It is the disease of not listening . . . (Henry IV)

What I like about Geraldine Cook’s workshop, as she describes in her article, is the sequence of exercises – or maybe we should call them experiences – she proposed as ‘critical points’:

Listening – Interior space – Reflexive breath – Exterior space – Breath/thought connection – Voicing – Speaking.

Isn’t it interesting that SPEAKING comes last in a list of seven?  In my experience as a teacher, solo (and duo) students are often impatient with what they see as the unnecessary and mechanical preamble of breathing and vocal exercises. They want to get straight to the text – straight to the ACTING bit.  It can be a challenge to slow them down.  However, most writers on voice would agree that text comes last, usually after exercises which connect with the breath, the body and the imagination. After all, communication should be a two-way process.

UnknownIn Cook’s workshop, the process started with LISTENING – so that participants could become aware of the subtle changes of breath patterns in the body.

It started with participants simply walking into the space and saying their names. This simple act –  SAYING YOUR NAME – is significant: “When people are asked to speak in front of a group, their voices shape the identity of themselves in the very act of simply saying their names. Some of the workshop participants’ voices were strong and loud, others were weak and thin but very few were calm. In every instance, we could observe strong holding patterns of physical tension. Unnecessary physical tension impedes the flow of breath and the breath is at the core of actor vocal training. The placing of hands on the various parts of the body required the participants to experience the breath moving to those areas rather than the participants trying to “muscle” the movement of breathing, thus causing more tension and consequently less connection to the imagination. The group was given time to ‘listen’ for the internal movement of the breath and for air to arrive when it needed to.”

Listening is a skill we need to sharpen in this noise-polluted world of ours.  it’s important to give people a voice, but we also need to help people to listen actively, not just wait for the next gap in the conversation so you can butt in, as Christine Mottram of BeSpoke Communication points out:

“A lot of us hold our breath while we are listening to others. Sometimes this is why we can become so reactive— because our bodies are starting to panic from lack of oxygen. You don’t have to control your breathing, just make sure you aren’t holding it. You can even notice how what you are hearing is affecting your breathing rhythm. Breathe throughout the listening process and use your breathing to help you allow the other person to make their whole point (instead of interrupting halfway through). This also keeps you from focusing on preparing what you’re going to say next, which is what most of us do when we are listening, rather than actually listening.”

Guided relaxations into Savasana (yoga relaxation) often include an invitation to listen to the sounds of the space around the body before listening (or paying attention) to the rhythm breath and gradually focussing inwards.




. . . Namaste . . .



Bespoke Communication. 2018. Voice Work for Listening. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 6 April 2018].

Ihde, D., 2007. Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound. 2nd ed. New York: State University of New York Press.

Popescu, M, 2014. Mind Body Voice: Ways of Theatricality. Studia Universitatis Babes-Bolyai Dramatica, [Online]. Volume 59, Issue 2, 9-16. Available at: [Accessed 6 April 2018].

Spolin Games Online. 2014. Home page. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 6 April 2018].


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