How to Sound Calm when Upset

I was working with a group of senior executives last week, helping them sound more powerful with a leadership voice.

One of the most common questions they asked was,

“How do I sound calm when I’m very upset?”

The answer to that question is first, you can sound calm even when you are very upset.

Let’s admit it. We all get upset at times. Yes, even me, especially with the ex-es. 😂 Those who think they never get upset are living in denial and illusions. I once heard an interview with The Dala Lama and his tone got upset at certain point. The enlightened people are not those never get upset but those who accept this normal human emotion and transcend it.

Next, we’ll need to deal with the emotion so it doesn’t hurt others.

1. The tendency for most people when they get upset is to sound high-pitched or loud

Sounding high-pitched or loud hurts the ears and gets people in defence mode. They’ll either verbally or non-verbally ignore what you’ll say next. In the end, nothing has any impact. All that people remembered was that you are someone who easily gets upset and cannot control his/her emotion.

Make sure when you are upset, check your pitch or the loudness of your voice. That actually gives your brain the time to go from the sympathetic nervous system (the insane part of brain that says things we regret later on) to the para-sympathetic nervous system (the part of the brain that makes us feel calm and collected) so you don’t get taken away by your emotions and regret later on.

2. Breathe slowly on certain words to sound calm

Most clients would say, “Ah, speak slowly.” The problem about speaking slowly is that it doesn’t work at all after the initial 2 minutes or less, when you have to tell yourself to speak slowly.

Breath is the power of the voice. Shift your focus, instead, to your breath. When you breathe slowly, the voice will automatically slow down. What’s better is that breathing slowly also helps you slow down your body rhythm that’s caused by all the rages.

Say “This is NOT going to work” with the word “NOT” having more breaths. Most clients would say, “Ah, emphasizing the word NOT.” The problem for most people is that when it comes to emphasize, they tend to go high-pitched. It is rather to use more breaths on the word NOT. There’s a subtle difference. And it’ll not make you sound high-pitched that gets people defensive or shut down.

3. Develop a full voice that can take on the pressure resulted from upset

The longer-term solution is to develop your full voice, a voice that’s projected with the full body. The reason that your voice is so susceptible to your emotions is because your voice is mainly relying on your voice box  and throat for projection. For the 1/4 of your body to take on all the tension and pressure from your emotion, it is unbearable. No wonder your voice will go high-pitched, faster paced and even tremble.

To reduce the pressure, you’ll need to learn how to allow the body to take on the pressure and project your voice. Once that’s developed, even if you are extremely upset, your voice will still sound calm. That’s why my audiences and clients always comment, “Cynthia, you sound so calm at all times.” The fact is that I am not always feeling calm. Thanks to the full voice, I could sound calm even when there was turmoil going on internally.


To develop your leadership voice that conveys calmness and impact, schedule a conversation with me HERE.

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