I certainly hope your answer is “no”, but if you don’t like the sound of your voice you are not alone. And there’s a reason for that.
As a voice coach and therapist, making audio recordings of clients is a common tool. The vast majority of people, upon hearing their voice played back, have a negative response.
Do I really sound like that?
Ugh, I hate the sound of my voice.
I sound so squeaky!
In answer to the age-old question of whether the recorded voice is really how you sound to others: yes. Yes it is.
And here’s why.
We hear most sounds (including other peoples’ voices) from the outside in. Sound waves travel through the air and hit the eardrum, setting it into vibration. This is called air conduction. (Check out my post The hidden cost of not hearing live voices for more specifics about sound transmission.)
We hear our own voice, however, primarily from the inside out. The generation of sound waves vibrates the skull bones internally, impacting the quality of the sound signal in the brain. This is called bone conduction.
Now that we understand why there’s a discrepancy between our voice inside and outside our own head, let’s consider why this can be so distressing.
The most obvious factor is that the sounds are genuinely different, and this mismatch might take some getting used to. The bone conduction version of our voice is often deeper and more resonant than the version others hear, and most people prefer their voice to have more resonance.
Another consideration is the power of self-perception. Our voice is critically linked to our sense of self and identity, so the shock of learning your voice doesn’t sound like you thought it did can be a doozy.
At least one study has shown that patients with a voice issue rated the sound of their own voices as more severely impaired than an impartial clinician did. We are hard on ourselves, especially with regard to the sound of our voice.
If someone goes through life thinking they sound a certain way and then discover that others have heard them in a different way all along, it can be really jarring. Making friends with the difference between your own self-perception and the way others hear you is the real key here. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s bad.
That said, there are ways to add more resonance, depth, and warmth to your speaking voice. If you’d like to explore a customized plan for enhancing these vocal qualities, reach out to connect for a session.