The Incredible Impact Your Voice Has On You (and vice versa)
Your voice says a lot about you.
It almost goes without saying that voices are something we are constantly noticing about other people. But seldom do we wish to think about our own.
According to many psychologists and social scientists, we make judgements about the sound of a voice before we even become aware of our feelings about the owner of that voice. If we dislike someone's voice, it doesn't seem to matter what the content is, we just can't stay interested for an extended period of time. This is most obviously true in music. A singer who cries out from that special place in their heart in a way that sounds just like the way you felt when a loved one left, you suffered a loss or when you reminisce about your childhood, becomes immediately likeable and interesting. Likewise if someone sings in a grating or whiny tone that just makes you long for the sound of nails on a chalkboard, it's all you can do to avoid veering the car into a brick wall every time that song comes on the radio.
The same is true for the speaking voice. We all know at least one teacher in school or a relative with that annoying or singular voice that sounds like a dying squirrel, the thought of which has ruined your sympathy for small rodents ever since. Many people can also remember the way their heart skipped when they first heard the voice that they would long to listen to for the rest of their lives. In sweaty palmed telephone conversations (while anxiously trying to think of more witty banter that would make the desired voice laugh and maybe just compel them to continue talking to you for another hour longer) you try put on your best "sexy voice" or "manly voice" or even "disaffected voice" to impress the person on the other end with your cool confidence and charisma despite the fact that you're panicking on the inside.
There is a powerful connection between our feelings and our perception of a spoken voice.
We tend to like people more when we like their voice. This is especially true when it comes to romance, but also when it comes to business. If success in romance and in business are two of the common metrics used to measure our happiness then it's probably worth paying close attention to our own speaking voice to know whether we have the qualities we look for in attracting the life we desire. While we may already be aware that the sound of someone else's voice can affect us in a powerful way, we may not understand that the way we feel about our own voice also has a tremendous impact on the way we feel. In fact, some studies say that our personal happiness is directly related to the way we sound and that our feelings may be altered just by changing our tone of voice. It's no secret that many people dislike the sound of their own voice, so if there is a connection between the way we feel about our voice and the way we feel in general, we had better do something about it. The alternative is to avoid using our voices whenever possible and deflect our communication toward more impersonal medium. But the trade-off is if we cut ourselves off from the sound of our voice, we also may be cutting ourselves off from our ability to be aware of our feelings. This can then lead to communication difficulties, relationship strain, and frustrations with coworkers or others in our social and work environments. Sound familiar? It's no wonder so many of us are now relying on texts, snapchats and emoticons to express ourselves, we just don't trust our voices anymore.
While it might feel shallow to judge someone purely on the way their voice sounds and not the intentions or the content they are delivering, it often happens without our conscious awareness. We reason with ourselves that others should try to to see beyond the sound of our voice to the meaning of what we are trying to express. Perhaps they should, but that doesn't mean they do. We might not like to admit that we do this to others, or that others are doing this to us all the time. That is certainly not how we would like to be perceived. But psychology tells us that it happens nonetheless.
Once considered a necessary study only in the world of radio journalists, actors and politicians; speech lessons are becoming increasingly crucial for people wishing to succeed in a wide variety of careers. If you want your business presentation to be remembered, it will be remembered for your voice. If you want to leave an impression at that big job interview, what they will hear is not your answers but the way you sound when you say them. Or if you speak more than one language fluently but have a clear difference in confidence when you switch from one to another, the problem is not your intelligence or your ideas, but the way you use your voice. While a few lucky people seem to have been born with a voice that strikes just the right tone to convey confidence and clarity without any kind of formal training, that doesn't mean there's no hope for the rest of us. With a little help from a qualified coach, most people can benefit from investing a little more time and attention on the unique problems or inhibitions related to our own speaking voice. If not for yourself then perhaps for getting the attention of that special someone who just doesn't seem to be picking up the non-verbal cues you are desperately dropping in their way? In any case, your voice is one of the most powerful tools of connection and expression that you have. Hadn't you better make the best of it?