When I thought about doing a video on common issues with women’s voices, I hesitated, fearing I might bring the wrath of the gender police crashing down on my head. But then I thought, hey, as long as I do a companion video on men’s voice problems, which might actually be longer, why would anyone accuse me of being unfair? So here it goes.
Having a voice that sounds high or young is a problem facing some female professionals. Consequently, they fail to project an image of authority and credibility. Their opinions are dismissed, and their contributions overlooked because listeners tend to associate high voices with youthfulness, inexperience, and even weakness. Unfair? Absolutely. But remember, listeners aren’t acting rationally. They respond based on how that voice makes them feel. For strategies to enhance the perception of depth in your voice, look up one of my older videos, Deep Voice Secrets.
Having a voice that lacks strength or volume would be a second issue confronting my female clients. It’s a serious handicap if your listeners routinely struggle to hear what you’re saying. The consequences are very similar to the ones we’ve just discussed. Yes, there are many situations where a quiet voice might be an advantage, but when the environment becomes more competitive and interactions become more assertive, a small voice can be a big problem. For strategies to strengthen your voice, see the video Your Strong Voice.
A third problem facing some female speakers is up-speak, a tendency to pitch the ends of sentences up, instead of down. It’s a common characteristic of teenager’s speech, so it diminishes the perception of strength, confidence, and authority for adults. In English, up-speak is appropriate for sentences. Did you like that? And for lists: I went to the store, the bank, the gym, and then home. But statements are generally inflected downward. Not, this is the way it’s done. This is the way it’s done. When you catch yourself using up-speak, say the phrase or sentence again, deliberately inflecting the tone downward at the end. Notice how this makes your delivery feel stronger and more definite.
We could also talk about vocal fry, the tendency to speak with a slightly raspy or scratchy tone, especially at the ends of sentences, sentences, ah. Men do this just as much as women, maybe more often, but that doesn’t make it okay. Vocal fry is also common among adolescents, so it can convey a sense of uncertainty and reserve for business professionals. Listeners might not be conscious of what they’re hearing, but they’re still left with the feeling that the speaker is holding back and unwilling to engage fully in the interaction. See my video, Vocal Fry, for a more detailed explanation and recommendation for eliminating this trait.
Of course, the four issues I have mentioned aren’t unique to women’s voices. They show up in my male clients as well with varying degrees of frequency. But when I consider the challenges facing my female clients over all the years I have been in practice, these few show up most often. The good news is none of them are mysterious or difficult to fix. With a bit of training, regular practice, and ongoing awareness, every woman can have a voice that’s strong, clear, rich, and effective.
For more information to improve your speaking skills and some exercises to help you get started, click the link below and download the free booklet and video series, The Sound of Success.