Pop quiz: What’s one quality U.S Presidents between 1960 and 2000 have in common?
Answer: A low voice.
We aren’t talking about the volume of your voice – just the pitch.
Having the right tone can make or break a presentation, hammer a point home or even work in your favor for negotiations. After all, the sound of your voice matters twice as much as your actual message.
But before you start channeling your inner Barry White, remember there’s a time and a place for everything, including a lower pitch vs higher.
Use a lower pitch when …
… You want to reinforce your authority. People relate a low voice pitch to both leadership and dominance, according to researchers from McMaster University. One study played recordings of voices and asked participants to rate the person’s leadership potential, honesty dominance and intelligence based on the recorded voice alone.
The results: The person with the lower voice scored higher in every category.
We know what you’re thinking: Why do I have to speak like a man to let my leadership shine through? To put it simply, lower voices are more pleasing to hear. There are a lot of important and famous figures – James Earl Jones anyone? – who have deep voices.
Now think of someone with a high-pitched voice. People with these types of voices – the offenders of vocal fry – aren’t seen as authoritative or a leader.
So the next time you’re giving a presentation or trying to get your point across, stick with a lower tone.
Use a higher pitch when …
… You want to show passion. But use sparingly – it can also give off a feeling of tension and even panic in the right situation.
The best time to go with a high-pitch: When you want to give off a friendly, welcoming vibe.
High-pitched voices have been reported as “clean and friendly” sounding.
It can be a small but helpful boost if you’re meeting a new client or trying to soothe things over with an employee. Plus, the person is more likely to mirror your tone, resulting in a positive yet successful outcome.
Nine times out of 10, you want to stick with …
A lower-pitched voice (see exceptions above). Take these steps to speak in a lower yet natural sounding voice:
- Start off small. You don’t want to sound like a completely different person – or gender! To get started, speak the last few words of a spoken sentence in a low-pitch. For example: “We’re more than capable of meeting that deadline.”
- Avoid speaking through your nose. If you think you sound nasally, drink plenty of water or warm tea and keep your sinuses clear. This way, you can keep a lower-pitch without it sounding forced or unnatural.
- Try to widen your mouth when you’re speaking. Drop your jaw down and articulate each word lower in your mouth, projecting from your diaphragm. Stick with deep, full breaths rather than short and shallow.