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The Voice of Authority

Posted by Insightlink on 01/27/15

The Connection Between Leadership and Voice

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The sound of your voice could make you more powerful according to new research published in ‘Psychological Science’. Findings suggest that there is a strong relationship between acoustic cues and power, that can have significant impact on the way listeners perceive and behave towards the speakers. On one hand, the research showed that people in a position of power speak differently than those who do not but it also shows that we all have the ability to control our own voices so that we appear more assertive or authoritarian (this is also good for parents to know).

In his review of the research, Matt Richtel says, “As people gain authority, their voice quality changes becoming steadier in pitch, more varied in volume and less strained. Power sounds distinctive, creating hierarchies measurable through waves of sound.” Importantly, it’s not about being loud, as yelling can actually be a sign of weakness, and it’s not the volume either. What matters is controlling and varying the volume without getting too loud in the process.
The findings are based on two experiments that measured voice articulation based on two groups: one that thought of themselves as possessing high ranking status in the workplace and another that thought of themselves as having less status. Not surprisingly, higher-ranked people spoke with a steadier pitch, were more controlled and were able to vary their volume, while lower-ranked subjects sounded less stable and more strained… “The stress leaks out” said Dr. Galinksy, a professor at the Columbia Business School, who helped write the paper.

Galisnky believes we can change our own voices to appear more senior and authoritative based on a real-world study using Margaret Thatcher as an example. Researchers measured her voice before and after she took voice coaching lessons and found that she was able to exude a more authoritative powerful persona by changing the sound of her voice. As Galinsky says, “Listeners are perceptive to subtle variations in vocal cues and they can use these cues to decide who is in charge.”
So next time you go into a negotiation, interview or make a presentation, “think about a time when you had power and really relive it in your mind, and your body (and voice) reacts as if you really did have power” and feel confident knowing you have the power to ‘fake it till you make it’.

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