Think You Sound Confident and in Control? Your Voice Says Otherwise.

Turns out you use different pitches with different types of people. It's a matter of dominance.
Think You Sound Confident and in Control? Your Voice Says Otherwise.
Image credit: Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

Free Book Preview: Unstoppable

Get a glimpse of how to overcome the mental and physical fatigue that is standing between you and your full potential.
3 min read

Have you ever walked away from an important conversation and thought, “Wow, I didn’t sound like myself at all back there”?

You’re not alone. A recent psychological study by researchers from the University of Stirling, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that people change their vocal pitch depending on who they’re speaking to. The researchers simulated job interview questions and observed that participants altered their vocal characteristics (especially pitch) in response to people of different social status.

Related: The 4 Skills Needed to Make a Great Impression

"A deep, masculine voice sounds dominant, especially in men, while the opposite is true of a higher pitched voice,” said Dr. Viktoria Mileva, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Stirling, in a summary of the findings. “So, if someone perceives their interviewer to be more dominant than them, they raise their pitch. This may be a signal of submissiveness, to show the listener that you are not a threat, and to avoid possible confrontations.”

Conversely, some circumstances make people speak in a lower tone. Those who perceive themselves as more dominant are less likely to shift their pitch depending on who’s listening and, in fact, will speak in a relatively lower pitch to high-status individuals. Participants in the study were most likely to lower the pitch of their voice when responding to questions about interpersonal conflicts.

Related: 13 Body Language Blunders That Can Make You Look Bad

Meanwhile, people who consider themselves to be high in prestige, or who believe others look up to them and value their opinions, do not change how loudly they speak based on whom they’re talking to. Being themselves in this way is a means of demonstrating that they are more calm and in control, according to the researchers.

The findings are just the latest reminder of the varied ways people make quick judgements about others based on the information they’re given. Said Mileva, "Signals and perceptions of human social status have an effect on virtually every human interaction, ranging from morphological characteristics -- such as face shape -- to body posture, specific language use, facial expressions and voices.”

It’s also a good reminder to consider your voice as carefully as you might your handshake, your body language and the clothes you wear. Listen to how you speak to a range of colleagues, in casual interactions, presentations and even interviews. In situations when you need to be seen as confident and in control -- alter your voice to match.

More from Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur Select: A Fund For Entrepreneurs, By Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs require more than just money, which is why we aim to empower you, as well as act as a catalyst for value creation.

Entrepreneur Insider members enjoy exclusive access to business resources for just $5/mo:
  • Premium articles, videos, and webinars
  • An ad-free experience
  • A weekly newsletter
  • Bonus: A FREE 1-year Entrepreneur magazine subscription delivered directly to you
Make sure you’re covered for physical injuries or property damage at work by
  • Providing us with basic information about your business
  • Verifying details about your business with one of our specialists
  • Speaking with an agent who is specifically suited to insure your business

Latest on Entrepreneur