Saturday, March 15, 2014

WHAT'S IN A VOICE?


                             
There are some voices that make me want to run for cover. It doesn’t matter what they have to say. There’s nothing that can justify the headache I get listening to them – their whines and whimpers, sighs and highs, killer-fillers, squawking and talking, and I’m not alone. Research shows that listeners care twice as much about the quality of a voice than what the speakers have to say.


At the top of my “I’m outta here” list is the WHINER  (Note:  My whines are exempt because they’re non-vocal). Whiners sound like squealing pigs being led to the slaughter. And looking at them is almost as painful as listening to them -- the way their eyebrows crash into their eyes -- like they’re undergoing brain surgery.




Is it possible there’s an anatomical connection between Whiners’ eyebrow muscles and their voice boxes? Just a thought.

Another annoying voice is the falsetto of the LITTLE GIRL who lives in an adult woman’s body. Their high-pitched screams shrill for attention. “Aren’t I adorable? Don’t you want to pick me up and take me home with you?” No, I don’t, but what I would like to do is put them in a crib, close the door, and not let them out again until they’ve grown up. Another problem with purveyors of the Little Girl Voice is that the content of what they have to say is commensurate with the repertoire of a little girl. 


The good news is… sometimes, you can escape them. That’s because many come adorned with little girl bows in their hair… so, if you see one coming your way, run -- don’t walk -- to the nearest exit.

Have you met up with a WHISPERER? They’re the ones who talk so softly that even if you have 20-20 hearing, you have to crawl into their laps and stop breathing to hear what they’re saying. According to psychologists, Whisperers whisper because they need to control everything in their environment – including listeners.

First cousin to the Whisperer is BREATHLESS, but Breathless has a different objective. She thinks her voice is seductive (a la Marilyn Monroe) and uses it as linguistic foreplay. But when I hear Breathless speak, I don’t think sex. I think she’s in the throes of an asthmatic attack, and I offer her my aerosol spray.

UPTALKERS (akin to the Valley Girls) end statements with upward inflections, turning them into questions. Even statements of unquestionable certainty, such as “My name is Carol,” becomes: “My name is Carol?”

We expect Uptalking from teenagers who are generally too insecure to make definitive statements and are desperate for validation, but now the virus has spread to adults. Fathers of Uptalking daughters have also become Uptalkers, apparently to make themselves appear more friendly and non-assertive to their daughters and the daughters’ friends. This Uptalking disease has gone transgender and transcontinental, having spread from the United States… to Canada… and now to England.

The public, at large, perceives Uptalkers to be empty-headed, uninformed and lacking in confidence. Who would hire an Uptalker? Imagine one addressing a potential customer: “You’re going to like Product XYZ?” This affectation may explain why Uptalkers, when looking for a job, rarely get past the interview stage.

We’ve all been corned by FILLER KILLERS, those speakers who can’t get through a sentence without embedding a number of “huhs, uhs, likes…I means…or …you knows.” I was recently subjected to a FILLER at a 90-minute workshop. After fifteen minutes, I stopped listening, and for the next 75, I clocked the number of fillers in every sixty second segment. The result? Nine per minute, which means an “uh, huh, you know, you mean, or a like” every 6 2/3 seconds.

VOLUMIZERS kidnap a conversation and hold you hostage by talking louder than everyone else. Occasionally a determined but naïve listener will challenge the Volumizer by raising his or her voice, but Volumizers have no intention of giving up their bully pulpits. They respond by ratcheting up their own volume and increasing their speed of delivery, thereby making it near to impossible for a challenger to get a word in edgewise.

If you make the mistake of suggesting to a voice offender that he or she consider working on his/her speech, be prepared for: “That’s my voice. I was born with it, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” True, your voice is, in part, dependent on your DNA, but by the time you reach adulthood, your voice (along with much more) IS your responsibility. Most offenders can fix their impediments themselves … or with the help of a professional.

Remember: you will be judged by the voice you project. Speakers with high-pitched, loud, breathy, upended, whining, or whispering voices are judged to be weak, passive, nervous, empty-headed, insecure, and bullying; whereas speakers with attractive voices are viewed as successful, secure, and attractive.

                                                                  Whiningly yours, Carol

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