I had a speech pathologist analyse my voice and found out I'm making 4 huge mistakes

Business InsiderI was frustrated every time I heard a recording of my voice because I sounded so unconfident. (Yes, that’s me on the phone.)

There’s something sickening about hearing a recording of your own voice, and realising that, yes, that is what you sound like to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, my job requires me to spend a decent chunk of my day transcribing recordings of phone interviews with sources.

I’m frustrated enough to cry each time I hear the hesitant squeaks coming out of my headphones — squeaks that sound nothing like the confident, polished tones I assumed I was emitting.

Recently, my frustration hit its peak, and I decided to consult Susan Sankin, a New York City-based speech pathologist who I’d interviewed for an article a few months ago, about the problem.

I sent Sankin several clips of myself speaking during phone interviews and asked her to identify the biggest mistakes, in hopes of sounding more professional both during interviews and in-person conversations.

I confess, though I knew I was hardly Terry Gross, I was shocked at the amount of criticism I received.

Here are the four key mistakes Sankin highlighted, as well as recordings of me making them.

1. Using filler words

When I spoke with Sankin a few months ago, she told me that many people today start all their sentences with 'so.' Though they're generally unaware of the habit, she said, it can be highly annoying to listeners.

Other experts say using filler words (e.g. 'um,' 'yeah,' 'so,' and 'like') can hurt your career prospects because it makes you sound unprofessional and immature.

Apparently, I'm one of the culprits.

Sankin pointed out one particular sequence I used: 'So, I thought um, that, um …'

Click on the recording above to see what it sounded like.

2. Ending sentences with vocal fry

Sankin said I used vocal fry (also known as glottal fry) pretty often, but particularly at the end of a phrase or a sentence. The sound is produced by fluttering your vocal cords, producing a low, creaaaaaaky noise.

It's a potential problem because research suggests that women and men who use vocal fry are perceived as less competent and less hirable.

Click on the recording above to see what it sounded like.

3. Not pausing at all

When I originally spoke with Sankin, she told me that pausing is a way to draw listeners' attention and to give them a chance to think about what you're saying.

'A lot of people have trouble with dead air space,' she said, but it's an opportunity to put your thoughts together.

Unfortunately, Sankin pointed out that I barely paused at all while speaking.

On a related note, I should have been 'punching out words for enhanced meaning' instead of blending them all together.

Click on the recording above to see what it sounded like.

4. Sounding tentative

Although I clearly knew the question I wanted to ask, Sankin said I sounded hesitant anyway.

In one instance, I prefaced a question with, 'I'll start out with something pretty basic.'

But Sankin told me that 'when you are conducting an interview, you want to sound positive, confident, and convey a degree of being in charge and knowing how to navigate through your questions in a manner that reflects your preparedness.'

Click on the recording above to see what it sounded like.

Going forward

Overall, Sankin told me, 'Your speech is not clear and precise, and your voice does not help to enhance the meaning of your message.' In other words, I've got a long way to go before I hit Terry Gross status.

In the next few weeks, I plan to be hyper-conscious of the way I sound during interviews, meetings with my editor, and even conversations with friends. I also intend to practice speaking clearly and confidently from the comfort of my own home -- something Sankin told me can help considerably.

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