When you answer the phone, does the caller ever mistake you for a child and ask to speak to your mother? This is a problem for many women – and even some men – and it may be a problem for you as well. If you are mistaken for a child over the phone, what image are you projecting in your professional as well as your personal life?
The sound of your speaking voice is determined by two things: the actual vocal apparatus which you inherit and your environment. If you were raised in Brooklyn, NY, for example, there is an excellent chance that you will talk through your nose. Your mother didn’t teach you to do that. Your father didn’t teach you to do that. But if the doctor, the lawyer, the teacher and mom all talk through the nose, then you will too. And, it is done subconsciously.
What I have found in my many years as a voice coach is that a woman will indeed sound similar to her mother if she had a good relationship with her mom. Likewise, I can say the same thing for men: if the son has a good relationship with his dad, he will sound similar to his father when he grows up. And, it is not surprising that siblings will often sound like same-sex siblings again given a good relationship.
The loving and the nurturing are the fundamentals from my experience. [The relationship you had with your parents as a teenager (and even now) is not the issue. The issue deals with the first ten to twelve years of your life.] We imitate our parents throughout our early childhood development. This is how we grow and learn. If the relationship in those early years is not good, then the child will probably not sound like the same-sex parent: the child will subconsciously avoid sounding like the parent who is abusive.
I have worked with men, for instance, who sounded like women. Upon seeing themselves on video, they were surprised and stated, “That is my mother.” These men had been abused by their fathers. Because of the abuse, they had subconsciously copied the parent who had given unconditional love. In each case, it had been the mother supplying the support and the love. Upon viewing the recording, they recognized the similarity in the speech and voice patterns to that of their mother.
Upon meeting women who have experienced abuse, I often find that they sound like children. Their voices may be very soft, whispery, and childlike. One woman with whom I worked had a voice reminiscent of a 10-year-old. When I questioned her as to whether she sounded like her mother, she responded that her mother was a very cruel, a very mean woman with a very deep voice. Ellen subconsciously kept her childlike voice because she didn’t want to sound like the ogre.
Are you stuck forever sounding like a child? Absolutely not. While you may have inherited your vocal apparatus, and while your voice may sound like a pre-teen, you can dramatically improve the quality of your speaking voice. It is simple; it is basic; it is fundamental.
With good voice training, you will discover a voice that is deeper in pitch, warmer in quality and more mature in sound – not too old, not too young – ageless. And, once you make your ‘real’ voice a habit, your voice will continue to improve as you age – much like a fine bottle of wine. Imagine picking up the phone and no longer sounding like a pre-teen!
If the caller mistakes you for a child, isn’t it time you made the change?
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