This is iSpeak Clearly’s third article in a four-part series on the power of voice and vocal health. In the last article, I wrote about how impressions, both positive and negative, are formed from the quality of the speaker’s voice. In this article, I’ll discuss giving power to the female voice specifically.
During a recent dinner my husband and I shared with another couple, my friend shared a story that should have kept me on the edge of my seat. Her husband kept interrupting the narrative, however, making it hard to follow the story. My friend was frustrated but let her husband’s behavior go, saving her version of the details for another time. It was uncomfortable, but not uncommon, in my experience.
“From corporate America to the upper echelons of government, women are regularly interrupted, talked over, misheard, or incorrectly perceived when they speak,” wrote Stephanie Watson (1) in her recent article in the ASHA Leader, a publication for speech therapists like me. Her article, “The Unheard Female Voice,” detailed current research on this dilemma. Many physical and cultural factors contribute to this problem, including the pitch, loudness, and resonance of women’s voices, their word choices, and social influences.
What is a woman—and a man—to do?
Woman or man, the first step for improving the giving or receiving of a message is mindful awareness of your own actions and those of others.
Giving power to the female voice:
- Don’t interrupt.
A lesson learned in childhood seems to be forgotten by some in adulthood. Research shows men interrupt women more than twice as often as women interrupt men. But women often interrupt other women with the same frequency. Let the speaker finish his or her thought. Your turn will come.
- Practice your pitch.
We all have a natural or “optimum” pitch (see last month’s article at https://ispeakclearly.com/2019/03/27/the-power-of-voice/) with a high, middle, and low range that we vary according to the message.
Most of our daily speaking is in the middle range of our pitch. When we are happy or excited, our pitch rises—like when our ticket is drawn in the company raffle: “I won!” We use a lower pitch to convey sadness, fear, or anger: “I didn’t win.” Nerves can cause us to use an unnaturally high pitch, which may cause us to be perceived as less credible.
Become aware of pitch variations when you speak: Are your variations supporting or detracting from your message?
Both men and women perceive lower voices as more authoritative. Margaret Thatcher, the former prime minister of the United Kingdom, understood this. Her commitment to her leadership style included voice coaching to generate a lower pitch that communicated authority. Read my earlier article on this topic: ispeakclearly.com/2018/04/26/power-of-voice/
- Speech volume and word choices.
The volume you use to let your voice be heard and the words you choose also influence the power of your voice. I will discuss these topics in the months ahead.
Does your voice sound strong and confident? Are your listeners attentive when you speak?
To create a strong, confident voice in the professional setting, contact iSpeak Clearly for a free phone consultation. We can help you assess your voice, speaking, and communication skills to identify areas to be developed and improved.
Acquire new skills and maximize the power of your voice.