Is Your Voice Ruining Your Life?

I used to work with someone who baby-talked all day long. She'd be on the phone with contacts, asking for something, in the cheerful pitch and tone of an adorable kid trying to be adorable. Shirley Temple sounded more mature. It was so annoying.

We recently discussed hating the sound of your own voice, but a recent Wall Street Journal piece by Sue Shellenberger delves into how your voice affects others' perceptions of you. "The voice is far more important than people think," Shellenberger says."Actually, it matters twice as much for a person's impression of you compared with the content of what you say." Among the offenders: vocal fry, uptalking, volumizing, whisper-talking and yes, the dreaded puberphonic voice. (Listen to examples here.)

Shellenberger explains:

Researchers used computer software to analyze speakers' voices, then collected feedback from a panel of 10 experts and 1,000 listeners. The speakers' voice quality accounted for 23% of listeners' evaluations; the content of the message accounted for 11%.

People who hear recordings of rough, weak, strained or breathy voices tend to label the speakers as negative, weak, passive or tense. People with normal voices are seen as successful, sexy, sociable and smart.

Shellenberger reports that a grating voice can hurt your career, and tells tales of employees who had to tone it down or change it up in order to make the workplace better — and get ahead. We all know someone whose voice is a real issue: Too valley girl, too loud, too quiet, too raspy, too affected, too dumb, to inarticulate, too too. I went through a brief period of laughing while talking — all the time. You only hope you're not the one people find irritating, since that means they try and tune out, turning you into a droning wah-wah like Charlie Brown's teachers. I don't think anyone — certainly not me — ever said anything to the baby-talker I once worked with. But once I heard her get upset with a messenger and her voice changed to an angry growl/shout — guess that was her idea of making sure people actually listened.

Is This How You Really Talk? [WSJ]

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