Feeling like an Octopus as a Speaker

“Anjali your voice, tone, pace, pitch, dramatics can improve.”

Over the last 3 weeks, I have purposely put myself in a situation where I knew I would get honest feedback on my speaking abilities. I have never been a believer of tone, voice, pitch and dramatics ( excluding pace, which I think is important to manage).

My argument has always been speaking authentically doesn’t require a change from what we originally are unless there is something fundamentally wrong with our original style. I personally feel claustrophobic under pressures of changing who I really am. Keeping several things in mind whilst delivering a message that I am passionate about makes me feel nothing short of an octopus whose tentacles are going in all directions.

Of course, you have to change things that prohibit you from being your best but changing yourself entirely should not be the ask.

I find it hard when people say be authentic but add dramatics. This uncertainty led me to research the colossal judgment that awaits women speakers mostly.

*There has been lots of prejudice about women’s voices,” says Anne Karpf, a sociologist and the author of The Human Voice: The Story of a Remarkable Talent. In the world of broadcasting, for example, “there have been a vast variety of reasons put forward over time to exclude women from the airwaves”. These range from the Daily Express saying in 1928 that listeners felt women’s voices were monotonous to the Sunday Dispatch saying in 1945 that women were too emotive in their delivery. From too little personality in their voices to not enough, women can’t win.

 On the landmark 1963 civil rights march on Washington, black female activists were given no opportunity by organisers to address the crowd; no woman was trusted to read the television news as a regular long-term newsreader on a national programme in the UK until Angela Rippon caused a sensation in 1975.

As I am writing this article I am thinking of what my father told me when I was growing up. His words, ” when a girl speaks, it should feel like rose petals are dropping.” I think we assume that whatever is soft and gentle cannot have authority. And that assumption or societal pressure leads us to focus on softly and gently at the cost of loosing authority. You can be soft, gentle yet have authority.

Studies have shown that we perceive deep, resonant voices – such as those of Judi Dench or Mariella Frostrup – as attractive. However, in women, “that huskiness means they also sound very sexy, which undercuts the idea of authority”, Karpf says.

There has long been pressure on women in positions of authority to deepen their voices. Margaret Thatcher is thought to have taken voice lessons to lower hers, possibly further than her natural range easily allowed: in the latter part of her career, her voice sounded distinctly strained. “Women politicians have it very tough,” Karpf says. “If you look at Theresa May, she exhibits a phenomenon I call ‘tears in the voice’ – as if there’s something trapped in her throat – and it makes her uncomfortable to listen to.

My take is as long as my voice conveys what I want to say and people understand, that is what matters. Not whether the sound that comes out of my mouth is thin or high or girly.

This is what works for me and of course you have the right to choose what works for you.

*Source: Terrified of public speaking? Start with what you really want to say

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