From spicing up casual conversations with everyday friends to making a good first impression in a job interview, the benefits of mastering the nuances of your voice are virtually limitless. A Stanford University study showed that people seem to hear personality in others’ voices. The pace and tone of a voice is critical to how it’s perceived.

Vocal coach Sally Hague says, “You can tell a lot about how someone is feeling by listening to their voice: whether they are relaxed and happy or feeling upset and tense. Often we don’t think about what we are hearing on a conscious level, but we interpret far more from the way people speak than from the actual words they say.”

Bet you never thought of that! With that little insight in mind, let’s take a look at how we speak.



What your voice says

Speaking too quickly can make you appear anxious or sloppy and can make it difficult for others to understand. This is not to say that speaking quickly is always ineffective. We see it at auctions. If the auctioneer speaks too slowly, the audience may lose interest in the item being sold and in bidding. Part of the persuasion is the auctioneer’s rapid delivery that speeds up the bidding process and motivates the audience to bid quickly.

Nonetheless, try to take the time to pronounce each syllable and pause between phrases, because more often than not your listener is not planning to go anywhere.


If it happens to be the case that you are anxious or nervous, a deep breath before you speak and natural pauses while speaking can work wonders.

Psychologists Robert Segal, MA, and Jeanne Segal, PhD, advise: “Use body language to convey positive feelings even when you’re not actually experiencing them. If you’re nervous about a situation—a job interview, important presentation, or first date, for example—you can use positive body language to signal confidence, even though you’re not feeling it. Instead of tentatively entering a room with your head down, eyes averted, and sliding into a chair, try standing tall with your shoulders back, smiling and maintaining eye contact. It will make you feel more self-confident and help to put the other person at ease.”



What your voice says

You appear in control, calm, and confident and as a result your listener will feel comfortable conversing with you and take the time to hear what you have to say. However, this style of talking can backfire as you can appear absentminded, or worse, put others to sleep.


People who speak slowly are more likely to seem monotonous to others, so be aware of this. It is at your discretion to know when to increase your pace. If you are afraid of boring your listener, mastering when to stress a word is a good counter.



What your voice says

People who speak in high, squeaky, or whiny voices generally sound unpleasant and unstable. After a few sentences, your listener may even think of ways or excuses to end your conversation.

Katrina Onstad of the Globe and Mail claims, “The up-high, up-talking voice is not generally considered the soundtrack of world leadership, no matter how substantial the content of that voice. It’s the sound of a child, which means invisibility.”


Contrary to popular belief, people with high voices aren’t stuck with them, though trying to fix your tone on your own can be damaging to your vocal chords. A vocal coach’s training can bring your voice down a notch.



What your voice says

This can be a double-edged sword. A low, powerful voice can exude authority because a deep voice correlates with high testosterone. Judith Felik, the president of Impact Communications, remarks, “Practise speaking at a slightly lower octave. Deeper voices have more credibility than higher-pitched voices. It will take getting used to pitching your voice down an octave, but it will be worth the effort.” This style of talking can also backfire, as people with low voices are generally more prone to mumbling. Despite how you sound, if your listener is getting frustrated trying to make out what you are saying, it is a lost cause.


On top of visual cues, it is important to confirm that you are being heard or understood by your listener. As will be especially necessary for those who have impaired hearing or are at louder places (such as a club), consciously raise your pitch when speaking.



Storytelling is a good indicator of your mastery of your tone of voice. Ever hear a captivating, mesmerizing story told in a monotonous voice with little emotion or passion? Doubt it. A major factor that allows the charismatic, passionate  storytellers to tell it like that is their control of their voice.

Stephen D. Boyd, PhD, CSP, and professor of speech communication at Northern  Kentucky University, suggests, “See in your mind the story you are telling. This will translate into your vocal quality. That is why  a person who retells a story of an event that just happened will tell it with more  excitement in the voice because the picture of the event is still fresh in his or her mind. Talk to a child at the end of a school day and he or she will give a more excited and animated summary of the day than if you ask about the day later in the evening or the next day. Train  yourself to relive the story as you tell it and you will see a difference in your tone of voice.”

There is no one style of talking that will fit any given situation. When it comes to communication, a little self-consciousness and common sense go a long way.