Speech is a powerful thing. It can be the gateway to a聽promotion at work, help you make some new friends聽and even inspire others to take action (we鈥檙e looking at you, TED). But cringing at the sound of your own voice can be a serious confidence buzzkill.

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We sat down with聽two speech experts聽to talk about the disconnect between our actual voice and the way we imagine it.聽It聽turns out, it has everything to do with acoustics.聽鈥淚t sounds one way in our heads,鈥 speech pathologist Fern Hanover explains, 鈥渂ut by the time it reaches someone鈥檚 ears it has to travel through bones and cartilage. The result is a little different.鈥澛燞owever, speech language pathologist Rochel deOliveira says some sounds can point to larger issues, such as vocal stress or nasality. But for young people (guys聽included!) she says vocal fry is a big concern.

If you鈥檙e in your 20s, you or someone you know probably speaks using vocal fry. It鈥檚 often called valley girl speak, but more technically it happens when the vocal folds in your larynx pulse together very quickly, causing a buzzing sound. While it鈥檚 becoming mainstream 鈥 turn on shows like Girls, Keeping Up With the Kardashians and New Girl to see prime examples 鈥 plenty of people fear the uncertain sound of their voice is keeping them from being taken seriously.

By doing a few exercises,聽our experts say it鈥檚 possible to improve your pitch. These six聽tricks bolster your voice, so that you sound as strong as you feel.

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1. Fix your posture.聽Good alignment allows you to project with confidence. If you imagine there鈥檚 a string pulling up from the crown of your head, your body should straighten itself out. Putting your shoulders back gives your chest the space it needs to expand as you inhale.聽Relaxing your neck muscles keeps your voice from cracking or straining.

2. Practice breathing.聽Paying attention to your breath when you inhale and exhale allows you to have more control over your airflow. If you鈥檝e ever been told to 鈥渟ing from your diaphragm,鈥 the same rule applies. 鈥淏alanced breathing produces a pleasing voice,鈥 deOliveira says. Use your abdominals to support your exhale, and use your full breath when you鈥檙e speaking.

3. Avoid upspeak.聽Raising the intonation at the end of declarative sentences can sometimes come off as insecure. Not sure if you鈥檙e doing it? Record a simple sentence on your phone and listen. Practice saying the same sentence, both as a question and as a statement, until your ear can tell the difference. 鈥淢ost people don鈥檛 have an ear to know they鈥檙e doing it, but by practicing they start to feel it and they鈥檒l remember it,鈥 deOliveira says. Since a study聽found that men and women are equally likely to upspeak, both sexes will benefit from more speech awareness.

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4. Mimic speakers you like.聽Imitation is the sincerest聽form of flattery, right? Listen to confident voices that you admire (or browse for some on YouTube) and, just like a parrot, practice capturing the quality of their voice. Use聽your vocal muscles to produce the noise you just heard.聽鈥淵our body remembers and overtime it will become more natural,鈥 deOliveira says.

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5. Drink more water.聽When you鈥檙e poorly hydrated, thick mucus in your throat acts as a glue in your vocal folds, which produces a harsher noise. 鈥淓specially in the winter when you鈥檙e surrounded by dry heat, the voice tends to suffer,鈥 deOliveira says.聽Try to get between six to eight glasses of water a day, especially if you drink coffee or alcohol.

6. Warm up your voice.聽Asking for a raise or engaging in a difficult conversation? Use vocal exercises to reduce the awful effects that anxiety has on your voice. Practicing lip flutters a few minutes before helps get your voice and breath in sync, so you sound articulate, not flustered.

What makes you feel confident? Share your tips @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)

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