I am constantly telling people that one of the most effective ways to improve your public speaking delivery is to record yourself speaking.
in 99.9% of cases, this is the last thing they want to do.
So, what's the big deal?
Well for most of us, we just hate the sound of our own voice.
We've all had that feeling, when we've seen ourselves on video, right? "Is that really what I sound like?!"
Usually our voice sounds higher and tinnier.
And then you get that sinking feeling "Hang on, is that what everyone else hears when I talk?"
So this raises two questions:
1. Why does our voice sound so different on recordings?
2. We do we all hate it so much?
To understand why our voice sounds so different on recordings, we have to understand where the noise is actually coming from.
HOW OUR VOICE USUALLY SOUNDS TO US
When we hear our voice as we speak, the source of that sound is actually coming from two different places.
The first (and most obvious) source is from the vibrations of the vocal folds in our throat that create sound waves which travel through the to the ear.
But there is a second source. The sound from our vocal cords also bounce around all through our body. Through the flesh, bones and skull.
This has the effect of lowering the frequency the vibrations. It's kind of like a sound dampener. In addition to this, all the other bones in our body are spreading out the vibrations, which lowers the pitch.
The result? Your voice sounds fuller and deeper.
HOW OUR VOICE SOUNDS ON RECORDINGS
However, when we hear a recording of our own voice, that sound doesn't get filtered by our bones and flesh. It is coming straight from our throat to the microphone.
So with the elimination of the bone-conducted sound we end up hearing our voice the way everyone else hears it.
Higher in frequency and thinner. Boo!
BUT WHY DO WE HATE IT SO MUCH?
Right, so now we know why it sounds different. We know that it comes as a bit of surprise. But that still doesn't explain why we (usually) hate the sound of our recorded voice.
According to psychologists, it is just the surprise of hearing a different sound.
We live our lives hearing and perfecting our bone-conducted voice. Not our air-conducted voices.
“We never actually hear our voice like other people hear it, hence our surprise when hearing a recording,” says Pascal Belin, a professor of psychology at University of Glasgow whose research focuses on vocal perception. “We find it hard to believe it is actually our voice.
For most people, when they start listening to their voice on a consistent basis they get used to the sound. It’s what we've lived with all our lives. So of course it's unsettling to hear something so different than we're used to.
When tiny differences don’t match up with what our brain expects to see, we dislike it.
The discomfort goes deeper than this.
We form a picture of who we are.
Our ideas on how we think others perceive us influence our self concept (our own beliefs about who you are).
Our personalities can also influence what we see and how we react.
- If you are someone who craves approval, you are more likely to believe you made a positive impression on other people. And according to psychologists, you generally will!
- Narcissism blocks metaperception. Instead of cowering behind ones blanket as they attempt to criticise themselves on video, narcissists have been found to become even more self-bias.
- Shy people tend to believe they come off poorly. And as the science goes behind this, unfortunately they are probably correct. Psychologists have found that shy people are so busy worrying about what others think they struggle to be spontaneous!
SOME PEOPLE DO LIKE THEIR OWN VOICE
A study from Albright College has found that people actually prefer the sound of their own voices. Imagine that! In an unwitting assessment of their own voices versus other people's voices, 80 men and women were attracted to their own voices more than others.' Science Daily explains:
Researchers included three different samples of participants' own voice recordings in the group. Researchers believe that most participants did not recognize or realize their own voices were included, yet rated their own voices as sounding more attractive than how other raters judged their voices. Participants also rated their own voices more favorably than they had rated the voices of other people.
"People generally tend to have an enhanced sense about themselves," said Susan Hughes, an author on the study, explaining the latent narcissistic qualities of people that support and condition confidence and self-esteem. In the past, stress and depression have been linked to weakening our immune systems and making us susceptible to disease. It's both surprising and totally bleak to me, that while we "hate the sound" of our recorded voices (or so we sayeth), that we still prefer it above others. And what does this say about people's assessment of their own farts?
"Given this age of heightened narcissism," Hughes added, "this study provides further evidence that individuals seem to inflate their opinions of themselves by thinking the sound of their own voices is more attractive."