Yesterday blogger Kate Fridkis wrote about how her voice will often, without her even trying, automatically go into a breathier, higher, more excited tone aka the ‘girly voice.’ She wrote:
“What is that voice? I hear women do it on the street when they are talking to a man they want to quickly placate. I heard one of my college roommates use it every night on the phone with her boyfriend. Girls and women slip into it so naturally, and then out of again, on a daily basis.”
Though we have talked about how flirting and sometimes using your feminine wiles (to an extent) can be advantageous in your career, we have to ask about the girly voice? Women seem to use this tone in an attempt to help get something or appease the listener, but can it help them in their career? We talked to some experts about this.
First of all, why do women do this? Deborah Grayson Riegel, a communication expert, presentation skills coach, and an instructor of public speaking at Fordham’s Graduate School of Business and the Beijing International MBA Program at Peking University said there are three common reasons why women lapse into the voice:
1) Women use a girly voice to minimize their power. Too often, women at work still struggle with the authority they have earned, in both their relationships with men and other women. By speaking like a little girl, they divest themselves of one of the most outward signs of power – a commanding presence – in an attempt to level the playing field. It’s overcompensating by under-compensating. In addition, by using a tone of voice that goes up at the end, a woman can leave people with the impression that she is simply asking questions or offering suggestions rather than making tough decisions. While it may make colleagues feel less intimidated, it undermines a woman’s professionalism overall, and may have a negative impact on future advancement opportunities.
2) Women use a girly voice to stave off aggressive or even assertive input from others. When a woman makes herself sound younger and more vulnerable, she is broadcasting to her colleagues, direct reports, clients and supervisors that she can’t or won’t defend herself — so don’t be tough on her. Who wants to be the big bad wolf who makes a woman cry at work? She is, in essence, protecting herself from challenging conversations, performance feedback, and difficult news — all of which every professional needs to engage in in order to grow and develop. By shielding herself from the tough stuff, she is putting up a barrier to her long-term career development.
3) Women use a girly voice because it works! Many women are completely unaware of the fact that they’re using this softer, sing-song-y tone of voice. However, they are smart enough to know that something in their communication system IS working for them – helping them feel more comfortable with power, preventing difficult and direct feedback, and not being held accountable for tough decisions. It’s working for them in practice, but in the long run, it works against their personal and professional credibility and career development.
The girly, baby voice may work for Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton (well, may have worked for the latter) but what does it do in an office? Even former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was advised by consultants to lower her speaking voice. She took elocution lessons at the National Theatre to de-feminize her voice, and she went on to win her election. But Thatcher just had a high voice. She wasn’t cooing like a baby and giggling. Mario Almonte, a managing partner at a PR firm, told The Grindstone a girly voice would absolutely hurt a job candidate’s chances.
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