A few months ago, I needed to go to court to fight an...ahem...undeserved speeding ticket. As I sat in the courtroom, awaiting my turn, I noticed something very interesting. One by one, each person approached the bench to plead his or her case. As is often the case, nerves would cause the voices of the accused parties to rise. You know how it is....when you get anxious or stressed, you can feel your chest tightening, your breath constricting, and your voice getting higher and louder. When you are upset, you tend to talk much more quickly, don't you? Your entire way of speaking changes. As I continued to listen to rushed, fumbling explanations for the various wrongs committed on the roads, it became very clear to me that some people were better at controlling the cadence of their voices than others. And, over and over, I saw that the people speaking in calm, quiet voices had their tickets dismissed. Those who spoke more loudly, those whose tones betrayed their anxiety, were not excused. So, when it was my turn, I took a deep breath and stated my innocence in a low, relaxed voice. Ticket dismissed.
I began to realize that I use inflection very frequently to control social situations. Several years ago, I read a book called "48 Laws of Power," which was a series of lessons about maintaining your personal power in any situation. In this book, the author emphasized that a guise of control leads to actual control: basically, in any competition or altercation, the person who remains emotionally steady is always the one with the upper hand. Perhaps this information has infiltrated my subconscious, because the more worked-up that people around me are, the more steady I become. This has served me very, very well in a field where one of my primary missions is to relax patients into oozy puddles of bliss. As I speak to patients who are tense or nervous, my voice naturally gets sooo low and slow, and I find myself sinking down into a state of deep relaxation right along with them. It's pretty amazing, how easy it is to change both the way you feel, and the ways that others feel, just by modifying the tone of your voice.
Why not try it for yourself? The next time you find yourself in a situation where you are feeling stressed or insecure, take a long, deep breath and then lower your voice several octaves. You will feel that tension in your chest release, your heart rate will slow, and you will instantly feel more in control. After a while, it starts to become second nature.