The Winning Voice

Best in class communication techniques from Michael Kelly

Why your voice sounds different on tape

Your voice sounds different on audio-tape (or when you listen to your voice mail greeting et al) for the following reasons:

When you speak, you hear your voice through two channels – through the air (air conduction) and through the bones (bone conduction) in your head. For the air conduction, the sound exits your mouth passes through the air and then into your ear. For the bone conduction, the sound travels from your vocal folds to your inner ear through the bone.

When you hear your voice on tape, all you’re hearing is the your voice via air conduction. That is why it sounds different to you.  The audio recorded voice is the voice everyone else hears when you speak.  Think about it this way. You hear your voice in stereo (through the air and through the bone). Everyone else hears it in mono (just through the air). No one hears the sweetness and richness of your voice as you do.

In developing your speech communication you need to get to know the voice that other people hear (the audio conduction voice), its strengths and where it can be improved. It can be confronting listening to your voice on tape. However it is one the most powerful forms of feedback – ie. objective feedback.

To ease into listening to your recorded voice, play just a few seconds of it, and turn the recording off. Reflect on what you’ve heard. Then play a few more seconds and turn the recording off again. And so on.  Through this gradual listening and reflection you can begin to know and like this voice that other people hear. After you’ve familiarised yourself to your voice, you can then go deeper into listening to how it can be improved so it is perceived by other people, how you want it to be perceived.

7 Comments

  • Rosemary Gillespie

    May 26, 2010, 12:16 pm

    Fascinating stuff. I’ve always wondered why my voicemail message sounds so odd (to me, at least).

  • Aldo Grech

    June 16, 2010, 12:46 pm

    Thanks for that piece on insight Mike. I’ll practice your advice. Aldo.

  • Fahad

    July 1, 2014, 11:10 am

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I always wonder why do I sound different on podcast.

  • Kathrine

    July 9, 2014, 9:50 am

    Thanks Mike. Now I understand why it feels strange to hear my voice on recordings.

    • michael

      July 9, 2014, 10:09 am

      Yes Kathrine it can sound strange at first. However, the more you listen to it, it will be less strange to listen to. Then you can be more objective about its impact, and can experiment with ways you can alter it to exert a specific influence you want.

  • Colin Beazley

    July 2, 2015, 10:01 am

    Thank you for the insight Michael. Not only do I sound different to myself on tape, but the inflextions and what I perceive as subtleties in my talking are completely overdone and not subtle at all.
    I’d appreciate your thoughts on accent. I’m not originally from these parts, as you may remember, I’m concerned that people may be concentrating on the accent and the differences in word use, pronunciation and enunciation rather than in the message. Other than being not true to oneself and one’s origins, how does one overcome this issue?

    • michael

      July 2, 2015, 11:10 am

      Thank you Colin. You can never really know how much a person is concentrating on your accent or not, and how much it is distracting from your message. It all weaves together. I don’t believe you can ‘overcome’ this issue. In the first instance I suggest that if you believe the other person is being distracted by your accent – as appropriate, and this is an in-the-moment judgement call, you could say for example, “This may not be an issue, but some people find my accent at times difficult to understand. If you need me to repeat anything I’ve said please just let me know”

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