When was the last time you thought about your breathing? This morning? Yesterday? How about “Not at all”? Well, if you’re like most people the answer is most likely the latter: Not at all. If you’re keen to learn some techniques for great communication, here are five tips on breathing correctly to optimise your speaking, performance and leadership.
By Olivia MacDonnell, ConfidentSpeak
First off, if you don’t typically focus on breathing, don’t beat yourself up.
After all, it’s a pretty normal thing, because breathing is something our bodies do by themselves. It’s an involuntary function so whether or not we think about it, it happens anyway.
But I’m here to tell you that breathing is the number one tool for great communication, and spending the time to create good breathing habits and awareness will pay off in huge dividends in your meetings, speeches, and presentations.
Breathing is Vital for Great Communication
When it comes to your effectiveness as a speaker and communicator, good deep diaphragmatic breathing is your best friend.
Breathing is the one thing that voice coaches always, always, always bang on about!
We’re always trying to find new ways of telling you how important it is and what the benefits are of good, deep, diaphragmatic breathing.
And we tell you this with good reason.
Just look at the number of people who are taking yoga classes these days—it’s a revolution in mindfulness and deep breathing technique.
So What is Correct Breathing Anyway?
When you breathe from your belly, your lungs are expanding to their full capacity and the diaphragm, that dome shaped muscle at the bottom of your rib cage, moves down to allow the lungs to expand, and your belly moves out as a result.
Diaphragmatic breathing is a fancy term for breathing deeply from your belly, not high in your upper chest where your lungs are the smallest. Children breathe deeply and correctly from the womb, they don’t need to be taught. It’s completely instinctual.
So if we know how to do it, then why don’t we do it?!
Typically, life happens!
We start dealing with fears and insecurities and this often manifests itself as tension in the body, resulting in shallower breathing.
As a result, we have to re-learn how to breathe naturally.
It is quite simple, but is it easy?
Actually, to do it effectively it takes practice.
Check out this video.
So why bother learning to breathe deeply and more naturally? What are the benefits of breathing correctly when it comes to speaking and presenting?
Actually, there are quite a few. Simple dedication to practising breathing correctly can ensure that you have great communication skills.
Breathing for Great Communication, 1: It’s Premium Fuel
Your voice needs fuel to perform at its best and breath is that fuel.
It supports the sound and helps to protect your voice from harm.
When you breathe deeply from the belly, you’re getting a bigger, higher quality of breath to fuel your vocal sound.
Breathing for Great Communication, 2: Think Clearly
Your brain needs fuel to run at its best too.
Good, deep breathing helps to get oxygen to the brain and supports clear thinking, so when you feel like you’re freezing or panicking because you can’t remember what comes next in your speech or presentation, take a moment to pause and breathe.
It gives you a moment to clear your head and remember the next thought.
Breathing for Great Communication, 3: Obey The Speed Limit
When we take time to pause and breathe, we automatically slow down our delivery.
Everyone, without exception, can afford to slow down. A good delivery pace gives both you and the audience time to breathe and process information.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!
Breathing for Great Communication, 4: Keep It Grounded
Breathing down in your belly, or ‘chi’ centre – as it’s referred to in martial arts – helps to centre your energy and gives you a sense of being grounded and balanced. When your energy is more grounded and balanced, you are able to be more present in the moment. Being more present in the moment means being more connected to our audience.
Breathing for Great Communication, 5: Fight Or Flight
Getting nervous is largely due to irrational fears and that ancient ‘fight or flight’ part of our brain that kicks in to save us from a situation that our brain perceive as threatening, ie. getting up in front of a bunch of people and speaking. Conscious, deep breathing, tricks the brain into calming down. It sends the rest of your body the message that everything’s ok and there’s no need to panic.
Our bodies already know how to breathe properly; we’re just reawakening the muscle memory that becomes lost over many years of bad habits.
I could talk about the theories behind good breathing technique and the benefits from practicing it until the cows come home. Learning a few simple techniques and practicing them on a consistent basis is the only way to truly experience the treasure trove of benefits that good, centred breathing can bring to you as a speaker and communicator.
Small Changes Reap Huge Benefits
So, tomorrow when you’re going through your day just take a moment every now and then and check in with yourself;
Am I holding my breath?
Am I breathing?
And take a few deep breaths.
A wise man once told me:
Life is like breathing. If you try and hold it, you’ll lose it. But if you’re aware and let it come and go, you’ll always be connected to it.
When we are breathing we are more present in the moment. The more present we are, the more effective we are as communicators because we are able to connect more fully with our audience.
So start breathing. The results—such as great communication!—might surprise you!
ConfidentSpeak is a Voice and Communications consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland.
We offer a range of voice and communications programmes for executives, sales teams and technical professionals. Our packages are tailored for both individual and corporate level. We work with leading Irish and international companies and executives.
Contact us for details by filling out this form, or call or email us via the details below.
Telephone:- +353 1 9696056
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