What’s that creaking sound? Oh, it’s your voice! You probably haven’t even noticed you are speaking that way because everyone around you is speaking like that, too. “Vocal fry,” as medical professionals call it, is becoming a growing phenomenon in the United States, especially among young women. It is characterized as, “irregular vibrations in the vocal cords”. Many experts believe that vocal fry began in pop culture and thus has become a “cool” trend in speaking styles. However “trendy” vocal fry might make you sound, it has been proven to leave nothing but negative effects.
A recent study conducted by Duke University researchers and published in the journal of PLoS ONE found that not only can vocal fry cause damage to your vocal cords but it is actually perceived as less professional, and can affect the likelihood of an employer’s decision to hire you. In the study, eight hundred participants listened to recordings of male and female voices that spoke with and without vocal fry. The results showed that collectively in professional settings, people prefer to hear a normal voice without vocal fry. Those that spoke in vocal fry were characterized as, “less competent, less educated, less trustworthy, less attractive, and overall less hirable”. These results were found especially true in regards to the recordings of women. Thus, it is important to break from these vocal habits of speaking in a low pitch, creaky voice, especially in the work place.
Up Talking and High Pitched Voices
Along with vocal fry, common interview talking techniques that should be avoided include “up talk” and “high pitched voices”. High pitch, of course, is talking above one’s normal vocal range; too high. Up talk is characterized as inflecting at the end of a sentence, which typically makes the utterance sound more like a question than a statement. Both up talk and talking high pitched are distracting features in professional situations (really, in all situations). It is important to remember when interviewing to not give the person conducting the interview any distractions which take away from your effectiveness. The tone in which you answer your questions will help the interviewer quickly decide factors about your personality — are you smart, conscientious, competent, personable, confident, and passionate? For example, speaking in vocal fry can sound as if you are less optimistic or confident about your answer, and thus the job at hand. Speaking in a high pitched voice could sound over the top, ditsy, and even unintelligent. Up talking makes you sound as if you’re questioning your skills and your answers, not confident in yourself, and generally unsure.
Listen and watch these examples.
Yes, there are Solutions!
First, it is important to recognize if one of these vocal styles is an issue for you. As stated before, sometimes realizing that you are talking a specific way is difficult to identify, especially when others around you are speaking in the same manner. Easy ways to identify if you are speaking like this would be to record yourself when talking or have others, whom are not used to your voice, practice interviewing you. With a few exercises and keeping your vocal cords hydrated, it is possible to break away from these vocal habits. Your vocal cords are muscles, and just like your other muscles, they can be toned. Thus, through specific exercises and a lot of practice, your vocal cords can begin creating new healthier habits through muscle memory. It is especially important to remember to keep listening to yourself, so when you catch yourself falling back on old habits, you have the ability to move forward.
Citation: Anderson RC, Klofstad CA, Mayew WJ, Venkatachalam M (2014) Vocal Fry May Undermine the Success of Young Women in the Labor Market. PLoS ONE 9(5): e97506. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0097506
Ellen Dunnigan founded Accent On Business in 2001 specializing in public speaking, communication skills, and executive presence for leaders in business. She has 25 years of experience with professional and nonprofessional speakers in healthcare, media, politics, engineering, sports, and other industries. Ellen’s coaching in speaking skills gives established and emerging leaders greater confidence and credibility. Her leadership programs in accountability, alignment, difficult conversations, and organizational communication have helped leaders expand their influence. Ellen is known for her practical “how to” style.