How a lower voice will change your outcomes

Have you ever heard anyone whose voice grates?  You want to switch them OFF regardless of what they’re saying, like this, for example…


Whether we want to or not, we make judgments on others regarding their intelligence, socio-economic level, competence and character on the basis of voice.

What assumptions do you make about people who speak with a habitual upward inflection, as in the video?

Paying attention to the components of your voice can define your outcomes.


In her TedX talk, Dr. Wendy LeBorgne states your voice is your ‘vocal brand’.

Now there’s a glut of talk about ‘personal branding’ and many people dismiss this: surely we’re more than a composite of a PR Executive’s vision board.

Think about it, though: a marketer will pay attention to fonts and colours in design to attract a target market. If that doesn’t work, they go back to the drawing board and rework the brand.

Likewise, one might adjust their voice to leave a chosen impression because your ‘brand’ is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.  So the word ‘brand’ is basically the impression you give to others and everyone leaves us with an impression – good, bad or indifferent.

If you could control it, though – without pretending to be someone else – then wouldn’t that help you to create the impression that serves your intent?


Maybe you couldn’t give a flying fig about perception.  There’s this research that discovered both genders regard lower voices in both men and women have greater authority.

(By the way, if you Facebook has now identified 58 genders so please forgive my generalising. I’ll probably need to update that number in a year… )

It’s for this reason that Margaret Thatcher was trained to lower her voice in her run for power.

Listen to this clip of her before and after vocal training…

In the first clip you can imagine her daintily sipping tea from a delicate porcelain cup, dressed in powder blue silk, straight from the Débutant’s ball.

In the second one, she has the air of a politely bullish school governor.

If a woman’s voice is too high, she may sound young but, according to studies, is then read as being slightly less intelligent.

A lower pitch in women is seen as authoritive but if you add volume, the attitude conveyed is that of aggression.

Yes, it’s crap: women ARE judged more harshly for their voices, by other women as well as men.  They even lose out on job opportunities because of vocal habits.  Although they may not be able to get away with vocal fry, men can.  Bill Clinton, had more fry than a KFC shop but it didn’t do him any harm.  (We won’t mention what did but even that didn’t damage him as badly as Monica Lewinsky.  On reflection, she may have better going into branded knee pads, not the hats).

This scene from Issa Rae’s series ‘Insecure’ has Molly, a lawyer, trying to warn a new intern to ‘keep it down’. Later, the firm’s partners do it for her in a sobering scene.


Interestingly, the average frequency of womens’ voices dropped in the US after 1960 due to Women’s Lib: if we wanted to sit at the table with our male counterparts, we needed to compete vocally.

If you’re the only woman at the table, as I sometimes am among the engineers with whom I work, you’ll find there’s a different quality of listening. It’s tangible. Also, brilliantly effective if you’re on the phone. The reception you’ll get is totally different when you lower your voice slightly.


Men, voice and potency

If you sound like this, you might want to do something about it:

Research has shown that men with lower voices tend to make more money, father more children and hold positions of higher leadership.

This also applies to animals: those with lower vocal ranges become the leaders of the pack and produce more children.


Your Action:

Now maybe you don’t want to appear more potent.  Perhaps you’re not even interested in becoming the leader of the pack.

But to lead a life infers some contol over the outcomes, an ability to make choices, to turn relationships round so you’re not at the mercy of the perceptions of others.  

If you want exercises to give your voice that extra bit of authority and conviction, you only need to do this for 5 minutes a day.  Yes, 5 minutes: while you’re putting on your make up, cleaning the car.  Do them on the tube if you don’t want anyone sitting next to you.

Simply write to me directly in the subject line and I’ll send you back a video.

Next week, I’ll break down the 5 components of an expressive powerful voice.

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Featured photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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