Do Lower Voices Command More Respect?
Lower your voice and strengthen your argument.
Well, this has a nice ring to it, and it sounds "right" on the surface... but I think it leaves a lot open to interpretation.
When we speak about "lowering" a voice, we may be referring to pitch, or we may be referring to volume. If it's volume, I get it. Staying calm and not raising one's voice in a tense situation can most definitely contribute to appearing professional and in control.
But if we're talking about pitch... I think that's where people get confused. It's not really about lowering the frequency of your voice, per se; it's about lowering and deepening the resonance of your sound. These are two very different elements of voice. If the proverb was simply interpreted as referring to pitch, this would imply that women are incapable of ever matching the gravitas that men have access to, with their voices, since men's voices are typically lower due to their anatomy. And that is not true. I've worked with enough business men and women and read enough studies in marketing and voice research to know that credibility and strength are not dependent upon gender.
To illustrate this point, I'll talk about what many of my male and female clients do, which I believe stems from some subconscious misperception, with their voices that does nothing to add to their credibility and dynamism.
Many businessmen I've worked with have gotten in the habit of pushing their voices down to the bottom of their range, in an attempt (I assume) to sound more masculine, more authoritative, stronger... By doing this, they end up robbing their voices of depth and richness, ultimately making their voices sound smaller. They also typically end up speaking in what's closer to a "monotone," because there's less room for their voices to change, to move up and down, and show inflection, which is important for conveying emphasis, emotion, and connection to what's being said. Their message comes out dulled down and less potent.
I've worked with women in the business world who do the same thing, in an attempt (again, with some assumption and some actual reporting) to sound more powerful or credible in their work environments. A lot of them end up just using glottal fry, and like the men, diminishing their voices and robbing them of their true character and dynamism--and power.
Your mindset, personality, and commitment to what you are saying, as well as your attitudes toward your listeners, are conveyed through your voice. By not knowing how to use your voice most effectively, you're not only weakening your message, you're watering down the essence of who you are.
The secret to a having a strong, effective, healthy voice that is intrinsically connected to who you are lies in learning how to connect your breath to your sound, while also creating large and open spaces within your body for sound to resonate in. It doesn't help that when we are nervous or tense, we tend to breathe more shallowly and make ourselves smaller. Learning how to use your voice properly can be your go to skill, or conduit, for remaining calm, present, and credible sounding. It all works on a feedback look. Think about it, what a powerful tool to have to be able to "click into" when you are nervous or tense!
It may take a little training, but what a difference good speech and voice can make in not only the delivery of your message, but in the thoughts and feelings you experience while you are speaking. Two speakers can say the same thing, yet create completely different impressions in the hearts and minds of their listeners, and elicit very different responses--all because of the voice that was used.
I often wonder why people don't take advantage of what could be for them such a valuable, game-changing tool--an asset for them, in business, but also in their lives, in general! Then I remember that most people are not taught about voice, and how to use this instrument they were born with. I can't help but think that if they knew how simple it is to learn how their instrument works and how to use and "play" it, in its most practical sense, what an important and meaningful difference it could make in their lives.
For a free consultation or advice on how to use your voice most healthfully and effectively, both professionally and/or socially, drop me a note. I promise, it won't hurt at all, and you'll see for yourself what a game-changer your voice can be, not only in your professional success, but in your overall well-being.