What Your Voice Really Sounds Like
Most of us profess surprise when we hear our recorded voice—especially if we have not heard it before. We ask: Do I really sound like that?
There’s an easy explanation for experiences like this, says William Hartmann, a physics professor at Michigan State University who specializes in acoustics and psychoacoustics. In a recent New York Times article, Professor Hartman explained that while we perceive our own voice as we perceive most other sounds (via sound traveling through air), we also perceive it internally—because our vocal chords vibrate. “The effect of this is to emphasize lower frequencies, and that makes the voice sound deeper and richer to yourself,” he said.
Hartman added that other factors influence the way vibrations of the voice could travel to the brain, including interaction with cerebrospinal fluid, the clear liquid that sits within the brain and spine, and variations in sound pressure in the ear canal. This variety of routes would naturally “introduce variation in how people perceive their own voices.”
Like it or not, your voice sounds different to others (Tweet it!). Those who speak in any kind of public forum can especially benefit from listening to how it sounds “in real life.” Verbal tone, pitch and volume are among the many nonverbal factors that impact how our messages are perceived!
Have you ever been surprised by the sound of your own recorded voice? What surprised you, and did you do anything to try to alter the way you speak as a result? To join the conversation, click "comments" below on our Community of Practice Forum.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion
3/28/2017 11:00:22 am
Very interesting explanation! On a similar note, a nursing friend of mine pointed out that when speaking with the hard of hearing, simply lower your pitch and they will hear you more clearly. I've tried that with my dad and it works.
3/28/2017 08:23:10 pm
Oh yeah! I have recorded and listened to my voice many times. At first I didn't like the general sound of it, then I became more critical over time nitpicking at everything, always wondering how other people heard me and what they were thinking. Now I am at peace with the sound of my voice, lets face it I can't change it. Have I changed anything? Yes. I have slowed down and taken the time to let my ears do some work. In my experience, listening is the greatest skill I want to have.
3/29/2017 01:16:40 pm
Thanks for this Glen. Very cool how you have noticed that being quiet and listening is a central factor even regarding the sound of our own voice within our own head! BTW: Our time with you in Perth was exquisite -- from your first suggestion to just be still and sip water, to your lovely city tour, to our wonderful lunch. Look forward to re-connecting soon.
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