It’s a bit of a conundrum to write about a subject that writing is inadequate to really express. Vocal tonality is of far greater importance to communication that the specific word choices, and yet we’ve spent the last 50 posts or so talking about the word choices. Ironic, eh? I’m sure you’re aware of this and that I’m preaching to the choir here, but on the off chance that someone out there will find this beneficial, I’m going to dedicate some post space here at doug obrien’s blog to writing about something that is paramount to effective communication and, particularly, hypnotic communication, vocal tonality.

Now, I’m not saying you will fail miserably as a hypnotist if you have bad tonality, I’m simply saying that the better your tonality is, the better you will be as a communicator.

Milton Erickson had a great hypnotic tonality. The way Milton spoke, the actual sound of his voice, was a bit unusual. Probably as a result of his polio, his enunciation was a little less than crisp. His tonality had a bit of an airy quality and was just slightly raspy. When you combine that with the slower tempo (rate of speed) and the rhythm we talked about last week, it’s a pretty sure formula for trance.

Turns out, it wasn’t all just happenstance.

Interestingly, on one of the audio recordings of Milton delivering a lecture you can hear how he purposely employed that tonality. In the first part of the lecture he’s addressing a group of people from up on a stage and his manner of speech is unusual but not terribly trancy. At one point he notices that one of the people in the audience has dropped off a little bit into trance and he decides to utilize the opportunity. It’s wonderful to hear how he shifts gears and starts speaking in shorter, rhythmic phrases with a slower, slightly deeper tone and adds more of that raspy, airy quality into his voice. He was doing it on purpose!

A number of years ago I was taking a class in tantra and chi kung from Dr. Gunther Weil and Rylan Malone. At one point in the class Dr. Weil described how, in Chinese traditional healing, there were different sounds that were healing to different parts of the body. He called them the six Daoist healing sounds. Now, I don’t remember all six different sounds or what different parts they related to, but I was struck by one thing he said. He said the the healing sound for the kidney system was kind of an airy, raspy quality and it was naturally very trance inducing. He even mentioned Milton Erickson’s voice as an example!

Now, of course, everyone is different and we get used to different tonalitys as being comforting or authoritative, or truthful or whatever. Like Sam Waterston on those TD bank commercials or Walter Cronkite back in the day. But whatever your natural tonality may be, you can refine and improve your trance tonality. One way to practice is to imitate people’s trance tonalitys that appeal to you. Record yourself and listen back to your efforts. Another thing you can do is imagine that it’s late at night and you’re reading a bed time story to a child, naturally softening your voice, speaking in a reassuring manner with a relaxed, gentle pace based on the rate of the child’s breathing.

However you do it, make a point to being more and more tuned to your own tonality. The effort will pay off in spades.

About Doug O'Brien

Doug O’Brien is a Master Practitioner and Trainer of NLP, and a Certified Hypnotherapist. In 1988, while assisting at NLP and NAC training seminars with Anthony Robbins, Doug achieved the designation of Master Trainer. He now conducts numerous seminars of his own around the globe (specializing in the “Sleight of Mouth” patterns of Robert Dilts, NLP Certification Courses, and Ericksonian Hypnotherapy) and helped found Columbia-Presbyterian’s Department of Complementary Medicine with Dr. Mehmet Oz.

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