How well is your voice heard in meetings? What about with your loved ones? How are you respecting your voice? Learn how to respect your voice with voice coach, Cynthia Zhai.
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Cynthia is a Voice Coach, Speaker and Author. She has helped business professionals and professional speakers from 46 countries across 5 continents with their voice to speak with impact and conviction, engages and inspires people to embrace change and take action.
Cynthia has been a professional speaker and coach for the past 17 years and her engagement spans 4 continents in countries as U.S., Finland, The Netherlands, Argentina, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China, India, Brunei, Vietnam and The Philippines.
Cynthia has appeared in U.S.A Discover Your Talent Show, Singapore Radio Program 938Live 4 times, Hong Kong Radio 3, and Malaysia Business Radio Station BFM as a guest speaker on the subject of Voice and Presentation.
Cynthia has spoken to more than 10,000 audience members across industries, from the world’s top MNCs as K & L Gates Washington D.C., Stanford University, Sofia University, Mercer, Google Asia Pacific, HSBC Singapore, Procter & Gamble International Operations Southeast Asia Singapore Branch, to Government bodies as British High Commission Singapore, Singapore Air Force.
Links to Cynthia:
- Youtube for best learning resources with over 130 videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/cynthiazhai
- Website: https://powerfulexecutivevoice.com
- Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/cynthiazhai
Recommended Reading: Voice Work Related:
- The Need for Words: Voice and the Text, by Patsy Rodenburg
- Sound Business, by Julian Treasure
- The Healing Voice: How to Use the Power of Your Voice to Bring Harmony into Your Life, by Paul Newham
Recommended Reading: Non-Voice Work Related:
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Person, by Stephen Covey
- How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
- Made to Stick and Switch, both by Chip and Dan Heath
Mike Domitrz: Welcome to the RESPECT Podcast. I’m your host Mike Domitrz from mikespeaks.com where we help organizations of all sizes, educational institutions, and the U.S. Military create a culture of respect and respect is exactly what we discuss on this show. So let’s get started. Welcome to this week, this week we’ve a really unique discussion and one that for individuals like myself is so, so important, that’s our voice. And how do we treat our voice? Do we abuse it? Do we beat it up? Or are we respecting it and really valuing it?
Mike Domitrz: Sometimes people think that and go, “I don’t need that, I work in a job that I need my voice.” But you’re going to want your voice for whole life for so many different reasons. So, today we brought you a very unique discussion and that is our guest is Cynthia. Cynthia is a voice coach and she helps you develop a powerful voice to be heard, respected, and recognize. Cynthia Zhai, is that the correct pronunciation of your last name Cynthia?
Cynthia Zhai: It’s Zhai.
Mike Domitrz: Zhai. That’s why I asked.
Cynthia Zhai: Yes.
Mike Domitrz: I didn’t think I was right. So, thank you for helping me clarify that. Cynthia, thank you for joining us.
Cynthia Zhai: Yes, I’m excited to be on the show.
Mike Domitrz: Oh well, we’re excited to have you. This for people like me or speakers, our voice is everything with our, obviously our brain and our health and the whole mindset, but it’s a big, big piece of it. You also talk about here about owning your voice, which is more than just the vocal. So, let’s get right into, what challenges do people have when they come to you?
Cynthia Zhai: Yeah, so the challenges they have, for example, when they’re in meetings, when they are in presentations, they feel their voice does not project the power, their voice is either too soft too high pitched or they just don’t have the gravitas in their voice. Because of that, they were not heard in meetings and their opinions were not taken seriously.
Mike Domitrz: So a lot of this falls into a bit of sexism, right? That either sexism or assumptions of even what manly or powerful voice should be.
Cynthia Zhai: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mike Domitrz: And so our culture doesn’t hear all voices the same. It has biases and prejudice on voice even.
Cynthia Zhai: Yeah. Yes, definitely. People would think that, “Oh for women, the voice is too soft, too high pitched,” There is an assumption that men should have a voice that has gravitas.
Mike Domitrz: Then if they don’t, they don’t get heard the same, they aren’t valued the same?
Cynthia Zhai: Yeah, that’s right. That also affects their own self confidence.
Mike Domitrz: Right. Because if you think you’re not being heard, obviously that changes how you feel valued or not valued. Is it possible that some people also don’t realize they’re not being heard? And it’s about their voice? Like they think, oh they don’t like my ideas or I’m beating no, but it’s actually potentially their voice?
Cynthia Zhai: Yeah. More and more people start to realize that it the voice, because most people now are exposed to so much different training and they realize that they have done many other training programs like how to have more confidence, how to speak up. But at the end of the day, they realize even was all these training they have done, they were still not heard. Then they start to realize, oh, it is my voice. Some of my clients, they did get a feedback from other people or their colleagues saying that, “Oh your tools off, we couldn’t hear you, can you repeat?” So once they were asked to repeat over and over again, then they realize, oh, there must be something wrong with my voice.
Mike Domitrz: Does this happen within all different mediums? In other words, do people struggle with this as a parent? Do they struggle with it as a partner or is this more of a corporate job situation?
Cynthia Zhai: It is because once we have a problem, this problem will permeate in every area of our lives. So some of my clients, they are not heard in the corporate setting and they realize that their partner will also not really hearing them. Some of my clients, once they started to divert their voice and they have a powerful voice, they started to realize, “Oh, now, even my partner started to listen to me.”
Mike Domitrz: Right. So one, it can help you be valued at work that which can lead to promotions more opportunities and at home you get more heard. Do Children here differently? In other words, does somebody’s voice change how children listen?
Cynthia Zhai: Yes. So if as a parent that we’re speaking with a high pitched voices, he says, “Get, this done.” Then if we say that over and over again, children, they just disregarded. But if you are saying that “Get this done,” With a more powerful voice it sounds more serious and so most of the times, they’re the children, they started to pay attention and they know something is serious.
Mike Domitrz: Yeah. So it’s across all ages. Is it something that, and I don’t know if you know this or not, is this a DNA thing? Is it’s in our nature or is this something that we’ve created culturally? In other words, if we took an infant and they weren’t exposed to a culture where the male voice was considered more dominant, would they be impacted the same? Is this nature versus nurture as far as this the way we’ve raised people to only hear this certain kinds of voices respectfully? And with authority? Or has it been shown that, no, that’s that in the animal kingdom it’s true too. It’s more of a DNA thing.
Cynthia Zhai: Yeah. Yeah. I would say is more of a DNA thing because voices vibration. So vibration sends out this vibrational frequency. Everything is vibration and our body resonates with a better frequency, which is usually that a voice is on a deeper range.
Mike Domitrz: Okay. So, the deeper range vibrate stronger, therefore it’s heard more naturally?
Cynthia Zhai: Heard more naturally and also will think that that is a related with authority. It was twice worthiness.
Mike Domitrz: So, because of that, I have some friends that have higher pitched voices in and they’re open about this, they talk about this and are professional speakers. I could see somebody say to me, “Wait, am I going to change who I,” They’d be inauthentic to have a different voice than who I am off the stage. How would you answer that?
Cynthia Zhai: Well, they develop the voice. We are developing and even more authentic self. And when we are developing, the voice, were not changing who you are. We are actually helping you become the better version of yourself because there is much potential in the voice that is not tapped. So when you tap into that potential is just like we tap into any other areas of potential we have, we develop ourselves, we become a better version.
Mike Domitrz: I love that, the idea of being a better selves. So how do you do it? What’s it’s a technique to help somebody speak up or improve literally their voice, the sound?
Cynthia Zhai: When I work with my clients, we usually, because in order to work on a voice and tap into the potential, we need to understand first that voice is very physical. When we talk about this now, voice’s vibration. This vibration is physical that we can feel and for most people, this vibration is not optimized. So we need to work on the body to make it optimized. For example, one of the areas that we are not really using the potential is the breath. So most people for their entire life that they are only using one third of their lung capacity. So the other two thirds is where we are developing.
Mike Domitrz: So where are those two thirds?
Cynthia Zhai: So, there is the wrong way of breathing. So for example, if I ask our listeners to take a deep breath, now we’ll assume that they are taking a deep breath and when they’re taking the deep breath, I would like to have them observe just now when they were taking the deep breaths, which part of the body is moving? So most people, when they’re doing a deep breathing, they’ll be doing [inaudible 00:08:12] the shoulder would go up and then the chest will also go up. The stomach goes in and that means that there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that they are not doing it correctly, the good news is they have potential. When we are doing the proper breathing, we breathe in shoulder and chest, they should not move and is the stomach, the stomach comes out when we breathe in and breathe out, the stomach goes in. So if they are breathing in this way properly, then that means that they have used the other two thirds of their lung capacity.
Mike Domitrz: I come from a theater background, so we had to learn that right away. That you bring your voice from your abdomen and it also avoids the vocal strain-
Cynthia Zhai: That’s right.
Mike Domitrz: … right down the throat and the vocal cords a because you’re not just pushing from the chest, you’re naturally bringing the power from the abdomen, which is a muscle.
Cynthia Zhai: Yeah. Yes.
Mike Domitrz: So you help them with this. Or everybody listening can think about this throughout the rest of the day. Am I talking and using the air from my abdomen versus my chest? So that’s where it’s coming from. So now what to change the tone of the voice, what needs to happen?
Cynthia Zhai: One of the biggest mistakes that people make and my clients made, was that they were trying to adopt certain tone, which is against as the authenticity. So instead to change the tone, they are two ways. If we are talking about the tone as pitch, high pitch, low pitch. So to change that-
Mike Domitrz: Can we pause one second? There’s something, because I think you said something really brilliant there. They have an imaginary concept in their mind of what it should sound like. So it’s the old fake it till you make it. Right? I mean, from what you’re saying, I can picture it. I think I need to be deeper. So I’m good to go deep, which is not natural at all. Is that what you’re referring to? The person who plays that game?
Cynthia Zhai: That’s right.
Mike Domitrz: Okay. So, key, I didn’t want to interrupt, but I want to help everybody picture what we’re talking about there, excellence.
Cynthia Zhai: Yeah. So one of my clients, when he first came to me, he said, “In the past when I want to sound more convincing, I purposely lower my voice., so I sound more convincing.” So I said, how long did you last? He said, “10 to 15 minutes.”
Mike Domitrz: That’s even super long with a fake voice.
Cynthia Zhai: Yeah. Yes. So I said, wow, that’s what very long, but that’s the wrong way of working on tour voice. The proper way is one we’ve talked about is the breathing. So once you can breathe properly and also make the proper breathing a habit and then we are going to help you develop the tone, the pitch. That is done by developing the resonance, which means more vibration, more vibration in the body. So, when you can develop more vibration in the body, the pitch, the tone will be changed by itself.
Mike Domitrz: So is this similar to like singing lessons? Or? I’ve had vocal work down vocal therapy because I had a nodule on my vocal cord.
Cynthia Zhai: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mike Domitrz: So, further, I’ve had to do this where you go in and you do the different pitches like singing of, b, b, b, b, b, b. And you see where you’re naturally at, has that sort of what we’re referring to here?
Cynthia Zhai: Okay. So it is a little bit similar but there is difference as well. So for the voice when we are developing the vibration, the resonance, we are mainly using one, one tone, one, one song that we practice. Then the sound usually depends on the individual. Some of my clients will be practicing the, “mm” sound, some will be practicing the “O” sound and the purpose, so we don’t go over the scale to find that pitch. Instead we are using the body vibration as a reference. So when they can find a body vibration, they find their own best peach.
Mike Domitrz: So are you referring to like the vibration you might feel nasally when you hit the right tone? Or where would they feel the vibration?
Cynthia Zhai: The vibration will be in the body.
Mike Domitrz: So if you don’t mind just for all us, just get an idea. Can you do this on me? In other words, say Mike could make this sound. Tell me when you feel this. It just, so we give people a vibe for what we’re talking about.
Cynthia Zhai: Okay, sure. So for example, let’s do an experiment first. I like to have you put two fingers on your nose. So place your two fingers on the nose.
Mike Domitrz: Are they pinching the nose?
Cynthia Zhai: Don’t pinch the nose.
Mike Domitrz: Okay.
Cynthia Zhai: Just place them there. Then we take a breath in. When we breathe out we say, “Hmmm.”
Mike Domitrz: Hmmmm.
Cynthia Zhai: Do you feel the vibration in your nose?
Mike Domitrz: I do.
Cynthia Zhai: Yes.
Mike Domitrz: I hope all the listeners are doing this the same time. So I’m not the only, I can see a bunch of you picturing me doing this, but I hope if you’re listening, you’re doing to yourself. But I had my two fingers over the top of my nose is what I did there without pinching and I could feel the vibration in the nose.
Cynthia Zhai: So that’s one area of the vibration, the resonance, which is in a nose. So now we want to have the same feeling in the body, which we’re going to do is you’re going to put your hand on yours mid sternum.
Mike Domitrz: Okay. So right between the chest, that little indentation.
Cynthia Zhai: Yes.
Mike Domitrz: Okay?
Cynthia Zhai: That’s right. So once you put it here and then you are going to take a breath in, proper breath in, when you breathe out, you can try the “M” sound again. So, we breath in-
Mike Domitrz: Mmmmm.
Cynthia Zhai: We breath out with “hmmmm”.
Mike Domitrz: If I don’t fit in a one should you be having it like under your shirt so you’re feeling direct to the skin? Or would you feel through your clothes?
Cynthia Zhai: Through your clothes.
Mike Domitrz: You do feel through your clothes? Okay. So how many times can I take before you’ve, so you’ve, would you feel it only when it’s at the natural spot? Like you’re only going to feel it go through at a certain spot? Or you feeling it the whole time?
Cynthia Zhai: When you are developing a voice, once you are able to make this a habit, you should be able to feel that at all times. In the beginning, they may only feel that when they are doing the exercises.
Mike Domitrz: Okay, so how many times can I take of doing the “mmmmm” before you feel it in your sternum?
Cynthia Zhai: So, usually when we practice the “M” sound, at the end of about fourth month, because the first four months we need to develop the habit of proper breathing. We need to develop the habit of proper projection. Then when their body is ready, after breathing and projection, they will be able to practice the resonance. So, that will take about two months. So the entire process for my clients to change their voice is about six months.
Mike Domitrz: Wow. So if somebody is listening, they shouldn’t feel bad if they didn’t feel that vibration just now because it can take time.
Cynthia Zhai: Exactly, yeah.
Mike Domitrz: Okay.
Cynthia Zhai: Also even if they feel the vibration, that may not be optimum because they’re breathing is not proper. Their projection is not proper.
Mike Domitrz: Right. They could be getting an unhealthy vibration in theory. Right?
Cynthia Zhai: That’s right. Yes.
Mike Domitrz: So you’re talking a six month process. Now, once somebody is through that six months, is it an ongoing training or practice that you do every day? Or is it with you for life and you never have to work on it again? Now I think I know the answer. There’s no way it’s with you for life because the voice is an instrument. You have to make that instrument fine tune it constantly.
Cynthia Zhai: Ah, okay. Actually there is good news.
Mike Domitrz: How good.
Cynthia Zhai: Good.
Mike Domitrz: Okay.
Cynthia Zhai: Yeah. So the good news is, because every step we are doing is to make it a habit. Once it becomes a habit, you will not lose it. So for my clients, usually for six months they can change that and then that will be with them for the rest of their lives.
Mike Domitrz: Wow. So they don’t need to practice it again after those six months?
Cynthia Zhai: No. So unless, some of my clients, they are not sure. They said, “Oh, I want to practice a bit longer.” They can and it’s not necessary.
Mike Domitrz: Wow. Very intriguing. Because I think you always hear in the vocal world that your vocal chords are an instrument and you have to take care of them. But that’s a separate discussion from what you’re saying. You’re not saying that’s not true. You’re saying that finding your voice is different than taking care of your vocal cords. There’s two very different discussions there.
Cynthia Zhai: Yes. On another hand, when we are practicing, developing the voice, developing the powerful voice working on the body. So we’re breathing production and their resonance, we are reducing the string on the vocal chords. So once you develop such a voice, your vocal cords will be less a strained. When you talk for longer hours, you will not you will not feel hoarseness, you will not feel tired on your vocal chords. So that is actually helping you to take care of the vocal cords as well.
Mike Domitrz: So are you doing this work in person? Is it virtual over the phone? Or zoom meetings? How does that work?
Cynthia Zhai: So I do that with my clients through both face to face and on zoom. So I have clients all over the world,
Mike Domitrz: But it is essential to be able to see, right?
Cynthia Zhai: That’s right.
Mike Domitrz: Because I noticed there’s both those are either video or live is what you’re saying.
Cynthia Zhai: Yes.
Mike Domitrz: So you need to be able to see what they’re doing.
Cynthia Zhai: Yes, that’s right.
Mike Domitrz: So what are the biggest transformations you see from people by simply discovering their voice in a way that hits the tones that people hear better?
Cynthia Zhai: Yeah. So one is the confidence and the confidence is not as being increased, but also it is soaring. I have seen my clients when they’re developing their own best voice and the moment they are practicing they say, “M” I feel good. I don’t know why. So I tell them that is because the vibration is being optimized. That’s why they feel good. So that’s one of the benefits that I saw. Transformations is that they feel very confident, they feel good about themselves. Then the other one is there was a client, she was based in Silicon Valley and then she was so confident that she started to apply a higher position in her company. After three rounds of the interviews, she got that position, which was the same position as her boss.
Mike Domitrz: That’s wonderful. Well, a lot of people when they say they’re afraid to speak publicly, what they’re really referring to is just a lack of confidence in either their own voice or the topic. Because I tell people all the time, look, if you’re an expert on something, it’s easy to sit down next to your friend and tell them all about it and speaking is doing the same thing. So either you lack the confidence of your expertise or you lack the confidence of your ability to speak. You think you’re not going to be heard. This is hitting on all those points.
Cynthia Zhai: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mike Domitrz: I may just not the expertise, but it hits on the concept of gaining confidence in myself and in my voice and being heard.
Cynthia Zhai: Mm-hmm (affirmative) Yes.
Mike Domitrz: What are some of the stories you’ve seen? So those were two examples of the Silicon Valley and the other example, you’ve also worked with people at corporate levels at all different facets, like from what I saw in your bio and you’ve worked with shows, it’s called U.S.A Discover your Talent Show. So tell us a little bit about that.
Cynthia Zhai: So that was to help people, that show is about helping people discover their talent, all kinds of talent. One of them of course, is the voice. So once you have the voice being developed, that’s where you will find that some of my clients that they always wanted to learn singing, but they were afraid and they didn’t know how. Even when they studied with singing teacher that they we’re not able to fully discover their talent. One client, he was pausing his singing lessons and developing his speaking voice with me. As he was developing, he started to like his own voice and love his own voice. Then he went back to the singing teacher, the same teachers said “what happened to you” He said, “That’s my secret.” His voice was so good and the same teachers said “I think now we can sing solo”.
Mike Domitrz: That’s awesome. It was all gaining really just being able to understand his most effective way to use his voice.
Cynthia Zhai: Mm-hmm (affirmative) Yes.
Mike Domitrz: That’s powerful. So how did you get to this journey? About in our show we talk about work, love and life and clearly what we’re talking about here can impact work, love and life gaining your voice, gaining that confidence is huge. But how did your life go down this path? How did this become your love and your work?
Cynthia Zhai: For me that in my early years when I was a child, I started singing. So that’s my kind of the first interaction with voice. That’s where I’ve learned about breathing and how to use the voice. But I never thought about using this as my career, until that when I was in the business world and when I joined the workforce. So even though I had the training on voice, but I was not heard. So it took me quite a few years to realize that I need to work on my speaking voice. So I learned with different teachers and that’s where I developed my own voice potential, my own best voice. After that, once I started to think about, I want to do something on my own, and I thought about, okay, this is my, this is my passion, this is what I have seen, my own transformation and this is what I want to help more people to experience. So that’s my journey.
Mike Domitrz: So, how did you spell, how do you get from wanting to do that to becoming the person people are turning to? What was that path?
Cynthia Zhai: It is one is that to develop my own kind of a system to know that this is something that has helped me. In the beginning it is an experiment. So when I was using the processes that I developed with all these work training programs that I have attended and what I have done on my own voice. In the beginning for the first one to one and a half years, I was experimenting with the different clients to see whether it works and how well will it work. So already process the about one and a half to two years. Then I realized, Oh, okay, this is something that it is working and they are something that I am making twists. So that’s where I started to know, oh, okay it works. As it worked on these clients, so they started to tell other people and that also give me more confidence in running this.
Mike Domitrz: Yeah, I told you, hey this, they’re telling everybody about it. That means I’ve got something that’s always a wonderful when you have referral occurring, that’s fantastic. What’s the best way for people to reach out to you if they want to work with you or they want to learn more?
Cynthia Zhai: The best way is that they can find me on YouTube. So I have a YouTube video or a YouTube channel where I have almost 20,000 subscribers and they are also about over 130 videos that they can learn from. So that’s the best way.
Mike Domitrz: That’s a lot of subscribers, as that tells you’ve got something people really appreciate and value. So that’s awesome. Cynthia, I want to thank you so much for joining us today. This has been fascinating. Learning, simple little things. Everybody listening can learn from a news themselves.
Cynthia Zhai: Yes, thank you.
Mike Domitrz: For our listeners, you know what’s coming next. That is question of the week. Before I answer this week’s question of the week, I’d love to ask you a question. Would you please subscribe to this podcast, the RESPECT podcast with Mike Domitrz. By subscribing, you can make a huge impact. Now you might be wondering, Mike, how does my subscribing to your podcast make a huge impact? Well, here’s how, for every person that subscribes, it raises the rankings of the show in the search engines. So for people who care about RESPECT to like yourself, when they’re doing a search for podcasts, they’re more likely to find this show, thus providing an awesome opportunity for us to spread more respect around this world.
Mike Domitrz: All you do is hit subscribe under your podcast. Plus the second benefit is, by subscribing, you automatically get every episode right into your phone or whatever device you’re listening to the podcast on. It happens automatically. So subscribing also makes your life easier. Now let’s get into this week’s question of the week. Oh, and by the way, you can always ask your questions of the week by joining us on Facebook and our discussion group. It’s called The RESPECT Podcast Discussion Group. Go there on Facebook and ask whatever questions you would like me to answer and or address in this segment of the show, and then listen to each episode to find out when your question is included. Today’s question is, Mike, what is a view that you absolutely love? Like what’s a visual view you love? Well, for me, it’s an easy answer. It is sunsets, when it comes to nature, sunsets are something that I looked forward to every day.
Mike Domitrz: I purposely have my office positioned in a way that I can see a sunset if I’m in my office at that time. I love to just stop my day and watch the sunset. For me, it is tranquil and what’s interesting is that friends of mine are like, “That’s so interesting because you’re a sun rise person. Your energy is one of sunrise, hyper high energy and align spirituality. That’s sunrise. I’m surprised you love sunset.” But that’s just it. Sunset brings complete closure to that sunrise energy for the day allows us to say, now is my time to just relax and shut down and to really think and be quiet. That’s what I love about sunsets. What I really love is when the sunset goes down and you have a little cloud layer, the afterglow colors can be amazing.
Mike Domitrz: Purples and oranges and reds with the yellows and the oranges and the blues can really come out and just be astoundingly beautiful and sometimes when you have clouds, it creates a darkness against light. You have this contrast that is absolutely beautiful, gorgeous, and it’s all from the gift of nature. That’s why I love sunsets. Do you know what I would love? I would love to hear your answer to this week’s question of the week. So would you please answer what your answer would have been if you were asked that question today on the show.
Mike Domitrz: All you do is go to our Facebook page. We have a special group where we have these discussions called The RESPECT Podcast Discussion Group. So The RESPECT Podcast Discussion Group and share with us what would your answer have been to this week’s question of the week. And if you take a moment, post us a new question for future episodes. What question would you like to hear me answer on an upcoming episode? That’s all done on Facebook in our special group, which is The RESPECT Podcast Discussion Group. Can’t wait to see you there.
Mike Domitrz: Thank you for joining us in this episode of The RESPECT Podcast, exploring work love and life. In this episode, like every episode is brought to you by our organization, The Center for RESPECT, which you can find it, centerforrespect.com and of course you can find me your host, Mike Domitrz at mikespeaks.com. Thank you so much for joining us.