When it comes to work environments, each one of us can likely name a person of influence. That one colleague whose brilliant ideas dominate every meeting (in the best possible way), who creatively always seems to be on a roll. They make things happen and generally inspire co-workers to push themselves harder.
Arguably, when it comes to influencing, some are naturally better at this than others, the question is why? New research aims to shed some light on this topic, and according to a new study, it’s all about your voice. Psychologists in the US have discovered that you can influence people simply by lowering the pitch of your voice in the first moments of a conversation. Reported in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, the research found that people whose voices went down in pitch early on in a conversation were more likely to be seen as “dominant and influential” than those whose vocal pitch went up.
The important takeaway is that those who were deemed “dominant” were much more likely to be able to convince others to go along with their ideas, not a bad thing in a competitive office space. While it might seem unusual to focus on using vocal pitch as a tool of influence, previous research indicates that more and more workers are turning to using similar techniques to gain confidence in a work environment.
“In the past, we focused a lot on posture and tended to neglect things like the voice. But this study clearly shows that there’s something about the voice that’s very interesting and very compelling as a channel of dynamically communicating status,” Joey Cheng, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, who led the study. What excites me about this research is that we now know a little bit more about how humans use their voices to signal status.”
Still, if your voice is on the high side, you needn’t be worried that all your pitches will fall flat; the study also found that people who were seen as dominant weren’t necessarily liked or respected and that individuals who were admired, but not always “dominant”, were also excellent at influencing others.
“What’s really fascinating about status is that regardless of which groups you look at and what culture and in what context, what inevitably happens is that people divide themselves into leaders and followers, and there’s a hierarchy that’s involved,” Cheng said. “Our study adds to the evidence that humans, like many other animals, use their voices to signal and assert dominance over others.”
Perhaps this is worth thinking on, before your next big presentation.