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Voice as an Instrument of Influence and Image

Scientists have found that, at the subconscious level, people pay more than 38 percent attention to the voice of their conversationalists during the communication, to the way it sounds. We use our voices to create reality by expressing our thoughts. Well-known speakers are so well versed in their voices that they can convince even very large masses of their ideas when they participate in public speaking.

A person perceives information not only on a meaningful but also on an emotional level. We are able to «read» it, paying attention to the behavior of the speaker and the characteristics of the sound of his voice: height, dynamics, timbre, etc.

Business Speech Science Research

At the Business Speech Science Research Laboratory in Moscow, the impact of voice characteristics on perception has been studied. Respondents were required to listen to the entries and complete the questionnaire, rating the speaker by the following parameters:

- social status; 

- appearance;

- physical condition;

- emotional state.

4 Types of Voices
The study was conducted based on a 4-type classification of voices and stated as follows.

1. «Boss».
The female voice was perceived as rigid, dominant, causing indifference, irritation, and mistrust. Most interviewees described the owner as a middle-aged woman in a classic strict suit, conservative and unfriendly. The role is the boss.
The male voice, by contrast, was described as calm, dominant, but trustworthy and supportive. The talking man was presented as a middle-aged, confident, attractive person. The role is a boss, agitator.

Example: Franklin Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, who managed to overcome the Great Depression by initiating the founding of the United Nations and the Anti-Hitler Coalition. The voice of the type «Boss»: low, loud, confident.

2. «Philosopher».

Women’s voices are alarming, dependent, disturbing, and distrustful. Social status is subordinate. It is perceived as a modest skinny girl in discreet clothes, a mousy type.

The male voice is calm, sensitive. It causes feelings of patience, mistrust, indifference. Most respondents gave this voice to a confident adult male, cunning. The role is a subordinate, a writer, or an actor.

Example: Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychologist and psychiatrist, one of the precursors of neofreudism, the creator of the system of individual psychology. His voice represents the type «Philosopher»: soft, deep, motivating, inspiring trust.

3. «Agitator».

The woman’s voice was described as dominant, aggressive, disturbing, which caused anxiety, mistrust, and irritation. The role is agitator or supervisor. Respondents described the woman as adult, powerful, who prefers to wear strict clothes.

The man’s voice as well did not gain credibility. He seemed dominant, lacking, sceptical, and irritating. He seems like a middle-aged man, powerful and conservative.

Example: Johnny Galeсki, an American actor known for his role as Leonard Hofstedter in the sitcom «The Big Bang Theory». The voice of the type «Agitator»: high, piercing, often causes irritation.

4. «Inspirer».

The woman’s voice has been described as optimistic and peaceful, giving credibility to some and distrust to others. The role is agitator, romantic. Respondents agreed that she was a thin young woman, active and smiling.

The male voice has been described as belonging to a middle-aged man, an emotional and charismatic agitator. Listeners noted that it was both sceptical, irritating, trusting, and calm.

Example: Irina Hakamada, russian politician, economist, publicist.

The data from this research show that the credibility of a speaker depends not only on the meaning of words but more on the characteristics of the voice. Therefore, interviewees noted that they trusted low-pitched voices, whereas high-pitched voices caused irritation and anxiety.

In addition, based on the voice, the person determines the social status of the interlocutor, his position, and expertise during the conversation. The respondents gave people with high social status, such as leaders and politicians, vested with power, the voices of the type «Boss» and «Inspirer».

When we listen to the voice, we create an image of the person we’re talking to, it is not just the external features, but also the behavior. The voices, suitable on parameters to types «Boss» and «Inspirer», are attributed to the confident manner of holding on, strict style of clothes, status details.

Physiology of Influence

The baby in the womb starts to hear sounds at 20 weeks. Moms know that with voice and emotion you can excite and reassure it. In adulthood, people react to dynamics and tone of voice. In order to influence the voice, to persuade, to motivate, you have to be in a certain emotional state. We use our voices to convey the emotions that live inside.

But to put people in a certain state during the business presentation and motivate them to do something, the important thing is to understand what emotion we want to convey. By training the way we speak, we can modify the voice: its tempo, its volume, its depth, etc. The listener will unconsciously determine by these characteristics what emotion we are transmitting. For example, a person who is depressed talks monotonously, evenly, and in a state of anger - full, intense, building phrases in one breath.

In a telephone conversation, we do not see the interlocutor, but we can always understand what emotions he or she feels: verbal pauses speak of tension; brevity and clarity show confidence; an excessively high piercing voice gives out the anxiety. The listener feels these emotions in response.

In concussion, by developing different parameters of voice, we can create an image in front of an audience and generate the kind of responses that we need. For example, a confident tone of the presentation will help convey to the audience the value of the product, a quiet slurred speech in high tones, on the contrary, will inspire little confidence. This helps to get the result of the performance and communication that were hoped for.

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Ekaterina Kardakova

Hello everyone! My name is Ekaterina Kardakova. I am an opera singer, vocal and presentation coach. Learn more about me and my work.

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