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Lower Vocal Range

A lower voice is more trustworthy and powerful.  Evolutionary psychologists determined that this is because a lower voice is a signal of higher levels of testosterone.  Someone with higher levels of testosterone would have a better chance of survival in our tribal days as humans. “Duke University and the University of California studied the speeches of the male CEOs of almost 800 public companies. They found that the CEOs with the deeper voices managed larger companies and thus made more money. A decrease of 25% in voice pitch is associated with an increase of $187.000 in annual salary.”   The study also found that CEOs with a lower voice enjoy a longer tenure as CEO.   

You may not sound like Barry White, but keeping your voice tone in the lower range will add credibility to your voice.  An easy way to do this is to practice deep breathing.  Before you answer a question from students or your audience, take a deep breath.  This will allow your voice to come out calm and deep. 
•    Keep your voice tone authoritative and curl it down at the end of a sentence.
•    Avoid the question inflection, which is curling up at the end of a sentence.  It makes a statement sound like a question.

Fillers
 I am from Maryland and our state is famous for its crab cakes.  In Maryland, we know too many fillers can ruin a good crab cake.  The same holds true for a good speech.  Fillers are “umm’s,” “uhhh’s”, “you knows’s,” and other sounds or words used to fill space while you think of what you are going to say next.  The reason we use fillers is that “speakers use uh and um to announce that they are initiating what they expect to be a minor (uh), or major (um), delay in speaking. Speakers can use these announcements in turn to implicate, for example, that they are searching for a word, are deciding what to say next, want to keep the floor, or want to cede the floor.”  Pauses are actually very powerful.

Pauses enhance meaning by :
•    Providing a type of punctuation
•    Emphasizing a point
•    Drawing attention to a key thought
•    Allowing listeners a moment to contemplate what is being said.
•    They make a speech far more effective than it might otherwise be.


Vocal Variety
Changing and using expression with your voice will keep the students and audience engaged.  It also is important to vary your voice to keep them interested.  Make sure you are not speaking in a monotone. According to Subliminal: How your Unconscious Mind Rules your Behavior:
“Speakers with higher-pitched voices were judged to be less truthful, less emphatic, less potent, and more nervous than speakers with lower-pitched voices... And if two speakers utter exactly the same words but one speaks a little faster and louder and with fewer pauses and greater variation in volume, that speaker will be judged to be more energetic, knowledgeable, and intelligent. Expressive speech, with modulation in pitch and volume and with a minimum of noticeable pauses, boosts credibility and enhances the impression of intelligence.”

Be Self Assured
Make sure you are not seeking validation from your students.  Avoid being defensive if they call you out on a mistake.  This will zap your competence level.

Make Eye Contact
Eye contact signals competence as well as warmth. According to a 2007 study on intelligence, Looking while speaking was significantly correlated with IQ. It was also successfully manipulated by those trying to manage their impression and contributed to higher perceived intelligence ratings.


(Appear to) Have willpower

People just wont trust you when you have a willpower problem .
•    Smoking, overeating, impulsive spending, being lazy, late, disorganized, excessively emotional or quick tempered – all drag down your trustworthiness
•    Do what you can to keep self control problems private.

Is it Better to Be Loved or Feared?

    This is the classic Machiavellian conundrum. However, part of the quote is usually missing: “It may be answered that one should wish to be both,” he acknowledged, “but because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved.”  This may have been true 500 years ago, but in the 21st century you can have it both way. 

Additionally, you shouldn’t lead with strength, you should actually lead with warmth. According to the Harvard Business Review, “In a study of 51,836 leaders, only 27 of them were rated in the bottom quartile in terms of likability and in the top quartile in terms of overall leadership effectiveness—in other words, the chances that a manager who is strongly disliked will be considered a good leader are only about one in 2,000.”    


So what should you do?  How can you balance both of these traits simultaneously?  According to Heidi Grant Halvorson, author of No One Understands You and What to Do About It, focus on the principles that convey the moral aspect of warmth. The following traits should be emphasized in your daily interactions with your students.  These are the universal principles that across cultures signify strength and warmth.
•    Courageous
•    Fair
•    Principled
•    Responsible
•    Honest
•    Loyal


The Bottom Line: Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Make sure that you are being fair to your students.  Establish that you are principled in nature and do not waver with defensiveness.  Take responsibility when you mess up.  Be honest with students and empathetic. 


  1.   Mayew et al, (2013),. Voice pitch and the labor market success of male chief executive officers. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34, 243-248. Viewed findings at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/naturally-selected/201306/the-sound-leader-ceos-deep-voices-do-better

  2. Clark, H. (2002). Using uh and um in spontaneous speaking. Cognition, 84, 73-111.
      http://speakingcenter.uncg.edu/resources/tipsheets/verbalfillersandpracticing/verbalfillersandpauses.pdf

  3. Mlodinow, L. (2012). Subliminal: How your unconscious mind rules your behavior (p. 133). New York: Pantheon Books.

  4. Murphy, N. A. "Appearing Smart: The Impression Management of Intelligence, Person Perception Accuracy, and Behavior in Social Interaction." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 33.3 (2007): 325-39.

  5.   Grant Halvorson, H (2015). No one understands you and what to do about it. P.78

  6. https://hbr.org/2013/07/connect-then-lead/ar/pr