You may or may not know that 38% of the first impression you make when meeting someone face-to-face is down to your voice, with only 7% only being the what you say! Whilst visual at 55% is pretty powerful, your voice is still a key part of what you communicate about yourself. Imagine how much more important it becomes when you are talking to someone on the phone, when visual is not part of the mix?
I was prompted to think more about my voice this week than usual as it partially disappeared. This would have been less of an issue had I not been due to be interviewed for around 40 minutes for an on-line TV show! I spent much of the day beforehand drinking warm tea and using throat spray to make sure that I could speak and didn’t sound too raspy! (If you want to see how my voice ended up, you can access the interview here.)
What we notice in people’s voices
Most people’s immediate thought when they think about voice is accent. It is the obvious point, most people can be linked to their country of origin by their accent.. Beyond that, an individual can even be directly linked to a specific region of a country in some cases.
Unless there is another very distinctive aspect of someone’s voice then the other element that gets noticed is whether they are particularly ‘well spoken’ or not. However, there is so much more to voice than accent and whether someone sounds posh, normal or definitely not posh!
What to watch out for
When you are out and about in your working life, you need to be seen as credible for the role you have and be able to communicate your personality. Your vocal impact is an important way in which to do both of these things. There are 2 key things your voice communicates that could affect your credibility and what your voice communicates about your personality that are worth keeping in mind:
- Your interest – by your tone, people can very quickly tell if you are engaged with them and what they are saying. By clearly listening, not speaking over them and adding the odd reassuring word, your voice (or lack of) tells someone they are being heard.
- Your emotional state – it is very difficult when you are experiencing a strong emotion – positive or negative to control your voice. However, it is important to be able to do so. There may be instances when you want to communicate an emotion such as annoyance. However, the key is to be sure you want to communicate it and knowing how to do so appropriately. The negative scenario in terms of personal image is communicating a real emotion through your voice when it is not helpful to do so.
The aspects that make a difference
There are several key aspects to your voice which you need to keep in mind:
- Tone – that underlying communication tool that can say so much. Think carefully whether you are sounding angry, frustrated, angry…Several elements contribute to tone – the words you choose, sentence formation, the pace and the rhythm
- Pitch – men generally have a lower pitch than women. As a woman, it is sensible to make sure your voice is not too high pitched as this can appear overly feminine and less credible. This is particularly important in a male dominated environment. The reason behind this is men find a high pitch hard to pick up in their hearing range.
- Volume – a louder voice often communicates authority and sometimes excitement. Whilst you don’t want to deafen the other person or appear to be shouting, a quiet, timid voice will have a negative impact on your credibility. It communicates lack of confidence and reticence.
- Pace is important as it communicates emotion. Faster pace tends to represent anger, enthusiasm or nervousness – depending on the tone and pitch that accompanies it. Think about what happens to your voice when you feel these emotions. Not that you want to talk very slowly but a moderately paced way of speaking is usually the best way to convey yourself credibly.