How to Lower Your Voice

how to lower your voiceHave you ever thought you should deepen your voice (and make it louder) to be taken more seriously? Reader G has a great suggestion for a topic …

I’m in my mid-thirties and had to work hard early in my career to be taken seriously. A big component of that is consciously “aging” my voice, so that I don’t sound 12. I frequently speak publicly for my job, and have found that the engagements where I was a bit hoarse are the ones where I feel that I was taken the most seriously. I have seen other ladies in the same position–they talk normally all the time and its like birds chirping, they get hoarse from too many late nights of prep work, and all of a sudden have gravitas.

YES. Yes, yes, yes. I always feel like I need to deepen my voice — significantly — in order to be taken seriously. On average, every time I’ve recorded an “out of the office” message I’ve done about fifteen takes (oh, how I hate having to do it for a two-day vacation!), and I definitely think about it before I leave voicemails with people. In fact, I’ve been editing some family movies lately (using Pinnacle on my iPad, and loving it, FWIW) and it’s kind of shocking to hear my natural voice with my husband and son because I sound like I’m twelve. They’re my family, I shouldn’t have to lower my voice for them, but it’s just odd compared to all of the other times I’ve heard my voice lately, such as for Corporette videos or whatnot. 

Apparently former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher (RIP) was advised by consultants to lower her speaking voice to win her election, and I’ve always heard that Kathleen Turner lowered her voice by practicing speaking with marbles in her mouth (this article says erasers).  For those of us not quite so crafty I thought I’d poke around for some other ways to deepen your voice…

– Speak from your “mask,” not the back of your throat, to sound more natural.  Hat tip to The Art of Manliness here, which suggests you hone your natural voice rather than trying to speak from the back of your throat.  (Apparently, I am guilty as charged — when I try to lower my voice I’m speaking from the back of my throat.)  According to that blog, if you say “mmm-hmm,” with your lips pressed together, you’ll feel a vibration in the area of your lips and the bridge and sides of your nose — that is your “mask.”  If you say “mmm-hmm-one, mmm-hmmm-two, mmm-hmmm-three,” the numbers should be the same pitch and tone as your mmm-hmms — and that is your natural voice.  He also suggests breathing from your diaphragm, which is just good in general to make your voice more powerful and louder.  (Incidentally, “speak up” was one of the many great pieces of advice in this recent Harvard Business Review piece, wherein a female executive gave advice to her 18-year-old daughter.)

– Practice saying “ding dong, king kong, bing bong,” drawing out the NGs, according to a random YouTube video.  Combined with the tip above, this actually makes quite a bit of sense because it puts you in your “mask,” and the effect is immediate.  I might doing this before I need to leave a voicemail.  (But do exercise caution when doing any vocal exercises you read about online; you can apparently strain your voice.)

– End your sentences on a lower pitch.  Even if you’re mid-sentence and realize your voice sounds too high for your taste, you can still reign it in if you end your sentences on a lower note.  Take a breath, clear your throat, and bring it down.  (In general, you should avoid ending your sentences with a higher pitch anyway, unless you’re actually asking a question.)

Ladies, do you consciously try to deepen your voice before speaking in a business setting?  Do you have any tips or tricks for how to lower your voice?


  1. Anonymous :

    I was once told by a local judge, who was a couple of glasses of wine in, that she liked my voice because so many women attorneys who appeared before her were “squeakers.”

    • This is so true. Because of my feminine voice, I have had alot of troubel estableashing credibility, particulearly over the telephone when negotiateing settelment’s with plaintiffs’ counsel. They AUTOMATICEALLY think I am a little girl, not a licensed attorney admitted and in GOOD standeing to practice in the State Supreme Courts of the State of New York (and Federal Court). That is where I learned to PROJECT MY VOICE LOUDELEY SO THAT THE JUDGE CAN HEAR ME FROM THE BENCH.

      No instead, these ATTORNEY boor’s think I can be manipuleated into setteling for alot of money when in fact we have both cleint and insureance carrier’s guideline’s and incentive’s to settel for as LITTLE as possible. In fact, our best cleint’s, like Roberta, just give us standeing instruction’s to settle for anywhere between $0 and $1,400. If they want more then $1,400, she says to tell them “we will see you in court.” That is why I am in court so much! Yay! b/c the judge love’s me in Manhattan, but not so much in Bronx, Queen’s or Brooklyn. That is also why the manageing partner loves me b/c I have brought in alot of new Busines’s in Manhattan where his freind, the judge is. To insure there is NOT ever a confliect of INTEREST, I never go with the manageing partner when he takes the judge out to lunch. This way, the judge only see’s me from AFAR, so that is OK, the manageing partner say’s. Best to keep him lookeing, the manageing partner alway’s tells me. YAY! B/c The manageing partner says my track record is now at 93% on all motion’s before him. YAY!!!!!

  2. I’ve noticed this a lot with female TV news reporters, especially sports reporters. I am always struck by how low their voices are. To me, it’s a much bigger issue if you can’t be heard or understood clearly, and those you should definitely work on. But is it truly necessary to modulate your voice to be taken more seriously? Or just in cases where you are receiving negative feedback about it? To me, it seems like a lot of work to change who you are.

    • Katie Anne :

      I found it more useful to work on talking slowly and not allowing myself to ramble. Making calm, measured statements has so much more impact than ones that seem frantic or scattered, no matter what the pitch of your voice. That said, I think talking slowly naturally lowers your voice or at least prevents it from getting excitable and squeaky, so it serves the same purpose without having to focus on fostering a strange new voice.

      • Anonymous :

        Also, something to also consider is that hearing loss commonly occurs in the higher frequencies, so dropping your voice a bit may not just be an issue of credibility, but an issue of being heard at all. When I am in trial, I try to drop my pitch slightly and slow down my typical speech pattern, to accommodate any jurors that may have slight hearing loss in the upper ranges. Which is hard to do, as I tend to speak faster and higher when I get excited about making a point!

    • Double whammy :

      I have the double whammy of a female voice and a Southern accent, so I feel like I’m constantly masking it (pun intended, Kat) with clients/opposing counsel. I was at a conference with a couple of my male colleagues in Chicago last month and I felt a bit self-conscious wondering if they notice that I modulate my voice in these settings. The men I work with don’t give a damn about their Southern accents and, of course, don’t have to worry about lowering their voices, either.

      As an aside, my husband says I also speak in an affected voice when I have more than a couple glasses of wine, to mask the fact that I’m tipsy.

      • This is good example of how many women constantly monitor and regulate their behavior in order to be accepted and taken seriously at work. Don’t want to seem too feminine, but wouldn’t want to be too masculine either — makes many day to day interactions with co-workers, clients, opposing counsel, and judges a very tricky business. No wonder we feel inauthentic and suffer from “imposter syndrome” and the like.

    • What the anon above me said. It would be great if women were not presented with gender-based barriers to credibility, but we can only change our own behavior, not other people’s reaction to it.

  3. Anonymous :

    Immediate TJ, I’m going to a very casual dinner potluck this weekend and need suggestions of easy to make items. I usually make desserts for these things, but it seems like others are already bringing this, so I’m thinking about making an appetizer and/or entree. Any ideas for easy to make (preferably few ingredients) recipes? Thanks!

    • I recommend this orzo pasta salad –

    • I love to make desserts but I once went to a potluck where everyone brought desserts, so I try to bring something more substantial. I haven’t made this yet but it looks easy, healthy, and delicious, and would travel well for a potluck:

    • I take this to almost every BBQ/potluck I go to. Easy to make and it’s super flexible based on what you have around your house. Make a salad with whatever you have laying around that includes a grain, roasted vegetables, a vinagirette, cheese if you want it, and (ideally) fresh herbs. I recently did this with quinoa, carrots/fennel/asparagus, fresh parsley, and a sherry vinaigrette. You can roast frozen vegetables too (I do this with corn and broccoli all the time) if you thaw and dry them completely and blast them in a 400+ oven.

    • I think it’s always good to bring something to snack on while people are gathering / the main dish is being set up (and that’s what I usually ask for if people ask what they can bring to a gathering at our house): white bean dip with crackers and crudites, a platter with olives/marinated vegetables/cheeses/roasted peppers and some crostini, goat cheese or feta-stuffed peppadews (you can heat them or just leave them cold), cheese straws, chips and guacamole never fail.

    • I recently went to a potluck where there was the best appetizer! It was a blueberry goat cheese log served with crackers. It was sooo good! They said it was from Sam’s Club,

    • Brie wrapped in puff pastry with store bought crackers as an app. Both brie and puff pastry are a bit expensive, but its easy to make. Just buy a wheel of brie, wrap it up in puff pastry and bake. You can brush the top with egg before baking for a fancier look but it tastes good either way.

    • Anonymous Poser :

      Brie, a few different varieties of crackers, and a couple of different types of preserves. Very tasty, and virtually no preparation besides arranging things so that they look pretty.

  4. Learn voice projection. The techniques used to speak loudly without yelling will also help with pitch issues.

  5. TJ: We’ve talked here about splitting rent in a couple based on percentage of income. I’m in a situation where my parents are giving me a home, and my boyfriend and I are moving into it. My only monthly costs will be utilities and home maintenence. Any advice from the hive on how to decide on rent from my boyfriend? He’s left it up to me. The home is in a very desireable location and rooms could go for $700+ if I rented them to outsiders.

    I don’t need the money and would be happy just splitting my monthly costs with him. Others have cautioned me that this may make him too comfortable (i.e. he’ll never propose). Sounds like a crazy thing to consider, but it may be relevant.

    • I, too, will say don’t move in with him until you’re engaged, if that’s what you want to be.

      That said, since you are in a relationship, and not just room mates, how about figuring out a monthly budget that covers more than just rent – add in utilities, portion of property taxes, groceries, some eating out, and then divvy that up. It will feel more like you are just dividing a regular household budget and not just like you’re charging him rent.

    • Have him pay for all of the utilities, but no rent. That way he’s not handing you payments each month, which can be awkward, but is still getting a good deal. You’ll be paying property tax and maintenance so it’s not like you’re making him pay for you either. Any payment arrangement is not going to make him propose or not, that’s ridiculous and honestly, would you want to marry someone who decides they don’t want to get married because they feel too comfortable?

      • Anonymous :

        Seriously. Sometimes with this site- its like what. the. f. How did you decide to get married? “Oh he wanted to stop paying rent!” jesus christ. I honestly didn’t realize there were still smart women who were sitting around wondering “how do I get him to propose? oh if I only I was his equal and we could make this decision together!” Agree with help that having him pay all utilities is a good compromise, it would feel weird if my bf was handing me a check for something I wasn’t paying for.

        • And this was my afternoon laugh. Thanks.

        • Woah there! In my defense, I was repeating advice I’ve heard repeatedly and just getting a second opinion from some of the women here on that. Situations like mine can sometimes turn a previously healthy relationship into something weird / sugar-mama esque. My meaning behind this question is more to ensure we remain equals. I already make significantly more than him and this is just tipping the scale a little more in my favor than it already was. I also agree that the utilities sounds like an interesting compromise.

          • Anonymous :

            That advice is ridiculous. Are your friends from 1900 by any chance? But seriously, there is some good advice here about how to split up the payment- if I were you I would feel weird about taking his money, but at the same time he should be contributing something. also its awesome your parents are giving you a house.

        • It is great that your parents are paying for a house for you.

          But lots of women either prefer to support themselves, or don’t have parents with the resources yours have.

          It is helpful to understand that any advice you get will probably be colored with judgments or feelings about your financial situation.

          Men also often feel the need to support their ladies/families. Understand that any arrangement you have with your guy may be uncomfortable for him, and that he may not be able to articulate why.

      • Anonymous :

        +1 on the last bit. The only husband you want is the one who thinks “our current situation is great, but what I really want is to be married to you.” Forget all the weird calculations and games.

        • “Forget all the weird calculations and games.” Thank you! That’s really all I think I needed to hear. My friends aren’t from the 1900s, but a lot of them are against living together before marriage. I guess since we’ve already decided to live together I should stop listening to the traditional friends! I guess I’m having my usual problem of worrying for the sake of worrying. I don’t want to end up as an “I-told-you-so” story.

          • Anonymous :

            there are plenty of valid reasons/considerations for a couple not to live together. Making him pay rent so he will propose is just not one of them

          • Anonymous :

            I’m the anon from 2:48 pm and the above comment wasn’t me. I agree with it too but it sounds like you already know. Glad I could be helpful.

    • $700, or the same amount he is paying now, whatever is lower. A good deal for him, fair to you. I doubt the amount of rent will be the deciding factor in whether you two get married. But you are not married yet, and there doesn’t seem to be any real reason for you to subsidize his living expenses–unless he will be paying significantly more to live with you than he would be on his own. And if you save what he pays in rent and eventually you two get married, and use those savings for household expenses, a vacation, etc.–well, that’s a win for him as well as you.

      Also, I have never owned a home, but I have heard that maintenance can really add up–plus, you might want to have cleaners, gardeners, etc. if it gets overwhelming.

      • I like the idea of saving his rent for things in the future to share, thank you! I think we’ll work on fixing a situation like that.

        • Perhaps the 2 of you could agree to set aside whatever you would pay in rent for a similar space. You don’t have to combine the savings accounts if you’re not comfortable doing so, but if you’re both doing it I think it’s more like a partnership decision and less like you setting conditions on his living situation.

        • what rent? :

          I am in the opposite position. I’m about to give up my apartment and “move in” (we already live there) to my boyfriend’s parents’ property and won’t be paying his parents any rent. BF has asked me to set aside the amount I am currently paying for my separate apartment in rent/utilities each month in a separate account, or at least make sure that that amount is untouched each month, so that we can use it toward our wedding or future home (or other joint expense).

          Note that if he pays you/your parents $700 per month, that’s $700 of rental income for you. If you plan to get married, you might ask him to deposit that amount into an account owned solely by him now, and meant to be used by both of you in the future.

    • goldribbons :

      You could ask him to pay the lesser of $700/month and whatever he’s paying now (I like that suggestion), or even half of it, if theoretically you two would split the rent for a place together, and put that money in a “joint” account to pay for vacations or future expenses (furniture? home improvements? a car?) that the two of you will incur/benefit from.

      • The joint account is definitely at the top of my mind. I think that’d be a good idea because then I’m not just pocketing money and spending it on myself alone. Thanks!

        • Meg Murry :

          I think you should both deposit money into a joint account – at a minimum, enough to cover property taxes, utilities, insurance and money toward home improvements. Even if its your parents house, I think you both should contribute equal amounts toward the account, either what you would have paid for rent if the 2 of you rented a place together, or what you are paying now. Or if your incomes are really different, maybe an equal % of your incomes each. Then this can be your household fund for utilities, groceries, property taxes and any unexpected home repairs you may need or want – like fixing the roof or buying new appliances, with the understanding that if you break up, the money stays with the house. Apparently co-habitation agreements are becoming a thing, like pre-nups – since you are in a unique housing situation it might be worth looking into.

    • Are your parents giving you a home outright, like it’s in your name, no strings? Or is this their house that they are letting you use? If it is the latter, you might want to get their take on if they want rent. Otherwise, I would figure out the bills and maintenance so that ya’ll are both coming out of pocket about the same.

      • Outright. It has to do with some sticky family situations / future wills, but they rented the home out for 10 years and now are no strings attached giving it to me. I’m just on the fence about us spending exactly the same because my parents didn’t give him the house. But the more I think about it, the more I think I’m being petty and we should split expenses 50/50.

        • You parents didn’t give him the house and he isn’t getting it. It’s your house. He just happens to be living there and while he lives there he can pay his share of your joint expenses. Your benefit is that if it doesn’t work out, you still keep the house, whereas he will have to move out. Quite honestly, I would be very offended if I moved in with someone and they charged me rent for it above what they were paying in costs, or benefited from it financially beyond just the spliting of expenses. Especially since as you mention you make more than him.

          • what rent? :

            I don’t know your BF and I don’t know how he feels, but this is how I see it. I can afford to live separate from my BF and I can afford to live in a “better for me” apartment than the one his parents are providing, but I moved into their property because BF really wanted us to live together AND he doesn’t want to pay rent to other property owners since his family already owns property. Basically, if I was going to live with him, it had to be at his parents’ property. That’s very limiting. If he or his parents then charged me rent, I probably would have just stayed put at my place. Since he wanted me to live with him so badly and it HAD to be at his parents’ place, we didn’t think it would be fair for me to have to pay. I do think it’s fair for him to ask me to set aside an agreed-upon amount each month, though.

    • Oh my god, please don’t charge him rent just so he proposes. I would say that as long as he lives with you, you should split the costs of living in your home 50/50 or deviate in a way that is logical. If your home expenses for utilities/taxes/whatever, add up to $1000, you can each pay $500 or deviate proportionally if one of you makes substantially more than the other. Set up a joint account and contribute to it accordingly. Or figure out approximations and do it that way. E.g., he pays cable and utilities, you pay taxes (assuming they end up being roughly equal).

      It may have been said a bit harshly above, but guys don’t keep from proposing because they are too comfortable. There are many reasons – don’t want to marry you, don’t want to grow up, don’t want to pay for a ring and a wedding, but never “well, I don’t have to pay her rent…” And, honestly, if you’re moving in together, you should be able to talk about marriage and a timeline, at least in broad terms, too.

      • Thanks for the advice. As I said above, I think this may be a case of me worrying over nothing. Also of me being petty over little money issues. I think 50/50 is the most reasonable and fair option, or if he feels the need to have it in “rent” form I’ll set it aside to share in the future. Thank you for the reality check!

      • I’d like to add that sometimes men don’t propose because they assume you don’t want to be married or that it’s just not that important to either of you, since it’s not a big deal to live together and never get married. It’s just like anything else – if you never discuss it, you can’t count on the other person knowing what you want, and it’s no longer the man’s responsibility to instigate these discussions.

        • Oh no, we definitely discuss! In fact, he knows that if we want to move in a few years we get a bigger tax benefit selling the home as a married couple. So it’s in the cards, I just let worry get the best of me sometimes.

        • There are countless reasons someone may or may not propose, but I question the wisdom of assuming “men never want to get married, women always do.” I’ve been with my SO for going on 7 years now, and he has been asking me to marry him for 6 1/2 of them. We have presently decided that we do not need to get married right now and I’ve been very honest about the fact that I don’t consider marriage necessary for a committed relationship, but it hasn’t stopped him from asking.
          I agree that it’s always important to talk about these things to make sure both people are on the same page.

    • Your home is a potential source of income, right? That income can come from a random person on the street or your boyfriend. If he wants to move in, that’s awesome, but moving in means you are ready to take the next step, but it does not automatically mean you are going to forego this additional income source. Ask him to pay fair price or his current rent (whatever is lowest). You are not gouging him or taking advantage of him because he would still be paying rent wherever he lives. The bonus will be knowing that you are being fair, and not wondering whether he is living there just because it’s free rent. If later on you decide to get married, or just decide to pool your resources then the whole rent payment stops since its all one pot of money anyways.

    • Charge rent! Where I am, if an SO lives with you for more than 6 months, if you split he is entitled to half the property. Check if you have similar laws!

      • NotYourGeneration :

        I call B.S. That is not the law on real property anywhere in the U.S.

        • Not just the 51st state... :

          Not all Corporette readers are American!
          The law Artie referenced above is in Canada – in BC and some other provinces

        • Not just the 51st state... :

          Not all readers are American!
          The law Artie referenced above is in Canada – in BC and some other provinces

        • Living together for a period of time grants de facto marital status in many states of Australia. You can’t call BS on the legal entitlement one has on one’s partner’s property.

  6. I had an interview with a senior executive and he was… definitely a high energy type of guy. He asked me a lot of big picture questions and would often cut me off to take something I said down a different path. After the interview was over (he made this clear, but how could it really be over?) he asked me for feedback on the interview process, and then specifically what he could do better in the interview. I am pretty confident but not confident enough to give him any meaningful constructive feedback in that type of setting. I mean, if he really wanted to know he could ask me after I’m hired and I’d be happy to give constructive feedback then. Or even after they tell me that I’m not getting the job.

    I’m used to my boss asking me this sort of stuff so I’m pretty good at coming up with something (in this case my boss wants the type of negative-that-is-really-a-positive sort of thing, not real feedback). I was just really taken aback and said that I thought the interviews went well yada yada and that his enthusiasm for the company and his job really came across. Ugh. Was this just another test?

  7. Diana Barry :

    Argh, my post got eaten –

    NOLA should respond also, because she sings, but –

    PLEASE don’t try to lower your voice just by changing the pitch – try to breathe from your diaphragm. Fill up your air like you are filling up a pitcher from the TOP to the BOTTOM, and try not to heave your chest or pull up your shoulders. This way, your voice will be far more supported and will sound fuller and more resonant, even if it is no lower in pitch.

    I find it much more confident-sounding when someone has a well-supported voice (even if it is higher pitched) than with a ragged/thin voice that is lower in pitch.

    • Anonymous :

      if i just try to change the pitch when i am speaking, but not signing, will i do any sort of damage? Like, will it cause my voice to be permantely ragged? the rest seems so complicated, i would much rather change my voice the eash way.

      • Diana Barry :

        You can cause vocal fatigue that way, which is not a good thing if you speak a lot. In the extreme, you could damage your vocal cords permanently.

    • Oh funny – I responded below. I have a low speaking voice but a high singing voice. And yes, supporting your speaking voice is extremely important. Because of my vocal training, I never get hoarse from teaching.

      • Anonymous :

        As a youth who did a lot of public speaking, I was given the advice to learn to sing in order to improve my speaking voice. I never got real training, just sang a lot and tried to learn by playing with my voice to try to strengthen it. I must have driven my parents crazy. I know I entertained at least one college roommate who walked in on me randomly belting out song in our living room. I think it helped some, but I wish I had actually gotten real training.

        • Meg Murry :

          Taking a stage acting class can help with adjusting your voice too. My BIL took some in college as a theater major, and in addition to vocal exercises they did breathing exercises from tai chi and yoga to improve balance, posture and breath control. He also learned about things like how to “stage whisper” (speak in a voice that sounds like a whisper but can be heard in the back of the auditorium) and how to “project” his voice. He always sounds really confident when he speaks now, but the only negative is that he doesn’t seem to know how to “turn off” his projecting voice unless he’s really concentrating on speaking softly, so his voice carries very clearly when he’s having a normal conversation (and even more so when he’s slightly drunk and getting a little loud – other people slur their words when drunk, I swear he enunciates more clearly!) It only a problem when he and my husband are up talking when I’m trying to sleep, because his voice carries so clearly throughout the house I can hear his whole side of the conversation and it distracts me from sleeping.

  8. Attention lunch break shoppers :

    I was just at TJ Maxx and they had Tory Burch dresses.

  9. I consciously lower my voice when I am making calls, especially if it’s a contact I am not familiar with. I didn’t do this for a long time, but was frequently having trouble getting through Admins to the person I needed to speak with. The response is astonishingly different.

  10. Ha! I wish I had this problem. My voice is deep for a woman (I prefer sultry) and I HATE it. I would just like to sound feminine for once. I don’t think it really helps me be taken more seriously, except on the phone. That is, unless I’m mistaken for a little boy, which has happened also.

  11. Anonymous :

    Does anybody know of any services that will make your pictures better after you’ve taken them? (Does that question even make sense???) I have a friend who posts pictures from his iPhone that are so cool and have obviously been altered. Is there an app for that or something? I’d also like to have a program that is not-iPhone specific so I could do the same thing with the pictures on my camera. Any ideas?

    • Anonymous :

      …. photoshop?

    • Zeitgeist :

      If this isn’t a joke post, let me point you toward Instagram or any of the alternatives suggested here:

      • Anonymous :

        Why would this be a joke post?

        That’s really helpful. I don’t have many friends who use Instagram, so I didn’t realize that it will do filters for you.

        • Because it’s 2013 and this stuff would be googleable by a brain dead monkey?

    • Orangerie :

      Have you tried Instagram?

    • Anonymous :

      I think you’re thinking of Instagram, which is an iPhone app.

    • Instagram is the most commonly used photo altering app in my experience. I’ve never used it but I’d assume you could email the pics from your camera to your phone to alter.

  12. Seventh Sister :

    My natural register is about a Soprano II, but I’m the odd duck that really would rather be an alto. What helps for me is to breathe first, and deliberately end my sentences on a falling inflection. Seems to lower my voice without making me croak.

    • I don’t lower my voice, but I do pay a lot of attention not to end my sentences with a rising inflection. That’s a marker for insecurity (or a question), and it’s something that a lot of women seem to do.

  13. This article made me think back to doing a practicum in law school where a judge was grading us on our speaking and argumentation. He said to me that while my speaking was good, I shouldn’t “feel the need” to be as aggressive as I was. He said that he had a hard time with women “trying” to be aggressive like their male counter parts, and that we weren’t suited to it. I remember feeling exceedingly frustrated by this advice, as I have a naturally lower voice, and as an Italian New Yorker with a large family (yes, i’m stereotyping myself here), I was raised to be aggressive. I had to actually be artificially “feminine” to not put off the judge who thought I was feeling the need to be a bulldog. I really resent that we have to lower our voices, or soften (or harden) our style, or various other “Corporate Barbie” masks, just to be seen as competent professionals.

    • This is a big issue in the book Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. It’s worth a read. (For everyone, not just necessarily about this issue. It’s about how men and women are different, and it’s unfair, but sometimes we are held to a different standard than men are.)

    • Anonoymous :

      I agree. Normally I can take all of the posts about what women should do to be taken more seriously in the workplace, but this one is really grating on me. We have a more negative opinion of professional people with higher pitched voices because women typically have higher pitched voices which, in essence, means we think women are less professional.

      I know, I know, it’s about learning what the perception is in the real world. But when do we get to challenge the real world’s sexist perception?

  14. This topic made me laugh out loud. I am a singer and a soprano and I have a low speaking voice. When I was working rides at an amusement park, I was known for my “microphone voice.” My voice teacher in college told me that I should learn to talk more like Margaret Thatcher. I refused. We parted ways. I’m now in my late 40s and still singing and haven’t ruined my voice for life with my speaking voice and, despite what people may want, I never lose my voice. Take that, evil voice teacher!

  15. This seems a bit sexist to me. Your voice is your voice and women’s voices are (generally) naturally higher than men’s. There is no inherent reason a lower voice is more professional than a higher voice, only that lower voices are traditionally associated with men who are the baseline for professionalism/seriousness. Changing your speech patterns so that you sound more mature, educated, etc. is one thing, but to advocate lowering your voice seems to be directly buying into the patriarchy.

    I realize that people can (and will) still judge you based on your voice whether or not doing so is sexist, so this article has a very practical component to it. I also realize that garnering more respect for women is a good thing, and that tips for doing so are also a good thing. I do acknowledge that this piece came from a perspective of genuinely wanting to help women and I appreciate the tips, it’s just disheartening to see articles advocating for women to gain more respect by essentially emulating men. There cannot be gender equality if the markers for success are within a male framework. If women have to change who they inherently are — i.e. or their voices — to succeed, it is not true success. Rather, our perspectives should change so that traditionally female ways of speaking are just as respected as traditionally male ways of speaking. If we continue to perpetuate the idea that deep, traditionally male-sounding voices are the more professional, then women will continually be at a disadvantage.

    Note: I am fully aware that we are not yet at the point where women can say “Eff it, I’m speaking how I want!” and that there could be professional ramifications for doing so. I’m just commenting on the inherent conflict of it all. Le sigh.

    • I think it’s just a matter of what “lowering your voice” means to you. I definitely notice women, esp. young women, whose voice just starts to go up and up, higher and higher, when they are nervous and they sound a bit squeeky and it can be distracting/irritating (to me). But I don’t think it’s a simple matter of high vs. low. There are just ways of speaking that sound more authoritative and confident and I think it’s good to cultivate that.

      I actually think that acting classes can be very good for this sort of thing. You learn to project your voice and control your timbre and just increase your comfort level with public speaking.

      On a personal note, I often hate the way my voice sounds and like Kat, I go through multiple voicemail recordings before I finally settle on one I only mildly hate, but I try to remember that I don’t usually listen to my voice so part of my reaction is just based on my voice sounding different from how it does in my own head. And practice – whether speaking or listening to myself – does make it better. Also, remember not to end each sentence on a high note so it sounds like a question. I notice this with interns a lot and it just sounds like you’re unsure of yourself.

      • I agree with your points — it is good to improve one’s speech, especially as you come into more positions of authority. But I think there is a distinct difference between practicing/altering your speech patterns, elocution, vocabulary etc. and physically lowering your voice. The former is very much within your control, whereas the other other is (generally) an immutable characteristic of your sex. There is nothing inherently more professional etc. about a deeper voice — we only we ascribe this meaning to it because a deep voice is traditionally associated with men, who historically are the baseline for professionalism. A deeper voice is simply a voice that sounds more masculine; to tell women that they need a deeper voice to be more professional is akin to telling women they need to be more like men. This does not seem very egalitarian to me, and in fact, seems to suggest that women’s natural state is somehow lesser than men’s.

    • Well said! That is exactly what I was getting frustrated about while reading this.


  17. Hi, first time poster here! Kat, I’m not sure if you are aware of this – recordings of your own voice will always sound different to you – you will not hear it the same way others do as your brain/ ear will automatically filter out low frequencies or something… it’s something that I read long ago, I thought it was common knowledge? So don’t worry if you sound funny when you listen to yourself on a recorded message, that’s not how you sound to other people.

  18. Well said, Jack Mo. IMO this post is verging on sexist. I agree that it’s important for both men and women to speak well and articulately but lowering a naturally high female voice should not be necessary for professional success. We need to embrace diversity in the workplace not make anyone who is not a white male into a clone of a white male.

  19. I am delurking to offer a cautionary tale!

    After receiving feedback about having a too-high speaking voice in law school and in interviews, I started talking in a lower pitch…and ended up with nodules on my vocal chords. Going to speech therapy helped, and I regained my singing voice eventually. The advice about speaking lower using your “mask” and not the back of your throat is helpful, but anyone deciding to just lower your voice on your own should proceed with caution!

  20. Opera Lawyer :

    jj’s comment about getting vocal nodules is correct. I have studied professional voice for over ten years, and have learned time and time again that our vocal chords are extremely delicate instruments. If you really feel that your speaking voice is too high and it is damaging to your career, you should make an appointment with a speech pathologist to discuss possible solutions. PLEASE DO NOT attempt to simply speak in a lower register. It WILL cause damage, potentially severe, to your vocal chords. Your natural register exists for a reason – it is a result of the natural shape and elasticity of your vocal chords. Attempting to alter that on your own can be extremely dangerous. Instead, a speech pathologist can teach you methods of sounding authoritative without having to alter your vocal register.

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