• How can I be a better magician? Pt. 4 – 4 reasons you need to start Talking to yourself

  • June 27, 2020

  • Talk to yourself, listen to yourself and see what you have to say. After all, sometimes you need an expert’s opinion, and no-one knows you better than you do.

    Plenty of people have called me crazy over the years, and weird; though that never had anything to do with this particular habit of mine. But yes, I do often talk to myself. I don’t think I need to go to the nuthouse and I would absolutely recommend you try it, here’s why.

    1. Getting comfortable with your own voice

    For a long time I used to hate the sound of my own voice. I was a quiet kid who was not particularly outspoken and always a bit of an introvert. I used to particularly hate singing, which was an entire obligatory class at one of my schools.

    I don’t remember when, but one day while visiting the countryside, I went for a walk on my own and I tried singing for the first time with nobody around to hear. I sung as loudly as I wanted but for the first time without the fear of what someone else might think. I was awful. It was still quite liberating though. Looking back, it was probably when I first started to speak aloud to myself, putting my thoughts into words rather than just keeping them rattling around inside my head.

    I was still terrified of public speaking and hated the sound of my voice, but I wasn’t afraid of how it sounded anymore. I began speaking aloud while in my room, talking myself through homework problems, eventually even yelling at the characters in the video games I was playing. This may not seem like a game changer, but for me, it made all the difference.

    Being comfortable with my voice allowed me to speak up more in group situations and command more attention without having to hide.

    2. Strengthening the control you have over your voice

    Learning to speak is something we all take for granted. Once we can do it, we chalk it up as another one of life’s victories and carry on with our lives. However, our voice is one of our most powerful tools, both as a person, and as a performer.

    When we speak, we may not realise it, but the speed at which we talk, the tonality we use, the pitch and even the words we use all affect how we convey both ourselves and the information we are trying to get across. All of these little factors and so many others contribute to how well we can communicate our ideas and our story.

    I know that how we hear our voice is not how other people hear our voice, but there are ways around this. If you don’t mind looking a bit silly, you can hold a book up and put it upright along the side of your face between your eyes and your ears, which will allow you to hear your voice as others hear it. Or, you can use sound cancelling headphones, record your voice and play it back to yourself. Otherwise of course, you can just record yourself speaking and play it back, I just found it easier to not be influenced by what I was hearing at the time if I could interrupt the normal way I heard myself speak. Does that make sense?

    3. Exercising your voice

    I’m sure you’ve heard of people straining their voice, or of actors and singers needing to save their voice for their performances. Well, that’s because your voice is controlled by muscles that can be just as easily overworked, strained or damaged like any other muscle in the body, so why not exercise it and look after it the same we do, or should do, our hamstrings, biceps and every other muscle?

    4. Preventing yourself from over thinking

    This final one can be a double edged sword, so be careful with it. For the most part though, I found that if I spoke first and thought later, I would be a more vocal part of the group. I was always terrible at over thinking in group situations, planning just the right thing to say, only for the conversation to have moved on by the time I was able to get it out.

    So I practiced removing that time delay between thinking of what to say, and saying it, trusting myself to remain on the topic of conversation at hand. The biggest strength this has given me for performing is that I will try “lines” as they pop into my head, allowing improvisation to come more easily for me no matter the situation I’m in.

    There is the danger that I say something awful, but over time and with practice this happens less and less. If the situation is particularly high pressure, then I take the time to think about my words much more carefully, but since that isn’t the norm I can approach this as turning something off temporarily, rather than having to temporarily turn it on. Again, I hope this makes sense!

    Well, there you have it. The four reasons I have for still talking to myself. They all come to together to really help me as a performer. Now that I am comfortable with my voice, I don’t have to fear sounding ridiculous as I can accept how my voice sounds and don’t have to shy away from it. Knowing how I sound though, means I can hear where I need to improve certain aspects of my speech. Doing deliberate practice of how my voice sounds, and how I’m speaking, means I can be confident that people want to listen to what I have to say, after all, when we speak, when people are deciding (subconsciously) whether or not to listen to us, the words we use only make up 10% of that decision, the rest comes from things like body language, tonality, volume of speech and others.

    That is a lot to take on board, let alone carry in your mind while thinking about your routine, your next sleight, punch line or effect, all the more reason you need to stop yourself over thinking!

    So, just try it every once in a while, have a chat with yourself. Argue a point out loud. Tell yourself off for doing something stupid and compliment yourself when you do a good job. You’ll be amazed at how well you listen to yourself!

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