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Improving Your Voice Quality Can Improve Your Career

published April 16, 2007

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( 45 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
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While a large portion of this remainder category includes body language, a significant amount of your message is conveyed by your tone of voice—the way that you speak. The manner in which you speak can contribute either positively or negatively to a listener's perception of you.

In her book The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense, linguist Suzette Haden Elgin states that a lower-pitched adult voice is more acceptable in our culture than a higher-pitched voice. Another characteristic of tonality that is perceived negatively is pronounced nasal quality. So if you speak in a high-pitched, nasal voice, you may be in danger of projecting a less-than-professional image. In the words of Elgin, "if you sound like a child, you will be treated like a child."

As unfair as it may seem, we are all judged by the way we sound, and one's career may be hindered by an unpleasant voice. Results of research have indicated that "a whining, complaining, or nagging tone" of voice is generally perceived as negative and annoying.

To paraphrase Dr. Elgin, it is not so much how you look or how you dress or even the shabbiness of your surroundings; it is the quality of your voice—and, thus, the power of your voice—that is your most effective tool for commanding respect.

Do you really know what you sound like? Most people will say that they don't like how their recorded voices sound because they are so different from what they are used to hearing in their heads. But when you listen to your recorded voice, do you cringe just because it is different or because it really is unpleasant? If it truly sounds unpleasant to you, it will sound unpleasant to everyone listening to you.

What exactly are you doing to produce this whining, complaining, or nagging tone? Technically, it is produced the same way as the very pleasant voice. When air passes through your vocal cords, they vibrate, and these vibrations travel into cavities in your head. The cavities of your head and neck act as resonators and, subsequently, shape the quality of your voice. You change the size and shape of your oral cavity when you move your lips, your tongue, your lower jaw, or your soft palate.

It could conceivably take many years, not to mention many dollars paid to a voice coach, to radically change the inherent qualities of your voice; the older you are, the longer you have been practicing certain habits. However, according to Dr. Elgin, there is a simple and inexpensive way to dramatically improve the quality of your voice.

Step one is to find someone whose vocal qualities you admire and would like to emulate. Step two is to record approximately 30 minutes of conversational speech. If you have a friend who will make this tape for you, that's great. If not, you can record a voice that you like from the television or radio. Just make sure the sample is conversational and not a dramatic reading or prepared speech.

Next, select a line of recorded speech from your tape that is not too long and not too short. You don't want to repeat the words after the speaker as you would in a foreign-language drill; you want to say them along with him or her and make the necessary adjustments to sound as much like the speaker as you can. Repeat this exercise at least a dozen times, and then move on to a different sentence.

Continue to practice this technique faithfully for the next six weeks. According to Dr. Elgin, you will be amazed at how the adjustments you make become ingrained in your brain and become automatic. By adopting this simple and inexpensive technique, you may not only improve others' perceptions of you but also fix a vocal quality that has been driving your friends crazy for years.

published April 16, 2007

( 45 votes, average: 4.2 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.