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Podcast Episode 086: How to effectively listen to someone’s voice

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Today’s masterclass is all about learning to listen to someone’s voice.

If you have taken the listening quiz and you are either the interrupting or lost listener – today’s discussion is all about how to listen to the range in the speakers voice. 

It will help you understand when you feel the urge to interrupt – take a moment longer to listen to where the speakers voice is coming from in their body.

Perhaps you’ve read about him in The Washington Post, or heard him speak on Radio. If not there, then you’ve likely seen Eric Arceneaux on YouTube, where his viral singing technique videos have generated over 30million views. A world renowned vocal coach, breathwork specialist, and recording artist, Eric Arceneaux has developed a reputation for transforming and saving voices. 

Whether you need to prepare for a musical or the FIFA Football world cup  professionals call Eric to help them reach their vocal potential 

What I love about this interview is the range and nuance Eric has for explaining how voice and song is created by human’s.


Podcast Episode 086 – How to effectively listen to someone’s voice

Oscar Trimboli:        

How to effectively listen to somebody’s voice. Today, we take a masterclass, exploring the three levels of how to listen effectively, thoroughly, and practically to the speaker’s voice. Deep Listening: Impact Beyond Words.

Good day. I’m Oscar Trimboli, and this is the Apple award-winning podcast Deep Listening, designed to move you from a distracted listener to a deep and impactful leader. Did you know spend 55% of your day listening, yet only 2% of people have ever been taught how? In each episode, we explore the five levels of listening. Communication is 50% speaking and 50% listening. Yet as a leader, you’re taught only the importance of communication from the perspective of how to speak. It’s critical you start to build some muscles for the next phase in how to listen. The cost of not listening, it’s confusion. It’s conflict.

It’s projects running over schedule. It’s lost customers. It’s great employees that leave before they want to. When you implement the strategies, the tips and tactics that you’ll hear, you’ll get four hours a week back in your schedule. I wonder what you could do with an extra four hours a week. Today’s masterclass is all about listening to someone’s voice. If you’ve taken the listening quiz and you’re either the interrupting listener or the lost listener, today’s discussion is all about how to listen to the range in the speaker’s voice.

It will help you understand when you feel the urge to interrupt, just take a moment longer to listen to where the speaker’s voice is coming from in their body. Perhaps you’ve read about him in The Washington Post, or you have heard him speak on radio. If not, you might have seen Eric Arceneaux’s YouTube where his viral singing techniques and videos have generated over 30 million views. Eric’s a world-renowned vocal coach and a breath work expert and a recording artist. Eric has developed a reputation for transforming and saving voices.

Whether you need to prepare for a musical or the FIFA Football World Cup, singing professionals call Eric to help them reach their full vocal and singing potential. What I love about this interview is the range in nuance Eric has for explaining how the voice is created by humans. Let’s listen to Eric. What do you think the cost of not listening to someone is?

Eric Arceneaux:       

I have a student who stutters really badly, and we were discussing how a big part of his therapy has not been vocal exercises per se or even breathing techniques, and that is a part of it, but just conversing with him and making sure that he had enough time to feel safe in knowing that he was being listened to. This can’t be said across the board, but quite often, certain vocal issues erupt from people growing up in environments where they weren’t given a voice or a chance to be heard. They begin to develop anxiety, and they become quite frantic in their attempt to communicate because they felt like they’ve never been listened to.

And quite often, when you feel like you don’t have a voice, figuratively speaking, you can lose your voice literally. There are issues like psychogenic dysphonia where people truly cannot speak, or they’re speaking as if through a vice, and there’s nothing physically visibly wrong, but often it’s from feeling like they haven’t been listened to. There are a myriad of vocal issues that result from people not being listened to.

Oscar Trimboli:     

What role your parents or grandparents played in influencing how you listen?

Eric Arceneaux: 

I grew up in New Orleans, true Southern culture, where children are seen and not heard. And you’re not allowed to have a voice because you’re not a person yet. You’re a child, and you’re not allowed to have thoughts. I think that I was really lucky. My mother was a school teacher and my father was a minister, but also a teacher. I think they really made me feel like I was intelligent and I had a right to my thoughts and my opinions. Unlike a lot of my friends, I felt like I was listened to and I was able to converse with my parents in a way that was not common, especially from my culture. And I just mean really Southern culture in general.

My parents would just talk to me. There would be discourse and they would speak to me as if I was an actual person and not just a child.

Oscar Trimboli:    

Can you zoom us in to a time where you remember maybe a situation or a story where that did have an impact for you when your parents were listening to you as a person rather than a child?

Eric Arceneaux:     

I’ve never spoken about this publicly before, but when I first began taking voice lessons, my first teacher… He didn’t actually do anything specific to me, but I just did not feel… I guess, intuitively, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with him, even though he was very knowledgeable, but I just felt uneasy. And I remember voicing that to my father and him saying, “You can decide right now. Do you want to continue working with him, or do you want to stop?” I was like maybe 13, 14 years old. I really felt empowered to speak up for myself, because he could be a little rude at times, and I was taught to respect authority and respect teachers.

But I really felt able to speak up for myself. Eventually I stopped working with him and it turned out that he was, in fact, a paedophile and he was preying on some of his students. I know. I was really lucky in that. Not that any victim deserves it, but I think part of what made him feel like he could not approach me in that way was that I was given a voice. I was not some helpless child where they were going to believe him above all else because that’s an adult and you’re a kid. There’s a shift in the energy that I think people can sense when you’re given that space. I was protected by the fact that I was given that liberty, and I knew my parents would believe me.

Because I’ve heard horror stories of some of the kids who were his students. The parents was just, “Oh no, not Irvin. Of course, not. He’s such a stand up guy, and he’s so educated, and he’s got kids of his own. He would never.” They didn’t do that to me, thankfully. I’ve never spoken about it and thankfully nothing ever happened to me directly, which is good, but it was validating to be heard when I spoke to my parents about how I felt. And also, when the news story broke, it was national news at the time, because the guy, he fled to California. It was like, “Okay, I’m not crazy.” And also, I felt like I had the right to defend myself.

And again, I think part of why it’s so important to me is because one thing I heard was other kids around my age who weren’t believed. They weren’t listened to.

Oscar Trimboli:     

Eric, a lot of people I work with struggle with how to listen for somebody’s voice. I’ll be honest with you, they get quite frustrated with me because they go, “You can hear things in people’s voices that I can’t hear.” I can hear emotion where they can’t. I can hear the voices coming from a very different place in their physical body. I can hear the stories coming from a different place. But today, we’re here to listen to how you listen. When you see a client for the first time, how do you listen them, and what are you listening for?

Eric Arceneaux:   

I listen for internal space or lack thereof. You can hear when someone’s very restricted and tight and you can hear that. And sometimes it’s mentally imposed and sometimes it’s physical because they don’t know how to properly facilitate getting their voice out there. I’m always listening for space, and I’m also listening for body connection. People can be disconnected from their body. And what I specifically mean is when we speak, our voice should elicit responses from the body. Your abdomen should move if you’re speaking very forcefully.

If you see an old fried from high school and you go, “Hey,” your back muscles and your solar plexus should move. If you are cut off from these connections, the voice is at risk of injury.

Oscar Trimboli:     

Is it a deliberate choice for you today to be standing up while we’re speaking compared to Oscar is choosing to sit down? What happens to the voice while you’re standing up versus while you’re seated?

Eric Arceneaux:       

I actually am seated. I’m just very upright, but I do not on any chair with a back on it, especially if I’m using my voice deliberately. I’m not an anti-sitting voice teacher. As long as you sit well, I don’t have a problem with the student being seated. But actually, I’m in my workout room out right now for the sake of acoustics. But in my office, I have a standing desk and I do typically stand for most of the time. And that’s because even though your vocal cords are in your throat, a lot of our breath control mechanisms and the energy to put out sound safely are in the pelvis and in the core and in the ribcage.

We can derive a connection from the feet and from the glutes. It sounds really ridiculous if you’ve never heard such a thing. But when you experience it, you go, “Oh, I didn’t realise that I had so much more connection.” What I really try to get across to people is that yes, your vocal cords are of critical importance obviously, but the vocal instrument is your body.

Oscar Trimboli:    

Step us through the process of creating a sound that is your voice. Where does it start and where does it finish?

Eric Arceneaux:   

You’ve mentioned breathing a few times and it’s kind of my obsession. It’s one of those things that people take for granted because you can do it really poorly and still survive. You don’t have to know how to breathe well in order to live. Our bodies can really do things at subpar capacity and we can still live relatively long lives. Most people think, “Hey, I know how to breath. I’ve been doing it since I got out of the womb.” And that’s true. But the method I teach… To put it succinctly, I often say there are really only two steps, and that is open up the body and then to try to retain that openness as we speak or as we sing.

And the more dynamically you’re using your voice, the more athletic this process becomes. Casual speaking is a bit different than singing an operatic aria or singing a rock song or something. But it does begin with the intake of air. And one of the first things we try to do, in fact, I prefer to teach this while seated, is to get people to feel a connection to their pelvic floor. Because even though your diaphragm is relatively higher, you always hear diaphragm, diaphragm, diaphragm from voice teachers, but your pelvic floor really anchors the diaphragm and helps the diaphragm to move more freely. When you’re breathing, you can almost feel…

It’s so funny to say out loud. But you can almost feel a sense of your buttocks expanding against your seat and that is a good sign that your pelvic floor is engaging, and then you feel your chest swell and your ribcage open. What I really try to get my students to connect is to a full body breath in the beginning at least from the pelvis, which we’ll say the glutes for now, up to the clavicles and to feel like we’re reaching down, but the body opens up. Sometimes we call this growing the tree, because as the roots go down, the body lifts up and opens up, because a tree doesn’t grow from the top-down. Those roots dig into the soil.

What I love is growing up in New Orleans, we have these really old trees where the roots are so strong that they crack the concrete around them. And as the roots go down deeper, the tree grows up stronger. And I think of that imagery for myself. I drive the breath down towards my pelvis, towards my glutes, towards the tops of my thighs, and my spine linked so my ribcage opens. It’s really powerful. You get a very different sound when you do that as opposed to like a very high, collar bone focused kind of breath that people typically resort to especially if they’re nervous, which is normal for public speaking or singing.

To get someone to root, we call it rooting, to root into the pelvis and to feel how everything else opens in response is very powerful. One of my favourite singers, Dame Joan Sutherland, who’s Australian, she talks about this about how when I take a breath, I really think of it from the tops of my thighs really. She would say, “It sounds like nonsense,” but she would get this incredible… Her voice was ridiculous. People have been talking about this for thousands of years. I tell people, “No matter who you are, you had ancestors who knew this. On every continent, there were people who knew this. Look at yogic text or martial arts or African rituals.

They talk about this stuff, whether to heal or to commune with spirits or to sing. I’m just kind of a curator of time tested wisdom.”

Oscar Trimboli:   

Eric’s a big fan of James Nestor’s work around breath. In episode 74, we discussed unlocking the ancient secret between listening and breathing. There are many parallels between what James taught in the episode and what Eric is saying and reinforcing during this discussion.

James Nestor:   

We know that certain forms of breathing, specifically mouth breathing, can upset that balance of oxygen in the prefrontal cortex. Mouth breathing has been associated with ADHD. You’re breathing in your fuel and your energy. And if you’re doing it incorrectly and you don’t have energy to really feed all these different neuronal pathways and to feed your body in the proper way, things are going to malfunction. When you’re really focusing on your breath, that’s what you’re doing. You’re listening to your body. I don’t see a huge disconnect between listening and breathing, because you are very closely tuning in to exactly how you’re feeling.

Oscar Trimboli:  

How does sound form and how does it get out?

Eric Arceneaux:    

The average person thinks that singing works like this, where you’d take a big breath and then you rush it out as hard as you can. You push it out and that’s how power is done. They’ll ha, ha, ha and their throats will get really tight. And that’s because when we make sound, your brain sends the electrical impulses to your vocal cords to vibrate. But your vocal folds, which is the medical term, vocal cords, they’re very small and very easily overwhelmed if too much breath comes out them at once, if you take a big breath and your body opens up. If you immediately collapse, your throat is going to be overwhelmed and it tightens up in response.

Your body doesn’t necessarily know that you’re trying to sing. It just knows that it’s kind of being assaulted a bit. The easiest concept to know, but it gets a little tricky to learn how to do, is to open up and take a breath, and then to retain this space as we make sound and to maintain this openness. This is what everyone from Aretha Franklin to Joan Sutherland to a really good Shakespearean actor, I’ve learned that most people go to great lengths to not be present in their bodies. They’re constantly trying to escape. I’m often giving people a tour of the vessel in which they live.

I even have a student, she’s a medical illustrator, so she literally draws the pictures and paints the pictures for textbooks and stuff that people at medical school look at. She would tell me all the time, she would say, “Eric, I know what these muscles are. I know better than most. I know what they look like. I know where they’re located. I’ve never felt them before. This is my first time feeling them.” When we take a breath, we want to stay open by feeling muscles in our back, muscles around our solar plexus kind of firm up. They help us to stay open, and then your vocal cords can draw the breath that they need as they need it, depending on the sound.

Your body is extremely intelligent. We just have to afford the body space, because your diaphragm lives in your ribcage. Your vocal folds live in your throat. If there’s just enough space, they really do respond to your desire to communicate. The problem is when we collapse in the body and collapse in the throat, we smush them and they’re so encumbered, they can’t function properly to obey our mental commands or our desire to communicate.

Oscar Trimboli: 

Eric, I’m fascinated because you get the opportunity to listen to people sing, and you get to listen to people tell you a story about how they sing as well. I think sometimes the stories we tell ourselves about our voice is very different to what our voice is actually saying.

Eric Arceneaux:  

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Oscar Trimboli:   

Sometimes I can hear the trembling of emotion in somebody’s voice they can’t even hear themselves, but it’s only when they tell me the story.

Eric Arceneaux:    

I had a student who was a prominent attorney. She was the first female partner of her law firm, and she was very smart, very confident, a very strong presence if you were to meet her, but she was terrified of singing and she just wanted to sing. She prefaced, before I heard her sing a note, she told me that she knew she had this horrible voice and that I would really have my work cut out for me. I was preparing myself for this. It’s funny because it was like, “Okay. Eric, I sound so awful. I sound awful.” [Singing 00:19:39] And I was really caught off guard because it was quite melodious, and I was like, wait, I was expecting this really harsh…

And she told me… She wouldn’t believe me when I told her that she sounded good, and she sounded better than that. That’s my impersonation. There was so much beauty in her voice, and she told me… She was in her 40s. She told me that when she was eight years old, she was singing happy birthday at a friend’s birthday party, and one of the parents leaned over and said, “Hon, you really shouldn’t sing along with the rest of us.” And that was it, and that stayed with her for the rest of her life until that moment. It’s just interesting how powerful that is. For her whole life, she had this idea, “I have this ugly, garish, harsh voice.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. It wasn’t like that at all. She sounded like she could be a Broadway star or a Western star. It was insane to me. I have another student who was a principal at a school in Washington DC, at The Seed School. She was a student at a Catholic school and the nuns would get so frustrated with her in chorus class that they would have her put her ear on the piano and bang notes. But again, afraid to sing, thinking her voice was ugly. And when I heard her, her voice was just as beautiful as a voice could be. It’s really interesting how people have these barriers. But the biggest thing I see is people obsessed with making their voice sound pretty.

I’ll get a guy who would do what I call boy band voice, and he’ll do [singing 00:21:35] It’s a common thing for everyone where they’ll send a lot of breath through the voice because they think that it makes it more palatable or something. They’re afraid to have their voice be solid. [Singing 00:21:56] They’re afraid that they can’t do that. What I’m trying to get at is that there’s kind of a sonic thumbprint to our voices, and a lot of people go to great lengths to avoid letting the uniqueness of their voice show. They think it’s got to sound a certain way usually based on the cultural norms.

Throughout the UK, the US, Canada, whatever, it’s pretty much the same, where they try to go for the same sounds. It’s just this like, they want to be free and they really covet people who can really be vulnerable and authentic with their voices, but they’re definitely afraid of doing so themselves. They’ll try to veil their voices. You see that a lot of. It’s because of the stories they told that, specialness is something that other people get to have, but I’m not special. So I have to try to cover up what I have. I have to coat it. I have to filter it because that’s something that Oscar gets to have me and not me.

Oscar Trimboli:       

I’m curious what or how you’re listening for voice when connection is present and when connection is absent? Talk us through what you’re listening for for connection in the body and disconnection in the body.

Eric Arceneaux:

This is subjective. It’s a quality of sound in which it sounds like someone’s voice is being pulled at. It’s a really pulled kind of pressurised sound, and you can hear that they’re trying to get it out. Often I call this… Some people are in a perpetual state of apology for their existence. It’s almost like, I really hope you listen to what I’m saying. I’m sorry that you have to listen. I’m sorry for putting you through this. And you’ll notice that their chest will cave in. They’ll crease at the sternum. Their shoulders will shrink. Some people think that this is what being humble is and they think that, “Oh, I’m sorry for existing.”

They’re afraid to take up physical space and air space or sonic space. You can hear this kind of pull, as opposed if we gradually start to let the body open up, the voice becomes rounder. I listen to tunnel shapes a lot, so now I feel like my voice takes up more space. You can hear a top end and a bottom to my voice. There’s a fullness, as opposed to this kind of squeeze. A lot of times people who grew up in situations where they had overbearing parents, maybe like a father who was physically present but emotionally distant, I don’t want to be like him, so I’m going to speak like this. It’s the “I come in peace” kind of thing.

I’m going to shrink myself, because I don’t want any kind of authority. I don’t want to be seen as authoritative. I don’t want to be seen as menacing. I’m not going to tell you what to do. I don’t want to be that. They kind of forfeit all of their power and they end up kind of strangling themselves. Often women in Corporate America will lower their voices tremendously. And studies show that it actually works, but it’s unhealthy. But because we live in such a patriarchal system, to have a voice that’s light and feminine is seen as weak. If they force their voice down low, they’re seen as more capable of leadership, stronger.

You’ll hear that forced push again. I can give you this example. If I was hearing [singing 00:25:31] a lot of times people will say, “Oh well, he just can’t sing. He just doesn’t have it. Just give up. Why even bother?” But it’s not that the voice is not there. It’s just buried underneath loads of tension. If we open up and stay open [singing 00:25:58] Same instrument just used more efficiently if we just keep open. It actually irritates me because people are so dismissive, especially of people who are too young to know to fight back sometimes. They’ll say, “Oh, you just don’t have it. Just give up. Singing is not for you.”

And I’ve learned that people really do hold onto it through their 40s, 50s, 60s if they can and the rest of their lives. It’s just a matter of opening up the body. But it sounds smushed. It sounds forced. It’s stuff we hear all the time where we often just say, “That’s just her voice. That’s just his voice. He doesn’t sing well,” and we just dismiss it as that. But barring an actual injury, everybody is capable of having a resonant full bodied voice. It doesn’t mean you have to pursue fame, but everyone can at least have a pleasant sound. Because what we think is pleasant as human beings, whether I have my students in…

I have students in India, Iran. We love to hear a voice that’s free. We love to hear that a voice has agility and also resonance. We love to hear that freedom regardless of even our culture. I think it’s really engraved in us in humans. But when you hear that sense of smushed or like they’re pushing to get the voice out or when the voice is really breathy, no one’s voice is naturally that way. They might be very used to it. The healthy default for any of us is a clear, full bodied sound.

Oscar Trimboli:  

Can you take us on a guided tour of tunnel shapes?

Eric Arceneaux:    

Usually in university, you learn a rounded shape, a classical, very rounded, very legit kind of sound. [Singing 00:28:04] That kind of sound. And then we have a more compressed shape. We have rounded shape and we have what I think of as more of kind of a maybe rectangular but very compressed that we have in pop music. [Singing 00:28:21] It’s a very a focused speaking voice. It’s very typical of pop music. And we also have kind of a curved sound. What we call twang. It’s in soul music and rock music, but that’s in a [singing 00:28:45] It’s eh, eh, eh. It was known as the witch’s voice or the French eh. [Singing 00:28:53]

You hear it like in a Celine Dion kind of sound or in Aretha Franklin, but rock singers like Steven Tyler, they use that too. I’m trying to pull back a little bit to not overload this mic. These are the most common shapes. And of course, there are infinite gradients in between, but rounded… This is kind of what I work with people, especially my Broadway clients every day, helping them to develop their rounded shape if they’re doing Les Mes or Porgy and Bess. [Singing 00:29:29] Very rounded versus something like Wicked, which would be more compressed and speech-like [inaudible 00:29:39] And then you have the really rocker, soulful, that kind of gospelly sound.

Rounded, compressed, and then kind of twanged or I think of like a curved thing. But of course, in science, they would use the term formant and they literally measure like frequencies. But as a coach, you don’t have a spectrometer there and all this machinery, so you have to figure out your own mnemonic devices in your own connections on how to hear these. Part of what I have to do for myself and for the teachers who work for me who teach my method, I have to teach them how to listen for these things without the aid of like $100,000 machinery.

Oscar Trimboli:

We’ve talked about the sounds people make, but often it’s the absence of sound and silence that can be just as instructive. How do you listen for silence?

Eric Arceneaux:

I’m always telling my students to sing the silence, to use the silence. I think especially when singing acapella, a lot of singers, people, because singers are just people, are deathly afraid of silence. They feel they have to fill in every gap, and it’s very amateurish. There’s [singing 00:31:05] It’s a Broadway thing, but then there’s [singing 00:31:10] And you can use the silence to convey emotion. It’s important. It’s such a simple concept to understand academically, but there’s something I think that’s very terrifying to singers about letting there be more moments of silence and having to just be there kind of naked in those moments.

But it’s really important, even to let your breath make these sounds, which is not silence exactly.

Oscar Trimboli:     

Does silence have shapes?

Eric Arceneaux:   

I think it does. I think there is a tension-filled silence, and I think that there is very relaxed silence as well. I think what shape it takes is kind of in the context of what comes before and after it and kind of the energy that the person brings to it. I think this is really helped by things like body shape. It helps if you can see the person as well. Definitely. I think it’s contextual, but I do think that silence has shape. And what’s interesting is even in classical music… I was an opera singer for like two years before I realised I didn’t want that life. Composers are very explicit about the importance of rest.

They don’t just say take a break, but they’re very specific about whether it’s several measures or whether it’s two beats or whether you stop abruptly or whether you taper off. It does matter Even how you arrive to the silence even matters and also how you exit the silence. There’s this what’s known as a [inaudible 00:32:54] an immediate abrupt start of tone, and then there’s also [inaudible 00:32:58] when you kind of aspirate, like exhale into it, versus jumping right into it. I think it really… There’s almost something… I don’t know. This is where it does feel a little bit magical, a little woo-woo. It’s kind of your intention.

You radiate what the silence is, and a really good artist has the power. I remember taking conducting class when I was in college and being really irritated with my professor, because he mentioned intention as something he was grading me on. I was like, “How can you grade my intention? You can’t possibly know that.” But he was saying that you have to will the orchestra. It’s something that you can exude, and he was right. It’s hard to put into words because it’s something you feel, because we would practise with actual orchestral students.

And you could tell the people who have a strong command and the orchestra felt very secure and that there was this almost telepathic communication going on. And then the people who were very deliberate in their movements, but they just didn’t have that same… Something was missing in that energy. There is loud silence.

Oscar Trimboli:   

Can we just touch on the things I should be listening for when you’re teaching me as an instructor?

Eric Arceneaux:     

The three steps or our three tiers are breathing, are reflexes, and the vocal cords themselves. The three tiers, we look at it like a pyramid, where the biggest, fattest base of that is the breath. The first thing we work on is helping people to breathe with their full body. A big part of this is sonic. You can hear if someone’s tight. That kind of thing. You would take them through a basic scale, and this is a good example. The average guy is going to do this. If I go on my piano or whatever, they’re going to go, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah. They’re going to bash it or some form of that. It’s the most common thing.

But if they take a good breath, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, you’re going to hear a noticeable difference. It’s going to sound more solid and more supported is the word that’s used a lot with singers, but it sounds more stable. And then we have our reflexive responses. That’s our second tier, and that’s when you speak, can you feel your body respond? Some really good examples of this that are very natural. When you laugh, a little psychopathic there laughing out of nowhere, but when you laugh, you feel your body respond. If you cough, which means something a little different right now, but if you cough, you feel your body move, especially your solar plexus, your abdomen.

It these natural responses you have. If you’re really speaking up for yourself, particularly when you’re setting a boundary, when you’re saying, “Hey, I don’t like that. No,” your body will respond. These are things people don’t really pay attention to, but I have to. Like you said, with listening, it’s kind of like the indigenous peoples in Alaska have all these different names for snow. But for us, we don’t notice these nuanced differences. It’s just snow to me. But I understand what it’s like to be able to see nuance where other people just see this homogenous like, “Oh, what? I’m just making sound.”

Trills are really interesting because they’re probably the most ubiquitous vocal exercise in existence, at least in the western world. If not, the world. It seems as such a childish thing, and it’s because we do it when we’re doing toddlers. We’re cooing and making new sounds. But when make the sound through your oscillating lips, you’re creating resistance at the mouth, instead of everything escaping at once. It’s resistance training, but for your muscles.

I even have my public speakers, I have news anchors and whatever, who I work with, if they’re going to say, “Good morning. My name is Eric Arceneaux, and I’m here with Channel 5 News,” there is flow and cadence and intonation with that. I have them go and work through it like that to feel that. But your reflexes, that’s kind of your safety net. These should work anytime you’re making sound. But then we have your vocal cords, which is our top tier. We learn how to really feel our cords closing to make sound and trying to refine that. You actually have really cords closure, not to make you self-conscious of that, but you have a very crisp…

The default setting of a speaking voice should be crisp and clean with what we call edge to where there’s not a lot of airiness or huskiness. It shouldn’t be like this. This would be antithetical is what we’re trying to achieve, but there should be some core to it. We might do like a, just to help people feel how the cords kind of tap together to find that. And of course, there’s a bigger exercises. It is the difference between [singing 00:38:11] where the cords can really close. We kind of learn to find a refined efficient closing of the cords.

And the very last part is learning how to actively open the body, which is quite advanced, but it’s particularly important for getting the more dramatically powerful sounds. It’s where you learn how to consciously use muscles in your body and to make them work to kind of reinforce the space that you can make really dramatic sounds. Maybe sounds that make you think someone would damage their voice, but let’s you do really crazy rock screams or really big opera sounds or Broadway belts or something.

Oscar Trimboli:

Just like James Nestor exploring breathing, Eric Arceneaux understands how you can bring your true voice to every conversation and performance. More importantly, Eric can explain it in a way that’s easy for all of us to access and understand how our voice works and when it doesn’t and what gets in the way. What are you taking away and what are you applying from today’s episode? I’d really like to know. Send an email to That’s I love receiving your perspective on each episode.

It helps me to know what’s useful for you so I can be doing more of it and also what’s not useful for you so we can peel that back and do as little as possible. Today, I’d especially love to hear from the interrupting or the lost listeners. If you’ve done the listening quiz at and you’re interrupting or lost as your primary or secondary villain, I’m curious what techniques you’re going to apply from today. Taking the time to listen beyond the sounds and the words and how they are formed in the vocal cords of the speaker will create a really different way for you to listen. Not just for the interrupting and lost listeners, but for all the listening villains out there.

For me, what I’m taking away isn’t about how I listen differently, rather how I speak and my vocal range. Something Eric tells me a little bit more about in the debrief. We’ll be playing that at the end of the episode, where we explore my vocal range and what that means when I’m communicating. I’m noticing that my vocal range might be constrained sometimes and not opened up to its full potential. I’m noticing right now in which situations and relationships am I using my full range and when am I hiding, when am I hiding myself in a really narrow constricted.

I’m noticing the difference in my range when I’m speaking with someone on the phone versus speaking with someone on the video conference. I wonder if you’re noticing your vocal range at the moment. I want to say a big thank you to a few people who’ve taken the time to review the podcast. I’m really grateful for that, because it helps me know what I’m doing well and how I can support you better. As I was speaking to a few people recently, it’s a bit hard to visualise who’s out there listening when I’m in my office staring into the microphone while I’m imaging who’s out there. A big thank you to Mauricio from Italy.

He says, “Thanks for making a very useful tool available to this community.” Thanks to David who says, “In my opinion, anyone who listens to his podcast will find it beneficial. Oscar and his team do an amazing job. Thank you for all the hard work.” Thank you, David. This review of the podcast is from the United States and it’s got a nickname. The nickname is Baby Yah. “Great skills in this podcast. I love listening and being introduced to the unique professionals and their skillsets around deep listening. As an extrovert, I love meeting, understanding, and helping people.

Ironically, as an extrovert, I talk too much instead of really hearing others and really being effective in helping them. After listening to several of the episodes on this podcast, I’m really seeing a difference in my ability to help others to be heard and to be helped.” Thank you, Baby Yah. Great insights there and a lovely difference of looking at the world through the eyes of an extrovert. Baby Yah, I wonder what listening villain you are. I’d love to find out. Send me an email at,, and email me if you’ve got any questions about listening. We are about to create a regular episode called Ask Me Anything.

In this Ask Me Anything episode, I’ll be answering questions like these that have come from a range of people recently. Tracy asks, “My biggest issue is I feel like I’m always distracted or rushed. I’m trying to multitask, and therefore I’m not fully present when it comes to my listening.” This message from California in the United States and, ironically, their name is Sydney. “I hope this message finds you well. As a listener, I’m struggling to stay focused and out of my own thoughts. I’m a lost and a dramatic listener and desperately need to fix it. I’m finding it harder than ever to stay focused on what I want to do and what I think about sometimes.”

Thanks, Sydney. Gary from the United Kingdom asks, “I’m an avid podcast listener, so my question is, where do I start from your wealth of guidance? Should I,” and he puts in brackets, “for example, start with the latest podcast you’ve released or simply pick up the podcast from the point of discovery? Or are there really powerful ones that you would suggest I listen to first? I’m really looking forward to going on this journey. And yes, Oscar, don’t worry, I’ve already joined the 90 day challenge.” Thank you, Gary. Should we rate our most favourite podcast? Sent me an email,

Which would be the podcast you would recommend to Gary? Would it be the five levels of listening podcast series? Would it be the four villains of listening? Or would it be somebody that I’ve interviewed? I’d love to hear from you. I can see from the downloads which speakers are resonating with you. But what I found also is that’s really been a function of the ones I’ve been promoting on social media when I get to speak to people. They tell me consistently that there’s always a specific that they feel is their favourite. Please send me an email at Let me know your favourite podcast and why.

I love to know what it is about that podcast that you particularly enjoyed, what is it about that episode that you enjoyed. Here’s an email from Alex in Cologne, from Germany. “Oscar, I wondered whether you’d have some time for some reflection on a topic that occurred for me recently. During a workshop, we were exploring the five levels of listening. And on an individual and team level, everything was great. We had a great reflection, and then there was a moment of despair when someone in the room said, “Talking time is power. We can’t break that up. It’s our culture.” Do you have any ideas on what to do? I’d love to hear from you. Best wishes, Alex.”

This message is from Dana in Vancouver, from Canada. “I hope you and yours are healthy, safe, and well during the pandemic. Thank you so much for the Deep Listening: Impact Beyond Words playing cards. At this time, I’m using the cards for myself, and I made reading the book a morning habit. I had the cards set up on my desk for a week. And for that week, I practised just that skill and that concept. I was first introduced to your work when you were on The Art of Charm Podcast: Five Hacks to Improve Your Listening. This came at a pivotal time in my life when I needed to learn to listen beyond the words being spoken.

Oscar, when I took the quiz, I learned that I’m a shrewd listener and a lost listener. One of my experiences that I identified, being the shrewd listener, it doesn’t facilitate great connectedness or create a safe place, a place of openness, so that my partner feels he’s always being fixed or a science experiment. Learning this of myself, I started to ask more questions. Identifying as a lost listener, one of the most helpful practises that I started is the focus on my own breath. I could go on and on and on about what I’m learning, but I’ll leave it with this.

When I listen to myself during the conversation, I can identify when my emotions are being flooded and then I need to reset and bring myself back online. I’m stoked to be on this journey. My appreciation is beyond words. Dana.” Tracy, Sydney, Gary, Alex, and Dana, I’ll be answering your questions on the regular Ask Me Anything episode. If you would like your question or your questions to be answered, simply email, that’s, with your most frustrating listening questions. Thanks for listening this far in.

As a little reward and a thank you, at the end of this episode, just a reminder, Eric deconstructs my voice during the interview. It’s well worth listening. I’m Oscar Trimboli, and I’m on a quest to create 150 million deep listeners in the world. And you’ve given me the greatest gift of all, you’ve listened to me. Thanks for listening. Eric, what did you notice about my voice?

Eric Arceneaux: 

I noticed that your voice is very clear and very focused and your articulation is excellent. I think your coordination is really good. I would love to have you explore your range. I’m so curious. Normally what I would do if I was with you for our first session, we would do a siren, which is like a. Have you ever tried anything like that before?

Oscar Trimboli:            

No, but I’m really conscious to go the other way and what I find the audience really enjoy sometimes is by coming closer. Just speak in a whisper.

Eric Arceneaux:

That’s very powerful too. I actually encourage students to do that a lot.

Oscar Trimboli: 

What do you think the contrast is there when you do that? Do you think you draw attention in by using the whisper?

Eric Arceneaux: 

Actually I do. It’s funny. I have a student who’s a Broadway singer, and she kept auditioning for roles and she wasn’t landing anything. She has a very powerful voice. It’s not Jennifer Hudson, but very Jennifer Hudson-esque and very powerful. There’s a song [singing 00:50:23] It’s very big, right? She didn’t understand why she wasn’t getting it. We tried something different where I had her start the song with [singing 00:50:34] And she got the role and the director said, “No one approached it that way.” I think there’s something that invites people to listen in closer. I think there’s also something vulnerable about it and people…

Like I said, they’re definitely afraid of being vulnerable themselves, but oh, it’s so attractive in other people, people who are willing to do it. They don’t want to do it themselves. They’re terrified typically. I think that’s one of your vocal superpowers is that tone. I think it’s really effective.

Oscar Trimboli:                 Wow. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Eric Arceneaux:     

Some positive feedback. It’s really easy to get into a moment where I’m explaining this with someone’s eyes kind of glaze over and they tune out, especially when you’re getting into the technical aspects. But I really felt like you were fully attentive the whole time, which was very calming.


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