The Power of the Human Voice
Hey, you know that thing you carry around with you all the time? The thing that stores your social media apps, finds the sourdough bread recipe, gives directions, updates you on the latest news, texts that you’re running late?
Yes, it’s all that but there’s so much more to it. Because it’s a phone too. And it holds the wisdom and power of the human voice.
The power of the human voice soothes us and brings us together.
In these days of ongoing anxiety and endless screens a phone conversation can be a true gift. And even though you may not use it much this way, your phone connects your beautiful human voice to other beautiful human voices.
In fact, a simple phone conversation lets you sink into the melody, cadence and power of the human voice, the human spirit and the human story.
The combination of story and human voice goes back to the beginnings of time.
And you probably have a sense memory of this. Remember back to times when someone told or read a story to you, as a child or as an adult. Remember how it calmed you, touched you, lulled you. How it opened you up to imagination and daydreaming.
My guess is that connecting by audio only, hearing each other’s voices in real time, is closer to sitting around a campfire sharing stories together than sitting in front of a screen.
Strangely, connecting by voice only can be more intimate and immediate than video.
There’s actual research to back this up, although I can’t find it right now. But when I went looking for it, I stumbled instead upon a company sharing their best practices for Zoom meetings.
This sentence immediately caught my attention:
Unless video is a necessity, we’ve found that turning it off can help increase the clarity of the call.
It reminds me that the power of the human voice can center and ground us.
Journalist Stephen Henn writes eloquently about the power of the human voice:
Voices can create empathy and understanding; they transmit emotion. We are wired to feel each other this way…There is no newspaper or video that will ever match the ability of a simple human voice to create an emotional connection. Audio is better at this than anything.
And that emotional connection he speaks of is more important than ever these days, when we are separated from each other and facing an ambiguous and uncertain future.
Of course, video conferencing is important and much needed too.
It’s a good option for one-to-one therapy and coaching sessions with clients right now, although some clients do prefer phone.
But, I’m beginning to wonder if video conferencing is the best option for gathering together small virtual circles of women. In fact, this came up recently when I had to shift my Soulful Journaling circle from in-person to virtual meetings.
We did a phone circle the first time, because it was easy to get everyone connected quickly. As we wrapped up I asked the circle members if they’d like to move to video next time.
But after two hours of deeply connecting through reflective writing combined with the power of the human voice, their answer was, “No, let’s keep it this way.”
Audio only conversations also hold the potential for some relief and freedom right now.
Screen fatigue is a real thing these days.
In fact, a helpful article recently landed in my inbox with six tips for dealing with Zoom exhaustion. This is important information to have, because video conferencing is here to stay. It’s probably the most effective way to bring lots of people together online.
Still, if I’d written that article, tip number seven (or maybe even number one) would be to move some of those Zoom experiences to phone. Or simply turn off the video at times during the calls.
Because with audio only there’s no need to be “on.”
You won’t be distracted by seeing yourself as you talk. And no need to continually manage your gaze because you’re looking at a screen for long periods of time.
There’s also the freedom of not having to think about how you look or what you’ll wear. No need to sit up straight. You can relax on the couch or the floor, put your feet up, recline on the bed. Maybe look out the window, see the sky, watch the clouds. None of this is easy to do on a video call.
And maybe the biggest bonus is that you get to bypass the talking heads. I mean, there’s a pretty clear consensus about how boring talking head videos are.
But these days, when many people gather on a video call, I find it’s mostly a single talking head (and voice), with the chat function on. It’s definitely not a good fit for me, since I’m highly sensitive to both talking heads and too much screen time.
So a simple phone or audio connection can be a small miracle these days.
An oasis in the midst of a harsh world.
An experience of listening and being together that can be a radical act of transformation.
Personally, I’m incredibly fortunate to know and regularly connect with a generous handful of women friends mostly by phone. Some are relatively new friendships, others have been cultivated over the years.
I highly recommend seeking this out in your own life if it’s possible for you.
Because these conversations are a lifeline right now. At least once a week I get to enter into this small sacred space with another woman. We connect to each other’s voices and stories. We’re moved and touched and inspired.
And together, we remember the wisdom and power of the human voice.
The human voice is the organ of the soul.
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow