SAY AH! Finding More Space

September 23rd, 2011

You wouldn’t believe how often I see people who don’t open their mouths enough, when they speak. Yeah, I can hear you saying, “Gimme a break! My grandmother could have come up with that.” But the consequences of this pervasive little habit are quite profound, including

  • Weak voice- because less breath flows out when your mouth isn’t open far enough
  • Mumbling- because speech sounds get distorted being squeezed through your teeth
  • Speaking too fast- because your tongue can move really fast when your jaw isn’t moving
  • Lacking credibility- Have you ever heard someone say, “He’s lying through his teeth!”

What can you do about it? The best approach would involve jaw relaxation exercises, and that’s what I recommend. But since most people just want to jump to the result, here’s what I suggest. Look in a mirror. Normally, you want to have at least one finger-width of space between your upper and lower teeth, on average. Some sounds will be even more open, some less. But on average, a finger-width.

For practice, you should go for two finger-widths. Very open. Use a mirror. The visual confirmation of openness is very important. You’ll be surprised at how easily your mouth starts to close up. If you’re not watching, you don’t even know it.

Start with single words, such as “spa,” “fad” and “high.” When that isn’t so hard, move to phrases, such as “father’s spa,” or “jazz lab,” or “fly high.” When you have the feel of that, try sentences, such as, “My father travels in style,” making sure you’ve got a least a thumb-width of space between your teeth, on the stressed vowel sounds. When sentences are easy, try reading paragraphs in front of a mirror. Remember, you’re looking for an average of one finger-width of space between your teeth. When that doesn’t feel so strange, try speaking with more openness in everyday conversations.

If you haven’t been speaking with a relaxed sense of openness, this might feel very strange and unnatural. You’re not used to allowing sounds to emerge from your body with so much space. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong; it’s just different. So play with it until the feeling is familiar, until it feels like you.

When you are able to speak in public with a relaxed sense of openness around your mouth and jaw, you will reap some significant benefits.

  • Your voice will be stronger- more openness leads to more breath support
  • Your articulation will be clearer- more openness encourages more precision
  • You will speak at a relaxed pace- more openness means your jaw has to move a bit further, slowing you down
  • You will appear strong, confident and credible- take my word for it

Those are all major elements of successful communication—and all have a connection to opening your mouth. You know I hate gimmicks, shortcuts and superficial techniques, but this is something that anyone can understand. And it’s not hard to practice. So open up!

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5 responses to “SAY AH! Finding More Space”

  1. Shahzad Ahmad Mir says:

    Thank you, thanks a lot sir. I’m very very and very happy that i’ve got the solution of my problem. I’m 23 male from kashmir,india and since 4 or 5 years i’ve been observing tightness in my tongue and the worst thing is that i mispronuce some words while speaking. i’z not quite that it has the treatment but after that i went through internet and came to know that it may be tongue tie and i’ve to go through frenectomy but when i consulted a doctor i came to know it is an articulation defect and he refered me for speech therapy. But b4 going for that i consulted another doctor and he told that i’m speaking fast and its obvious that some words may get mispronuced. But i feel your solution is perfect and i’z not opening my mouth as you explained.

  2. Victor OM. says:

    This article talks about me. I am 40 years old and never notice my problem until my wife discovered. I will speAk with my dentist and visit a speech therapist.

  3. Zira says:

    I find this to be a lot of BS.
    I am actually disturbed by people who open their mouths in such an exaggerated way when they speak.
    There is nowhere near 2 finger widths of space between my teeth when I speak, that would hurt my jaw.
    I speak clearly, I enunciate well, and no one ever has to ask me what I just said.
    We are perfectly able to speak just as clearly without showing everyone our tonsils.

  4. Jay Miller says:

    You misrepresent my advice because you weren’t listening closely. Two fingers is only for practice. One finger for everyday conversation. If your speech is already clear, then good for you.

  5. Suresh kumar says:

    Opening your mought?

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