mostly overlooked.
My guest for this episode thinks the opposite. Cynthia Zhai who is a Voice-coach says that due to the pandemic, it has become more and more important for us to leverage our voice. Because it is even more pertinent for leaders to get heard - both internally and externally.
It is said that the pen is mightier than a sword and that a picture paints a thousand words. After talking to Cynthia, I'll add another one here - that a voice gives emotion to words to create action.
In this interview, we cover
> How Cynthia went on to become a Voice Coach
> The concept of 'Full Voice' & How to develop a full voice?
> What is voice color?
> How can leaders be more impactful and create action with voice?
> Why developing a full voice is like Swimming?
Hope you enjoy the episode as much as I did producing it.
Links for reference:
Linkedin In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cynthiazhai/
TedX talk : https://youtu.be/PcDerWSyccg
3-Days Crash Course - Be Heard in a Noisy World - https://voicemastery.app.heroicnow.com/
I'd love to hear feedback on the episode and the podcast so if you can please take a moment to rate the podcast and also send me feedback here - Surbhi@DigitalGenie.co
[00:00:00] Surbhi Dedhia: Hello, Cynthia. Welcome to the Making of a Thought Leader podcast. It is absolutely my pleasure to have you on board today.
[00:00:07] Cynthia Zhai: Sure. It's my pleasure to be talking with you again.
[00:00:11] Surbhi Dedhia: Yes. Welcome. Alright. There's so much to cover on today's topic because unlike the usual topics today, we are going to talk all about our voice and it is really interesting to me because this is one area which is often taken for granted.
[00:00:29] Surbhi Dedhia: Do you hear that most of the time that you've taken, we've taken the voice for granted?
[00:00:35] Cynthia Zhai: Yes, that's for sure. So, one thing that a lot of people, when they met me, they said, oh, wow, there's such a profession existed. They say that, oh, you're the very first voice coach that I have ever met.
[00:00:47] Cynthia Zhai: So that is a sign that people are not paying attention to the voice.
[00:00:50] Surbhi Dedhia: Yes, absolutely. So, before we get into all the amazing stuff that you know, and you are going to share with the audience, let's talk a little bit about you. Tell us who you are, what you've been doing, and most importantly, how you got to what you do.
[00:01:06] Cynthia Zhai: Sure. So, I think, that's also, the question that I'm asked very often, they say, oh, how do you end up in voice?
[00:01:14] Cynthia Zhai: Early my career, my very first job after graduation, I needed to learn the voice. Uh, even though I had training in singing my singing voice and speaking voice, they are different. And, uh, so in my very first job, I was bullied by the boss.
[00:01:30] Cynthia Zhai: Mostly people today, they won't believe it anymore. But as a fresh graduate, it was almost 20 years ago. So, I was bullied by the boss and I was living in fear. And then I was not able to speak up for myself. And, uh, they're a good friend of mine. And she said, oh, Cynthia, you're not assertive. So, then I started on a journey to be more assertive and voice was one of the areas that I stumbled upon.
[00:01:56] Cynthia Zhai: And when I work on my own speaking voice, I realized, whoa, this is not only, I sounded more confident, but also, I felt more confident. So that planted a seed for me to be able to spread to others. Um, but I've never thought about, I will become an entrepreneur someday being an introvert. And now I'm outgoing introvert.
[00:02:19] Cynthia Zhai: It was, uh, in my last corporate job, I was doing in-house training to our own employees. And then a lot of people, because I was training on communication leadership, they were asking me about voice, uh, especially those who wanted to develop a deep voice. So, my voice is on a deeper range. They said, how do I develop a deep voice? Then I realise oh! there is, this is something that people are looking for. So, then I realized, ah, it's time to go out of the corporate world. So that's a long story kind of short how I ended up doing what I am doing.
[00:02:57] Surbhi Dedhia: Yeah, that is amazing. And I think this is so relevant also in today's world, in terms of being confident to be using your voice, to be assertive, uh, yet polite.
[00:03:09] Surbhi Dedhia: And also, I think the nuance that, your tone carries as you speak to different people. There are so many different elements that make a voice, a memorable voice, if I can say that. We started talking about digital world. So, after COVID right, I'm just saying after COVID, because I'm thinking this is really a world now free of Covid hopefully soon.
[00:03:32] Surbhi Dedhia: Uh, so now we are So, all doing this hybrid, work So, from home or, you know, it's like digital is like the usual way of doing business. So, is voice still important? What did you see happen in the past two years?
[00:03:48] Cynthia Zhai: Yes. So, I think I'm saying yes, it's important. Not just because I'm a voice coach, but voice has been important for as long as human beings existed.
[00:03:59] Cynthia Zhai: Because early in the days we didn't have written words. So, on people passed on messages, information, stories, by voice. Yeah. So, voice has always been very important. And even, you know, even I was watching some documentary and it was about some minority ethnic groups in China, in south west China, there are some still minority ethnic groups.
[00:04:30] Cynthia Zhai: They don't have written words, they are still using, yes. They're are still using the voice to convey information stories and even dating yes. So, voice has ethnic been important? It was just for the past 100 plus years that we started to, uh, overlook the power of the Voice. Yeah, of course in the pandemic, it is also important because one that, for example, a lot of my clients, as leaders, they want to inspire their, uh, employees.
[00:05:04] Cynthia Zhai: They want to bring assurance, uncertainty to their employees. In times of uncertainty panic. So that's where they realize, oh, voice is important or the other group of people, they realize voice is important for the past two and half years during the pandemic is they're on zoom all the time or Microsoft team or whatever software they're using.
[00:05:27] Cynthia Zhai: And, uh, so that's another reason they came to me. They say, oh, Cynthia, now zoom. I realized I have a voice problem. I say your voice problem had existed long before the pandemic. I was trying to be a diplomatic.
[00:05:40] Cynthia Zhai: Yes, it is important. Yeah.
[00:05:43] Surbhi Dedhia: Come to think of it as well so many voices related products have actually started popping up. Audio streaming is I think growing at an exponential rate, I started my podcast in pandemic too. All of us are born with some kind of voice, right?
[00:06:00] Surbhi Dedhia: Like some, someone has a, I'm not talking about the accent part of it, because that depends on where you are born, but you know, the sound of the voice. And you said that, you know, you have a deep voice. Um, and some people may have like a softer voice. Some people may have a very, gregarious loud voice.
[00:06:20] Surbhi Dedhia: Some people may have nasal voice, right? Like, like the sound of it. As a voice coach, are you able to give them a training that they can differentiate their voice?
[00:06:31] Cynthia Zhai: Yes. So, when we are developing the voice it's not that everyone is going to develop a deep voice.
[00:06:37] Cynthia Zhai: So, I rather we are developing a full voice. A full voice means, instead of voice comes from the body. And then when the voice is coming from the body, uh, that'll help you. For example, bring more confidence, more credibility, more maturity, a lot of voice problems will be overcome when you develop your full voice.
[00:07:00] Surbhi Dedhia: So, what is full voice like, it's the entire range of your, sound? Is that, is that full voice?
[00:07:07] Cynthia Zhai: So, a full voice of the voice that's projected using the body, because for most people there are only using here to project their voice. Right. Hear the voice different. And then of course, in my workshops, they will be always asking, oh, Cynthia, do you often switch on and off? There's no switch. So, once you develop that voice, the voice will be with you for the rest of your life.
[00:07:32] Cynthia Zhai: Because when we work on the voice it's not as to work on the tonality. It is to work on the body and work on a body is like building muscle memories. So once the muscle memory is built, the habits are formed. Then the voice will be with you for the rest of them.
[00:07:50] Surbhi Dedhia: Wonderful. That's So, very insightful. Tell me what are the top five elements that makes one's voice powerful?
[00:07:58] Cynthia Zhai: Hmm. Okay. So, the very first one, as we have talked about it is the voice must be coming from the full body. Uh, that is a powerful voice because if the voice is not coming from the body, you are literally cut off from your own body. You're only using a small part of your body. So even are only using a small part of your body.
[00:08:22] Cynthia Zhai: You don't have the power. You're not aligned internally. You're not aligned. You're how are you going to be aligned with other people? And that's why we see so many people nowadays are so preoccupied when they are talking to a person in front of them because they are not aligned with themselves. They will not be present when they're talking to others.
[00:08:44] Cynthia Zhai: So, we know that presence and being present is powerful. So, if we want to have a powerful voice, you must first give up your full voice so that you are aligned within yourself. And then you can be more present when you are talking to other people. So that's the first thing we want to develop a full voice.
[00:09:05] Cynthia Zhai: And of course, one thing, that will make you get the full voice, everyone's body build is different. So, it doesn't mean that everyone's full voice will sound the same. No, it's not like the product line we produce the same product. No, it's very individualized.
[00:09:23] Surbhi Dedhia: Yes. So, when does one know that? Uh, yes, he or she is able to use the full voice.
[00:09:31] Cynthia Zhai: So, voice is very physical. And that's why in some of the workshops, I said, let's get physical. And so, you'll, we'll be able to feel the physical vibration voice vibration, so be able to feel the physical vibration in our body. So that's one and then two is also the second quality, a powerful voice is that a full voice and a powerful voice is a relaxed voice.
[00:10:02] Cynthia Zhai: If the voice is not relaxed, like what I'm demonstrating right now, he does not have power. And then people start to feel that you're either nervous or you're withholding something, or you're just not authentic enough.
[00:10:13] Cynthia Zhai: Because the reason the voices is tense is that you have all kinds of things that are holding you back. For example, the fear of how people will receive me, how people will judge me. So, all these, they will be reflected in the voice. So that's why, when we're working on the voice, we're not just working on the tool, the mechanism we're also working on you.
[00:10:40] Cynthia Zhai: Because only when you are able to deal with your own issues, your emotional issues, mental issues, like fear of judgment, fear of being invisible fear of so many things. When you're able to face them yourself, then there's nothing to hide. So, um, that's where authenticity is developed.
[00:11:06] Surbhi Dedhia: Sounds very interesting.
[00:11:08] Surbhi Dedhia: And I would really on a personal level, want to explore this further because this is such a different field because you know, you, honesty being authentic means you have to have original ideas. You have to use your original thought, original content. Everything is original in terms of your unique self, but voice as, as it is, is so critical here to sound. And be received as authentic. Yes.
[00:11:38] Cynthia Zhai: Yes. Authenticity doesn't mean that you have to have all original ideas. There'll be originality. So, authenticity to somebody put his you'll get what you see. You'll get what you'll see. So, if I'm upset, people will know I'm upset. If I'm excited, people will know I'm excited.
[00:11:56] Cynthia Zhai: And of course, over the years we work on ourselves. Most of the times people see me as very calm because I worked on myself, but there are also times I am upset. So, when I'm upset, they will see it. But being upset doesn't mean that you bring the upset to hurt other people. You said you're expressing it appropriately
[00:12:19] Surbhi Dedhia: Yes, we spoke so much about the elements of voice, uh, tell some techniques that the audience can get back today and even maybe to work on and our daily lives to bring our full voice, our improve our voice.
[00:12:36] Cynthia Zhai: So, yes. And also, before I touch on that, we'll just do a quick summary on the, uh, quantities of the powerful voice.
[00:12:43] Cynthia Zhai: So, you mentioned actually two things, but you brought up the third point, which also something I wanted to touch on. So, one is a powerful voice. The full voice that comes from the full body. Two is the powerful voice is a relaxed. And then there's three. Yes. A powerful voice is an authentic voice. So, we have already touched on that point and I think five points will be too much if they can master these three points.
[00:13:10] Surbhi Dedhia: Yeah. And these are all 3 0 5, definitely.
[00:13:13] Cynthia Zhai: And then the exercises. So, we mentioned that, uh, a powerful voice is a relaxed voice.
[00:13:20] Cynthia Zhai: Then they will really need to monitor how tense they are at all times. And especially for situations where they tend to get tensed. They want to do some exercises to help themselves. So, there are two exercises they can do. One exercise I always ask my clients to do is to sigh, to sigh all the time. Now it's not a depressing sigh like, oh, it's more of a joyful sigh. Like take a breath in. And then we breathe out with joy. So, like, Okay. Yes. So, because when you are tense, you're holding a lot of tension in the body. So, sighing helps you release the tension. And so that's one exercise they can do. And then, uh, the other exercise they can do is to make sure when they're speaking.
[00:14:20] Cynthia Zhai: They are not holding the breath but instead they are letting the breath go. So, we also here, we also want to remember that when we're speaking, we are supposed to breathe out. This is something that a lot of people, probably 98% of the population, have never thought about when we are speaking, we are breathing out.
[00:14:45] Cynthia Zhai: So, my classes, some of them there'll be saying, well, we want to ask the question. There'll be saying, breathe in. I say, no, when we are breathing in the only sound, we can make is oh. And then we forget to breath out. Uh, so when we are speaking, we are supposed to read. breath out. How do we do that? If you're a nervous if you're tense or for a lot of people in presentations in meetings, and they just keep on going and going and going, and then they are holding their breath and realize they are breathless.
[00:15:15] Cynthia Zhai: So, when you realize that what you do is you'll want to find an opportunity to quickly release the held breath. I see. Uh, and then you can take a breath in and continue. Okay. So those would be the two things’ people can immediately start doing.
[00:15:36] Surbhi Dedhia: And I, I think I can totally relate to the second point, you know, holding breath. That is just so involuntarily, like you don't even realize that you're doing that. You have taught, so many people in terms of using the power of voice, do you remember example of anybody who has really transformed with voice?
[00:15:56] Cynthia Zhai: Yes, most of my clients, they are working in corporate and, uh, they are also entrepreneurs. But they have become, indispensable asset to the company. So, for example, since you are in the Middle East, I had a client in the middle east, and then, so when he came to me, uh, I could see on his face, he looked very depressed. Not clinically depressed, but you can see that the energy of the whole person is not high.
[00:16:32] Cynthia Zhai: So, then he was sharing because that he had, insecurity in his job because he wasn't, he was not able to be heard. And this insecurity also permeated to his own personal life. He also felt insecure in the marriage and, uh, when we started to work on his voice, I could see that he started to become more competent.
[00:16:57] Cynthia Zhai: One session, he said, oh, last week I did a presentation, with my boss to the CEO. Hmm. He said, uh, because I did so well, the boss said in the future, the presentation in our department will all be done by you. I said, now you don't have job insecurity anymore. And, uh, that also helped him with more security in his marriage.
[00:17:26] Cynthia Zhai: And, uh, so when we finished working together, he asked me, Cynthia, what is the biggest change you saw in me? I said the biggest change I saw in you is not just the voice. The biggest change I saw in you is that you are happier. So, this happened, this also brought, brought him, uh, and uh, in his family life.
[00:17:51] Surbhi Dedhia: That is true. I think it, permeates into different parts of our roles and responsibility. And I think just bringing in confidence far outreaches, like so many impacts so many areas. So, which is really, really, interesting as well as, heartening to hear.
[00:18:09] Surbhi Dedhia: Tell me a little bit more about, your work, you are a keynote speaker as well.
[00:18:14] Cynthia Zhai: Yes. Yes. So, I speak on the topics relating to voice as well. For example, develop your leadership voice, influence your voice in times of uncertainty and also be heard with you a powerful voice, especially for women. So, these are the few topics that I speak on.
[00:18:35] Surbhi Dedhia: That's great. And, where can people find these keynotes or clips off your keynote speeches?
[00:18:43] Cynthia Zhai: There are some clips, uh, some of them, they are quite long on my. Okay, so they can just go to YouTube and search Cynthia voice coach. They should be able to find my channel.
[00:18:54] Cynthia Zhai: There are more than 200 videos, not only some videos on my past speeches, but also videos three to five minutes long where I addressed a voice problem and give some suggestions.
[00:19:07] Surbhi Dedhia: That's interesting. Yes, definitely it's something that people really need and need to improve. Look upon it as a place to improve. Um, I have this question that you said, once you develop your full voice, it is a lifetime. But basically, is there like a course that you have for people who have developed a full voice and now they need to enhance it further because there is no ceiling to it, right?
[00:19:32] Surbhi Dedhia: Like you can always keep practicing and developing. So, one, is it like one time you learn, stays for lifetime or is it something that you need to come back to again and again?
[00:19:44] Cynthia Zhai: So, this is something like you're learning how to swim. So, once you are able to swim, you will never be able to forget for the rest of your life.
[00:19:54] Cynthia Zhai: Even if you think you are forgetting, but once they throw you into the water, somehow, you're going to swim. In terms of the voice mechanism, which is the projection of voice, the full voice. Once it's developed, it will be with you for the rest of your life. It's one off, but the other area we develop with the voice it's voice color, which is the expression. Yes. So, color you'll see, that is like emotions. Um, when we are angry, it's red, right? When we are sad. When we are joyful is yellow. So, colours, they are, they are representing different emotions. And even for the same emotion, we have different shades like red.
[00:20:39] Cynthia Zhai: We have irritation, that's probably its light red. And then we have burning red - anger I so different degrees of the same emotion. That's why I use our voice color to describe emotions. That's the area we'll work on and that's the area where they will need to develop some of them. They will need to develop over time because nowadays a lot of people, if they're not developing, they are very, left-brained, they're very logical.
[00:21:12] Cynthia Zhai: So, it's very hard for them to go into the emotion. And if even if they go into the emotion, there's so many nuances in the emotion where you do need to have someone to guide you, to support you, to let you want to experience how to express different emotions. Because emotions, when you're speaking is more important than logics because we know logic makes people think, emotions makes people act.
[00:21:44] Surbhi Dedhia: Yeah. True. And in today's while yes, it is the, because you know, we had all rushing to something.
[00:21:52] Cynthia Zhai: For nothing! We don't even know.
[00:21:56] Cynthia Zhai: Being able to control your emotions or control the way you express will help you act better in the society and probably not, not impact somebody else, just because you are upset.
[00:22:13] Cynthia Zhai: Yes. Uh, so one thing, a lot of my us senior executive clients, there'll be asking this I'm very upset with my employee.
[00:22:21] Cynthia Zhai: How can I still develop my, can lay my upset without sounding out of control. So that's something you'll can develop, you can still convey the upset that people feel well, you are very in control. You're still sound very calm.
[00:22:37] Surbhi Dedhia: And how, how, I'm just curious. How do you. Yeah, because I'm thinking if I'm upset, I would just want to be so direct and upfront saying, look, you didn't do this well.
[00:22:48] Surbhi Dedhia: And you know, this cost us X, Y, and Z. So how do you, uh, like, can you give me an example? I'm just so curious now.
[00:22:55] Cynthia Zhai: So for example, uh, it doesn't mean that you don't express your, your anger. A lot of people thought, oh, being in control means that I don't express my anger. If I don't express it, you suppress it. When you suppress it, it will become a.
[00:23:10] Cynthia Zhai: The ticking bomb will be developed into some disease someday. So, the problem for many people is that when they are upset, their pitch will go high. For example, how are they at all that then all the seriousness and your composure, they are lost. So, whatever you say, people are just left ear in right ear out.
[00:23:38] Cynthia Zhai: So instead, you still want to show the seriousness, but you’re conveying it in a way that people would take it seriously. So, to do that, you still want to learn the breathing because breath is not only the foundation for your full voice. Breath is also how we express emotions. For example, we know that when we're angry, versus, when we're sad, the way we're breathing is different.
[00:24:06] Cynthia Zhai: So, the proper way to express the upset the anger is using the breath appropriately. Make sure that your pitch is not going up. Yeah. So instead of using the breath, for example, the sentence, instead of how can you do that? instead we do How can you do that? Uh, so when I expressed that I didn't, some of my workshops, they be say, oh, sounds scary.
[00:24:30] Cynthia Zhai: Yeah. Yes. But it's people would take it seriously. You don't need to say a lot if you would just say that one sentence people. Oh, they go and quietly, quickly do their work. Yeah, right.
[00:24:47] Surbhi Dedhia: Oh, really interesting. Thank you for giving that example. I think there's a lot of, uh, I mean, it actually teaches an idea about how you can modulate your voice, um, and use the right tone.
[00:24:59] Surbhi Dedhia: I think that's that's the whole idea is yes. Cynthia, you've also written books?
[00:25:05] Cynthia Zhai: Yes. Yeah. So
[00:25:06] Surbhi Dedhia: So, tell us more, about your books.
[00:25:08] Cynthia Zhai: Sure. So, if people want to get a full overview, um, full voice, um, voice color, everything about voice, the book I'll recommend is my first book Influence through Voice. They can find it on Amazon. Just go to Amazon and search Influence Through Voice Cynthia there. That's the first one. And then the second one was written with other women. It is on public speaking. So, I contributed a chapter on voice. So, it called Unleash Your voice. And then I'm writing the third one, which is, uh, You are Your Voice.
[00:25:53] Cynthia Zhai: Uh, I'm planning to release it by June, but it will be a Kindle version. So having published book with, uh, publishers and self-publish so that I don't want to do a book with publisher also publishing anymore. This time, it will be a Kindle version.
[00:26:15] Surbhi Dedhia: So, it's called, You are your
[00:26:17] Surbhi Dedhia: words are your voice. And what is it about?
[00:26:22] Cynthia Zhai: So, it's about, for example, your voice what kind of, um, mental, emotional blocks your voice is reflecting? So, we mentioned for example, or the fear of judgment, fear of visibility, all kinds of fears that we have all kinds of problems we have all kinds of experience as we have. They are all being heard in the voice. And because of that, sometimes people don't want to talk to me anymore. They said, okay, now you're going to hear everything in my voice.
[00:26:58] Surbhi Dedhia: Ooh, now that makes sense that, you know, some people are like very hesitant they talk with lots
[00:27:03] Surbhi Dedhia: of pauses.
[00:27:05] Cynthia Zhai: See that's exactly where they need to develop authenticity. If you have developed authenticity, you are, what you see, what other people see? You have nothing to hide.
[00:27:14] Surbhi Dedhia: Very interesting. Cynthia, is there anything else that you would want to share of the audience, where they can find you, where they can reach out to you?
[00:27:23] Cynthia Zhai: So, if this resonated with them. I recommend them first to go to my YouTube channel, uh, check out all the videos I have, uh, to see that how, how the, what are the voice issues they may have, what else they can learn about this voice. And then if they liked my style, they feel that I'm someone who can support them, then they can reach out to me on my website.
[00:27:48] Cynthia Zhai: On my website not only, they can reach out to me on website but also there's a lot of free resources on my website as well. So, the website is powerfulexecutivevoice.com
[00:28:03] Surbhi Dedhia: I'll put a link in the show notes as well, so people can readily access it.
[00:28:08] Cynthia Zhai: Yes. So, on the website, they will also find a more in depth, a three-part course, a three-part video. Where it will help them to, uh, learn where the power is in their voice ask and also how they can develop the potential in their voices.
[00:28:26] Cynthia Zhai: So, they can just go to the website. They will find it on the homepage.
[00:28:30] Surbhi Dedhia: You know, before meeting you and interacting with you I would think of voice as a talent, which is used for entertainment in terms of ventriloquist are, you know, people using it in drama and it was more about more thinking about voice as an art for entertainment. It's like an art that you, that, that you have a talent and then you use that kind of voice or even singing. When I started knowing you and talking with you, it is becoming more and more clear how it is such an important tool, no matter who you are, where you are in the world, that is your, that is your own voice, your own authentic self that you are trying to express.
[00:29:16] Surbhi Dedhia: And it's a great tool that needs to be fine tuned regularly, and use techniques that you shared with us today to make it even better. So yeah, it's a science, not only an art.
[00:29:32] Cynthia Zhai: So, I always say the voice is both science and art. And so even that as they today, normal people like us who are not in the entertainment industry, voices and art as well, because we need to use the voice to express our emotions.
[00:29:50] Cynthia Zhai: So that is an art. And you'll you reminded me that I would like to invite people to watch my TEDx talk on the TEDx talk. They can also find it on my YouTube channel. So, the TEDx talk explains even more about the power of our human speaking voice.
[00:30:08] Surbhi Dedhia: Wonderful. That'd be fantastic. And I would put all the links in the show notes, so the audience can go access it very easily. If it's about your course about your TEDx dork, about YouTube channel and your website.
[00:30:22] Cynthia Zhai: Yes, yes.
[00:30:24] Surbhi Dedhia: It was such a pleasure having you and talking all about voice again. Thank you for sharing so generously today.
[00:30:32] Cynthia Zhai: Sure. No problem. It's my pleasure.