Even if you’re not a professional orator or opera singer, your voice has the potential to make or break your career.
It’s not fair, but science suggests that those with certain kinds of voices are more likely to get ahead.
Here, we’ve rounded up five surprising ways your voice can affect how successful you become.
1. People with deeper voices are more likely to be selected for leadership positions.
A growing body of research suggests that deeper-voiced political candidates are more likely to win US elections.
That’s likely because we perceive them as stronger and more competent. Men and women with lower-pitched voices usually have higher levels of the hormone testosterone, meaning they’re stronger and more aggressive.
And even though physical strength isn’t a reasonable requirement for today’s presidents, our preference for leaders who can fend off a lion attack could be a relic of our caveman days.
Similarly, one study found that deeper-voiced male CEOs lead larger firms and, consequently, are paid more. A 1% decrease in a CEO’s voice pitch is linked to a $US30 million increase in the size of his company. (The study authors admit that they can’t prove having a deep voice causes people to see you as CEO material, but they think it’s likely.)
2. Men and women who use “vocal fry” may be less likely to be hired.
Vocal fry is the term for when people flutter their vocal chords, producing a low, creeeaaaaaky sound.
A 2014 study found that men and women who demonstrated vocal fry were seen as less trustworthy and less hirable than people who spoke in a normal voice. Women who used vocal fry were viewed especially negatively.
Still, it’s worth noting that some men use vocal fry, too — though women tend to get the brunt of the flack for speaking that way.
3. People who use “upspeak” may be seen as less confident.
Upspeak occurs when your voice goes up? At the end of a sentence? And some experts say it could be undermining your professional image.
For example, speech coach Susan Sankin says using upspeak (also known as “uptalk”) can make you seem indecisive and less confident at work. Moreover, it can distract from the message you’re trying to convey.
Meanwhile, a study by UK publisher Pearson found that a majority of bosses “believe uptalk hinders the prospects of promotion as well as better pay grades in their organisation.”
4. Men with higher-pitched voices may be seen as nervous.
In one study, researchers recorded male undergrads talking about their opinions on college admissions quotas and what they would do if they inherited a large sum of money. Then they manipulated some of those recordings so that the pitch was 20% higher or lower.
Results showed that men and women who listened to the recordings rated the speakers with higher-pitched voices as seeming more nervous, less truthful, and less emphatic than those with lower-pitched voices.
5. People who speak quickly do a better job of persuading those who disagree with them.
Research suggests that the key to convincing someone you’re right is pretty simple: Speak quickly. That’s because the person listening won’t have time to really evaluate the strength of your arguments.
For the study, researchers had undergrads (most of whom supported a lower drinking age) listen to a message about a recently passed law that raised the legal age for purchasing and consuming alcohol from 19 to 21. Then, some students heard a speech in favour of the new law, while others heard a speech opposing the new law. The speeches were delivered at three different paces: slow, moderate, and fast.
As it turns out, when students heard the argument supporting the law, they were more likely to agree with the message the faster it was delivered. But when they heard the argument opposing the law, they were more likely to agree with the message the slower it was delivered.
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