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The Impulse To Speak

No body just speaks. We always have a reason for speaking. We speak in order to express something, and usually in order to achieve something. And in order for us to want to speak, we need to have thought about something first. And in order to think about something, we need to have experienced something that stimulates the brain to think. And what stimulates the brain to think is information that it receives from the sensory organs. Information that it receives related to the five senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. The sensory organs that receive the sensory information send that information to the brain. That information is then deciphered by the brain, and if any of it is important the brain sets about waking up the emotional and the physical being so as to ready us for action. Then we take physical action, which may or may not come in the form of speech. 

So speech occurs as a reaction to the information we receive from the senses, and is an action taken by the body in order to act upon the information it received. It is the desire to act, expel, express or purge. And when the above occurs without any conscious interference with the process I call it Free Natural Speech or Instinctual Natural Speech. 

Put simply, natural speech is a physical action, driven by a body reaction, set off by a trigger.  

Missing triggers and unnatural speech

I emphasize the above detail as I believe that the triggers for speech are so often what are missing in performances. (I believe that actors very often recite words or perform generalised emotions disconnected from truths related to either the actor’s emotions or the character’s reality.) And the absence of triggers in their performances is very often the reason a performer speaks in an unnatural manner. With no connection to reality the performer ends up ‘busking’ a truth, or peppering their speech with meaningless emphasis and vocal variations to attempt to sound interesting. So to my mind, your task as a performer is to take learned or prepared speech, and to reactivate it using trigger mechanisms in order to achieve the result of Free Natural Speech.  


If you are watching television and you suddenly smell smoke, you will probably be triggered to investigate the source. If you then open the lounge door and see fire beyond it, or a room filled with smoke, the action of seeing the danger is a trigger. Your sight alerts the brain to the danger, and your brain then tells your body what to do. If you can physically put the fire out, you will probably do so. If however the fire is too big, you will probably flee from the fire and call for help. You will be triggered to speak! 

© Donald Woodburn

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