August 1, 2013

5 Tips on How to Talk Like a Woman.

In a recent interview with NPR, actress/writer, Lake Bell, claimed that there was a “pandemic” of grown women who speak in chronic baby voices.

Bell went on to say, ” I can’t have people around me that speak that way…I grew up thinking a female voice and sound should sound sophisticated and sexy… Not a 12-year-old little girl that is submissive to the male species.”

Bell has a point: turn on any entertainment news channel and you will likely hear a lot of famous, grown women who sound like they’re barely out of their teens and/or are auditioning for a role in a remake of Valley Girl.

It isn’t just the famous who are guilty of this either. I live in a college town and am amazed at the young women I hear, many of whom are enrolled in graduate or professional schools, who sound more like middle schoolers than would-be leaders.

While some may find a baby voice endearing, the vast majority of the time speaking like that isn’t going to do you any favors either professionally or personally.

As hard as it may be for some young readers to believe, there was a time when people—especially women—took elocution lessons in order to improve their speaking style, pronunciation, and tone. (It’s worth nothing that the market for elocution lessons hasn’t totally disappeared.There are still people today who take them including those who pursue careers in TV, radio, and acting.)

As someone who once worked in radio, I know better than most how important your voice can be to convey a certain message, mood, or tone. While most people will probably never work in radio or have to worry about being heard by thousands or millions of people on a regular basis, a good speaking voice is still important.

Fair or not, people are judged by the way they speak. If you sound like a child, then chances are those around you are going to treat you like a child no matter how educated you are or how valid your points are. Contrary to what some may believe, speaking well does not mean sound snobbish and/or talking with an affected accent.

Indeed, an argument can be made that those sort of voices are even worse than immature-sound voices.

Without further ado, here are some tips to sound like the sophisticated grown woman that are you and not like the tween you once were:

1. When in doubt think lower and slower.

In general, lower voices sound more adult and professional than higher pitched ones. (Think Lauren Bacall vs. Kim Kardashian.) Of course, you don’t want to go too low or sound like you speaking in an affected accent. Even if your voice is naturally high, it may be possible to take it down a notch and still sound like yourself.

Also, while there is a natural tendency to want to talk faster when you are nervous, try actually slowing it down a notch or two. Not only is this helpful to calm the nerves, but slower voices tend to be easier to understand than faster ones. People are less likely to misunderstand you or ask you to repeat what you’re saying because you are going too fast.

2. Breathe.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but as someone who used to train people to speak on the air as radio news presenters, it was always amazing how people ran out of breath resulting in long pauses or a series of “ums” or “ers.”

It’s very common to forget to breath particularly if you are giving a big presentation or talking to someone you are a tad intimidated or in awe of. One trick that worked for me in my radio days or before I was going to give a speech was t0 actually writing the word “breathe” on a piece of a paper or repeating it over and over in my head like a mantra.

3. Try to avoid excessive “likes” or “you knows” or giggles.

Some people hate “likes” or “you knows” with a passion. I think one or two is okay especially if you are having a long conversation. (Speech should be natural and not like you are reciting from a script.) However, excess ones can be distracting or annoying as can lots of giggles at the end of statements. (I am guilty of excess giggling when I am nervous.)

Instead of relying on these crutches, think of other transitional phrases like: “For example,” “As you may already know”, etc.

4. Practice.

You may be sick and tired of hearing this one, but practice does make perfect. Don’t be afraid to record yourself and listen to yourself.

Now, I am someone who does not like to hear the sound of my voice, I know it can be hard to sit there and listen without cringing or harping on every flaw. However, try to ask yourself how you honestly come across: If you were conducting job interviews, would you hire yourself? Do you sound confident? Articulate? If not, then what is the problem? Is it tone or articulation or perhaps lack there of with the latter?

Be brutally honest and write it down. If you are feeling confident enough, ask someone you trust and respect to listen to you and give you honest feedback.

5. Think of your voice as your unique signature.

Just as no two signatures are alike, so are no two voices. Vocal role models are nice to have, but it shouldn’t be your goal to, say, sound like a Lauren Bacall clone. If there is one thing I hate its people who eradicate all trace of local color and character from their voices and develop what I call that “midwestern TV anchor voice.”

As someone who grew up in the South and has lived in Europe, I know that accents can be wonderful and charming. If you happen to be blessed with one, then use it to your advantage.

In closing, what you say and how you say it is important. As women, we can do anything.

However, if we want to be taken seriously, it’s important to sound like the strong women we are and not the little girls we once were. We owe it to ourselves and our daughters, nieces, goddaughters, etc. to act as role models.

Let’s ditch the baby voices and sound like grown women.



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 Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photo: via Pinterest}

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