Voice Quality and the Perception of Authority

figure_no_talking_symbol_voice_speechOne of the most important bits of advice I ever received when I started my on-air broadcasting career was to lower my voice. Not the volume, but the timbre of my voice.

I had a music degree in voice and was a lyric soprano. My speaking voice reflected that. I started in radio when it was generally accepted that a woman’s voice lacked the authority that a lower masculine voice had.  That perception was changing as more women entered the field, but these women succeeded by using their voices in the mid-tone and deeper ranges, never a high or shrill tone.

High thin voice production tends to apply more to young women than men, but anyone can benefit from knowing how their voice quality comes across.  The voice you hear in your head when speaking is not the same one that others hear. That’s why nearly everyone is aghast the first time they hear their recorded voice. That can’t be me!

When you are positioning yourself as an expert, your voice is part of your image and how you sound can be just as important as what you say.  If your voice is breathy, squeaky, mumbly, monotone, or on the other hand, too unnaturally low and rumbling, your listeners won’t take you seriously. An irritating voice can kill an otherwise confident professional presentation.

A common voice trait today is for young women to affect a raspy voice, perhaps to sound older and more authoritative, using glottal fry aka vocal fry at the end of sentences or words. It’s a learned speech pattern and once you recognize it, it can be quite annoying to hear someone speak that way.

Here’s a good multimedia article from Soulati Media about it:


Everybody has some “fry” in their voice, but it can be overcome with proper breath support and a conscious effort (at least initially) to use a  slightly higher pitch. I am not a voice coach but know there are exercises you can do to reduce the “fry,” if you’ve fallen into the habit. The key is to learn to keep your voice “out of your throat,” what my teachers called “speaking on your vocal cords.”

The voice is a wonderful instrument. Listen to yourself and cultivate a clear, pleasing healthy voice to get your message heard.