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Issue Date: Saturday, June 01, 2013 Issue: Summer 2013 Last Update: Tuesday, June 25, 2013

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Different types of speakers - Wall Street Journal
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The sound of your voice is twice as important as what you're actually saying, according to recent studies. While we can't hear our own voices in the same way that others can, it makes a big difference in the world of work and personal relationships. Whether your voice is irritating or pleasant can be the deciding factor in whether your boss hires or fires you, and whether your friends enjoy being with you.

Researchers at Quantified Impressions, an Austin, Texas, communications analytic company, analyzed 120 speakers' voices with computer software and then used feedback from listeners. While the substance of the message was only 11% of listeners' evaluations, the sound of their voices accounted for a whopping 23% of how they were received by others. Other important factors were passion, knowledge, and presence.  

Several types of voice attributes found annoying are nasally or scratchy voices, uptalking (pronouncing statements as if they were questions), monotone, and vocal fry, which is ending words in a raspy growl. These voices make people thing the speaker is distressed or agitated, and makes them uncomfortable too; in the case of monotone, it can make an interesting person sound flat out boring. These quirks "make the listener think the person who is speaking is either uncomfortable or in pain" says Brian Petty, an Emory Voice Center speech pathologist.

People see speakers with normal voices as sexy, strong and smart according to a study of 74 adults published in the Journal of Voice. 

Many people will not be aware if they have annoying voices or vocal quirks because their friends and colleagues will be hesitant to tell them at the risk of hurting their feelings. Most people first find out that they have a problem because their boss brought it up as an issue during a performance interview. 

Although these people think that their voices are intrinsically irreparable, there are many ways in which one can improve their quality of speaking. Some cases are medical, such as nodules on the vocal cords or folds, but most can be eased through therapy, including exercises to improve breathing or to strengthen laryngeal muscles.  

Speech pathologist Jayne Latz, president of Corporate Speech Solutions in New York City, says she uses sound level equipment and audio recordings to make clients aware of their voices. She incorporates strategies of public speaking as well, such as helping people replace filler words such as you know, like, and um with short pauses for "emphasis." 

New York financial executive Gerard Vignuli took lessons with Ms. Latz because he said he spoke too quick, used filler words and clipped the ends of words. He said "when I was speaking, people didn't know what the hell I was saying."

His friends noticed the difference when coaching began, and they tell him that they used to hate when he did such and such. He just wishes they would have told him earlier. He tells them to call him out when he does annoying things with his voice. 

There are many ways to improve your voice, and just acknowledging that there is room for improvement is an important step. 


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