You know what I’m talking about.
As women, we have a series of gauntlets to run in order to be taken seriously as a professional, no matter the field.
Has anyone described your voice, or that of a female friend or colleague, as shrill, harsh, whiny, or grating? Have you ever been told you would advance better in your career if you made changes to your voice? Have you ever been talked over in a meeting? Have your comments and suggestions been met with silence or a change of subject? Have you ever noticed that a man who makes your identical point a couple minutes later gets credit for it?
Does this injustice infuriate you as much as it does me?
Fast Company did a nice overview of bias against women in the workplace. One of the insidious ways we observe this bias is the criticism of women’s voices, literally and figuratively.
The question, then, is what do we do about it?
One option is to refuse to buy into the system that has such bias, and make no changes. If that were your inclination, however, you probably would not be reading this article! So how do you, as a woman in business, add power, authority, and gravitas to your voice?
It’s not about pitch
First, don’t try to lower your pitch. People of any gender tend to think the solution to increased vocal authority and power is a lower pitch, but that’s not the case. Talking at the lowest end of your pitch range (I call it the “basement” of your voice) can cause physical discomfort and eventually harm.
And moreover, talking in the basement actually cuts out the vocal richness you are truly looking for by squashing your voice’s natural resonance.
If not pitch, then what?
The key is not pitch, but rather placement. Placement refers to where it feels like the sound lives in your mouth, and we create placement by shaping our mouth and throat in particular ways.
Try this experiment right now: clench your jaw, squeeze your throat tight, and count from 1 to 5 out loud. This will sound pinched, possibly quiet, and possibly high-pitched.
Now open your throat wide, like you are yawning or imitating an opera singer. Allow your jaw to open very wide and take a nice breath before you start speaking, then count again out loud from 1 to 5. While this might not sound natural yet, you might be able to notice that it sounds deeper and richer. Why?
Because of this principle: The bigger the space in your mouth and throat when you talk, the deeper the pitch will sound.
So the key to creating depth in your voice is not to artificially lower your actual pitch, but rather to change the shape of the pathway that your voice comes out so that it reads as deeper, richer, and more resonant. That’s where power, authenticity, and authority lie.
Now that you understand the principle, the challenge becomes learning how to shape those muscles in that way during real conversation so that it sounds natural.
That’s where working with a coach like me comes in. I’m able to assess what you are currently doing, where you need to go to make the changes you want, and help guide you through that process. Let me help you succeed while TWF!