This podcast centres around ancient biological rules (voices included) that tell us who’s in charge. I suspect it has been inspired by Donald Trump’s voice which has the ring of “listen to me, I’m the boss” about it. This is in his unaltered pitch and rhythm throughout. He may pause when he’s questioned, he may even allow a smile, but he’ll come back with the same unvarying loudness, pitch and rhythm. The pace is medium to slow throughout, mainly because of the mouth movements he uses to form his words. This could be because of the Scots accent of his mother. Whatever the reason the outcome is the same – it allows us to hear him clearly and feel that he is being considerate to his listeners. This inspires the listener to believe the speaker is solid, safe and not someone who can be trifled with.
Preferred voices may not lead us to the most skilled leaders. Hitler was a great, inspiring orator, but when you see and hear images of him delivering speeches, you realise that he was offering a roaring authoritarian strength to people who were weakened and looking for direction. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a another great authoritarian orator who gathers crowds to listen to his speeches.
Great speakers in English, who inspire, persuade and uplift us, are thin on the ground. The last great speaker that I can think of was Nelson Mandela. When you listen to his speeches, the words, the variety in his voice, his ability to frighten or move people was second to none. The key here is the variety in his voice. He was a transforming speaker. When you listen to a politician decide if they really know what they’re talking about? Do they always sound the same? When they offer compassion is there a cadence or a real breathing into the words of compassion. Do they pause because they’re considering the weight of their words or because they haven’t been briefed on the subject? Could they deliver a speech outlining their beliefs? Are there different levels (pitch and loudness) in their voice and do these levels match what they’re talking about? Is there real strength in the sound of their voice or is it just conviction made loud? Someone pointed out to me last month that Nigel Farage looked and sounded terrific on U-tube. His voice has some variety in loudness and intonation, but it always has the same repeated rhythms. When he’s asked to listen to a question which he’s not prepared for, he sometimes appears petulant and pleads that he is being unfairly vilified. The key to people’s voices is to really listen deeply to them and if they are on film to watch and see if their expressions meet what they are saying.
In the Hidden Brain podcast, Casey Klofstad says that voice pitch influences perception to lead, in both men and women. I think that it is the confident voice that influences us most. The legend of Margaret Thatcher and how she lowered her voice pitch is true, but she didn’t have many voice coaching sessions and once she discovered that it made her sound and feel confident, she went with it.
My thanks to Paul Carroll for bringing this podcast hosted by Shankar Vedantam from Hidden Brain, to my attention. You can listen to the whole podcast by clicking on the left picture below.