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Successful people have ‘powerful’ voices, research finds

Vocal cues can create illusion of greater authority in negotiations 

10 December 2014

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Vocal cues can be given in negotiations to indicate who is in charge, new research suggests.

It found that the way people use their voices can "profoundly determine" the outcome of discussions.

"One of the best ways to sound more powerful and authoritative is to change the way you use your voice," said chartered psychologist Sue Lovegrove of the British Psychological Society, commenting on the research.

The US study, which involved assigning 161 college students a role in a negotiation exercise, found that the way people speak can fundamentally change as they become more powerful.

It found that the voices of individuals in higher-rank positions were higher in pitch and loudness variability but lower in pitch variability compared with the voices of individuals in lower-rank positions.

The research also found that the use of higher pitch, greater loudness and greater loudness variability leads to an impression of a higher hierarchical rank.

"The sound of the voices involved may profoundly determine the outcome of those interactions," commented Sei Jin Ko, lead researcher of the study.

He highlighted former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher as an example of how voice can convey power. Thatcher underwent voice coaching in order to sound more authoritative.

Commented Lovegrove: "My advice on the practical application for negotiations would be to use your 'inner voice' and convince yourself that you are the highest status person in the conversation.

"You will find that your voice will then sound more naturally assertive and confident and people will respond to you as if you are indeed a higher status person. Perception is reality."

The research paper 'The Sound of Power: Conveying and Detecting Hierarchical Rank Through Voice' is published in Psychological Science.





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