All my life people have been telling me to speak up. But until last weekend, I didn’t really have any inner motivation to do it. It was Friday night, and we were camping with friends. The aforementioned friends, mr_porteiro_head and beverly, had brought marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate. They began roasting marshmallows while I nursed Lego. As the marshmallows neared perfection, beverly pulled out the other s’mores fixings and noticed that the Hershey’s chocolate she had brought was quite old. The wax had separated from the chocolate, so the whole bar looked white.

 “I brought some Ghirardelli’s chocolate,” I called out to her. “You can use that instead. It’s in our cooler.”

 Beverly just kept unwrapping her waxy chocolate without any kind of response. I wondered a bit if she didn’t want to use our superior chocolate for some reason. Then I figured that she probably hadn’t heard me, so I repeated myself, louder this time. I honestly felt like I was shouting. Keep in mind that I was sitting less than six feet from everyone else. Yes, there were children around, and yes, the fire was crackling, but I was shouting.

 The third time I repeated myself, Jon Boy heard me. He went to the cooler and got out our Ghirardelli’s chocolate bar and began breaking off a corner for himself.

“Offer it to them,” I said.

 He stood up and brought the chocolate over to beverly. “We have some Ghirardelli’s chocolate you could use instead,” he said (paraphrased).

“Ooh! Ghirardelli’s chocolate.” Beverly and mr_porteiro_head were both impressed. They both clearly wanted some. They had clearly not heard me.

So if my speaking voice is whisper soft and my shouting voice is inaudible to people sitting at the same campfire, I need to do something about that. But changing one’s speaking voice is one of the hardest things a person can do. Any tips or words of ecouragement would be appreciated.


  1. Actually, I didn’t go grab the chocolate for myself. I took it out of the cooler and handed it right to beverly.

    I hate to say it, but that was not shouting. It sounded more like slightly above normal speaking volume to me. Like I said, we need to take you to a soundproof booth and make you scream your lungs out.

  2. No you didn’t. I specifically remember saying, “Offer some to them,” and you gave me an “Oh!” sort of face, and then you went over to beverly.

    But that’s not the point, at any rate. The point is that nobody was hearing me.

  3. This exercise workds great with kids in drama programs that I’ve taught.

    Stand facing a partner, a few feet apart, holding a small ball or beanbag. Throw the ball or beanbag to the person while saying “one.” They throw it bag with “two,” and you go back and forth counting. Imagine you are throwing your voice with the ball. Then every few turns take a step backwards. Do this until you are all the way across a large room from each other. Don’t yell — the object is to learn to project your speaking voice, not to shout.

    You can also use the ABCs or alternating lines of a poem or a conversation instead of counting.

  4. Well, I don’t have advice, but I know where you’re coming from! I worked on telephones for at least 4-5 years and always got told to speak up. And then, I think I’m being shunned by people I’m “shouting” at, but it turns out they just didn’t hear me…

    Sometimes I’m afraid to be too loud (and I have this phobia of really loud noises/people, too), and other times I think I’m being so loud and nobody hears me.

    It’s interesting, because my dad doesn’t hear well and he has this too-quiet problem but I hear really well and I have the same problem. I think it’s got less to do with how well you hear other people and more to do with your internal volume being turned up too high or something.

  5. That’s interesting because I have people ask me to speak up a lot. Maybe I’m quiet in some situations and not in others. Jon Boy suggested that maybe my “loud” voice is quieter than it needs to be because I hate to be red and just speak over a crowd. I try, but my heart’s just not in it, so I’m not heard above the commotion. The other time I’m not heard is in very quiet situations: at night after Lego’s in bed, at church during the sacrament, or in class when no one knows an answer and I do. So it seems like I’m quietest in situations where speaking louder would draw attention to me.

  6. And then, in the bean-bag exercise, when the other person doesn’t speak up loud enough you throw the bean bag at them as hard as you can and make them really project!

  7. I also am frequently told to speak up. I think it has to do with fear. Overcome your fear of what people will think of you and you will automatically speak louder. In some situations you will not feel fear.

    I find that when I am forced to speak louder I sound angry. I don’t feel angry, it just comes across that way, and I fear I am giving the wrong impression.

    My wife has the annoying habit of speaking so softly in public that I can’t hear her. After all, she reasons, if she speaks loudly enough that I can hear her, then somebody else who she doesn’t want to hear her might hear her. I ask, then what is the point of saying something, but she doesn’t hear me say that. That is another issue, though.

  8. I have a habit of speaking softly too, and whenever my husband complains I get PTSD about my grandparents. My grandfather was actually going deaf, but my grandma kept speaking to him in a normal to low tone of voice. She sounded so strident when she tried to be heard, though he was no more able to hear her.

    I probably also have trouble talking up because of the verbal abuse I grew up with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.