Recently I came across a research study showing that people make snap judgments about us based on just hearing our voice— without even seeing us or knowing who we are! Honestly I had never given it much thought, but then I reflected on some of the dealings I have had over the phone. There were times; I have to admit, when I formed quick judgments—right or wrong—about whether the caller was a sales scam, whether the person in customer service was engaging in a power play, whether someone was sincere, empathetic and so forth.
Let’s face it: Our voice is our calling card. It is the megaphone that tells the world who we are. It is the instrument that makes a first impression and draws people toward us or pushes them away. Those first few seconds of a telephone “hello”, depending on our tone and delivery, can make someone determine if they like you or not, whether they want to interview you or not, whether they want to date you or not, or whether hear more of what you have to say.
So why don’t we ever think of sprucing up our voice, like we do our personal appearance? When paired with the right words, our voice has the incredible power to comfort, soothe, uplift and encourage.
Here are 5 tips that can help make your voice reflect the exquisite person you are!
- Seek Feedback. Rarely are we aware of how our voice comes across to others—unless we get feedback. Ask the people closest to you what impressions they would get from your voice alone if they didn’t know you. We may not realize that our voice is cacophonous, or if we have fallen into the habits of “vocal-fry” or “up-talking”. Ending every sentence as if it were a question is annoying; and dropping your vocal register as low as possible with a loose glottal closure only makes you sound—well like a frog (rivet!).
- I know this might hurt—but RECORD YOUR SPEAKING VOICE. This will give you a baseline upon which to make improvements. Don’t worry that the sound you hear from the recording is not what you hear when you are producing sound. That has to do with tiny bones in the inner ear that produce a depth of sound you can’t get from a recording, where the sound you hear is external. Read a page of a book into the recorder and listen back as objectively as possible. Is your voice too high pitched? Nasal? Squeaky? Go back and reread, practicing various pitches, volumes, tones, and inflections. Your voice—up to a point—can be molded to your desire. Have fun with it.
- Practice vocal exercises to correct your breathing (breathing powers the voice) and strengthen your vocal chords. Take a singing lesson or two, or try some of the vocal lessons available for free on You Tube. Make your voice tell the story you want it to tell.
- Practice good vocal aesthetics. Enunciate your words clearly. Make sure you don’t speak so fast that no one understands you. Try to eliminate hesitation by knowing what you want to say. Vary your pitch to make your voice interesting. Eliminate “fillers”, such as uh, uhm, etc.
- Take Care of Your Voice. When my throat feels a little scratchy I immediately go for the warm water and salt gargle. I found some great natural lozenges and soothing throat sprays, which I use when I have to give a presentation or a singing performance. Some people swear by hot tea and honey or lemon when they feel some vocal strain. I have also learned, from my years in radio, that I should never strain my voice by yelling, screaming, or over-enthusiastic cheering (well maybe, but only on occasion); that is if I want to have a voice to convey my message.
Finally, now that your voice confident and attractive, make sure that the words you use create positivity. Cicero in De Oratore wrote about the ideal orator as a moral guide. He believed that good speaking goes beyond learned technique and that words are equally important. Unscrupulous speakers, he posed, could endanger an entire community. You, on the other hand, can be the pillar.
How do you feel about your voice? How often have you even given it a thought? Share your comments below–I love to hear from my readers!
McAleer, P., Todorov, A., & Belin, P. (2014). How do you say ‘Hello’? Personality impressions from brief novel voices. PLOS ONE, vol 1(3).
©Raeleen Mautner, LLC