Are your vocals fried?
So, I like reality television. I mean I really like it. I probably should be embarrassed but that would be a waste of my energy.
Incidentally, my obsession has paid off. Once at a new business meeting at Bravo (the mothership of reality) I challenged a prospective client to go head to head on Housewives’ trivia. They wouldn’t take on the challenge because my confidence in knowing all the casts, their favorite restaurants, and their ex husbands was likely intimidating. We won the project in part because of our enthusiasm for their content but that is another lesson.
But this life lesson is not about watching reality TV but rather a word to the wise (that’s you) about how the intonation of your voice might be holding you back from greater success. When you talk do you sound like someone on The Bachelor or Vanderpump Rules or worse yet a Kardashian? Does your speech have a monotonous cadence? Do you sound like a slow, idling engine? If you answered yes, then you need a vocal fry intervention.
If you've never heard of vocal fry, stop what you are doing to watch this this video from CBS.
Why does vocal fry matter? Well, this speaking style might be sabotaging your efforts to get ahead. This low and croaky cadence is inadvertently sending signals to your peers, leadership, and clients that undermine your intelligence. It can be interpreted as a lack of confidence, a lack of energy, and is just plain annoying.
There are lots of experts who have dissected this phenomenon (along with uptalk which is when everything comes out sounding like a question.) But I believe we can blame 2 things for this annoying and actually dangerous to your vocal cords speaking style.
Reality TV + Lack of hearing your own voice = Vocal Fry
No one hears what they sound like anymore. No answering machines. No long voice mail messages. Even karaoke lets you auto tune. Your identity is wrapped up in the visuals of your Insta life. But people just don't know how they sound to other people.
Here is the test. Record your voice while you tell a minute long story about your commute. Play it back in about an hour or two and really listen. Do you sound croaky? Does your voice exude confidence and reflect your composure? Does your tone dip at the end of every sentence like you are running out of air? Now have the most honest person you know listen for their diagnosis.
Speech therapists have lots of tricks for retraining your intonation and restoring the health of your vocal cords. My favorite tips are captured here (definitely listen to the audio - it is painful!). Give it a try.
PS: A study from the Centenary College of Louisiana found that young men do it even more than young women. Men spend 25% of their time speaking using fry, while women use it about 10% of the time.