How to Use Tone of Voice to Your Advantage


‘It is not what you say that matters but the manner in which you say it; there lies the secret of the ages.’
-William Carlos Williams

The name Albert Mehrabian probably isn’t very familiar to many of us. It should be though, because he is responsible for one of the most quoted findings in the field of human communication.

Mehrabian was responsible for his discovery that the words used in face-to-face communications account for only 7% of messages received, while body language and vocal tone account for 55% and, 38% respectively.

This is called the rule of 7/38/55%. Professor Mehrabian’s findings are frequently trotted out at personal development seminars, emphasizing the importance of body language and vocal tone over the words which we use.

The implication is clear: good communication goes beyond the words you use to convey a message. Speech writers spend hours crafting their speeches to perfection. How many of these dedicated people invest as much time in their presentation skills as they do in their vocabularies? It is clear that top communicators rely far more heavily upon appropriate body language and vocal tone to get their message across more effectively than reciting from a dictionary.

The Science of Speech 

Plenty of research has gone in to determining which vocal tones are more pleasing to the human ear. First, a little biology: the tones of the voice originate from the triangular chamber at the upper end of the trachea, or windpipe. The front part of this chamber forms the ‘Adam’s Apple’ visible in men (women have one too, just smaller). The vocal chords are comprised of two strips of tissue that, which, when air is passed through, vibrate to produce a vocal tone (a fascinating YouTube video stroboscopy, or camera view, of the living vocal chords can be found here.)

Power of the Pitch

While preferences for particular vocal tones can vary from person to person, there are a few rules that have been revealed through research. For example, lower vocal tones have been shown to generally possess more authority than higher ones.

According to a study recently published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences, vocal pitch (highness and lowness) is perceived to have an effect upon the perception of the leadership capabilities of the speakers. This is shown to be heavily influenced by their gender.

Women with higher pitched voices were perceived as more attractive, while those with lower pitches were more socially dominant. Men, on the other hand, who possess lower voices, were perceived as ‘more attractive, physically stronger, and socially dominant.’

Research conducted in 2011 linked deep male voices to improved memory in females, while a further study conducted at McMaster University in Ontario discovered voters were more likely to favour candidates with lower voices.

Use your Vocal Tone to become a Better Communicator 

The use of body language is one thing, but how can we work on how we use vocal tones to become better communicators? Salespeople are adept at this. Whether it’s a telemarketer calling to compare credit cards, a charity collector on the street, a shop assistant or salesperson, many people involved in sales implement these skills instinctively.

Used in both your personal and professional life, there’s no escaping the fact that developing an excellent use of vocal tone will pay dividends. Judith Filek of Impact Communications suggests some ingenious techniques for improving the tone of your voice:

1. Ensure you are breathing from the diaphragm, which is the muscle beneath your rib cage. Shallow breathing will make your voice sound strained.
2. Make sure you drink plenty of water all day to keep your vocal chords properly lubricated.
3. Ensure you limit your intake of caffeine as it is a diuretic.
4. Sit up straight: posture not only influences your voice, but also your confidence.
5. Use gestures to energize your voice. This will help give your voice added power when you are tired. Smiling also helps ‘warm’ your voice.
6. Record your voice. This is a particularly illuminating technique for some!
7. Try speaking at a slightly lower octave, as research has shown that those who speak at a lower octave are often presumed to have more credibility.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on your vocal tone.

If you are interested in this post, you might consider the following posts
1) First Impressions
2) How to Make a Great First Impression
3) Advantages and Disadvantages of Written and Spoken Communication

Better Interpersonal Communication


More on effective meetings and leadership communication


Want to improve your

leadership communication skills?Face to Face Matters


If you have been following my simple tips on meeting effectiveness, you might be interested in a more detailed list of ideas to improve your meetings.

Go to Communication Briefings and get “Stop the Meeting Madness” after signing up for free reports. Enjoy!

Feel free to ask questions or make comments below. Let’s get some dialogue started, eh?

Jack Pyle: The Face to Face Maximizer


Planning effective meetings improves your leadership communication



Do you get frustrated when your time is wasted in meetings? I do, too.

You can improve your meetings and your leadership communication by being a role model for effective meetings. Here are tips to help you become a meeting master.

First, make sure there is a need for the meeting. Is this meeting really necessary, or is it just a habit that we do every month? Could you accomplish the purpose without a meeting?

Next, if a meeting is necessary, determine the purpose of the meeting and make sure everyone knows what it is.

Here are typical meeting purposes:


    “We will use Planning and Decision-making to develop and agree on a work schedule for the new project.”

    Problem solving

      “We will use Problem-solving to recommend actions that will keep us focused on customer service while we move to new offices.”


        “We will use Decision-making to finalize our work on the planned reorganization.”

        Dialogue (no decisions)

          “We will use Dialogue to discuss pending reorganizations of our three departments.”


            “Our purpose is to report on the planned reorganization.”

            Sometimes there are different purposes for different parts of the meeting.

            Your meeting agenda should state clearly the purpose of each agenda item. Don’t just list topics. Here’s an example:

            Meeting agenda

            Jack Pyle: The Face to Face Maximizer

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