Do you hate the sound of your voice?

Have you ever heard a recording of your voice, and thought “Holy crap!  Is that what I sound like?”  Everyone else’s voice sounds fine when recorded, but yours sounds strange, different.  I remember hearing once that our voices echoes in our skulls, and therefore they sound different to us than they do to others.  So when we hear our own answer phone messages, we cringe (especially if it’s one of those cheesy singing messages).

But ever notice that other people don’t really mention your voice sounding different?  This ties in with the finding that your social skills aren’t as bad as you think they are.  A research team in Stockholm looked into this.  They had students record a short story, and then rate their performance of the reading with a Voice Evaluation Questionnaire.  The students also completed a questionnaire measuring how socially anxious they were.  After the students had left, an independent rater listened to the tape recordings, and rated them on an equivalent Voice Evaluation Questionnaire.

The researchers were trying to discover whether social anxiety correlated with the self-evaluation of the reading, or the independent evaluation.  If the anxiety scale correlated with the self-report, but not the observer report, it would mean our negative views on our own voices are only apparent to ourselves.  If the anxiety scale correlated with the observer report, it would mean that the anxiety is coming through in our voices – it’s noticed by others.

Happily, the results indicated the former – to us, our voices sound weird, but other people don’t notice anything. So this distorted perception of our own voices is more to do with our own anxieties, and little to do with other peoples’ judgement. Good news, then.  I’m not sure whether the reason our voices sound worse to ourselves is because they echo in our skulls or not, but it’s all in our heads either way.

Reference:

Lundh, L., Berg, B., Johansson H., Nilsson, L.K., Sandberg, J., & Segerstedt, A. (2002). Social Anxiety is Associated with a Negatively Distorted Perception of One’s Own Voice. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy 31(1), 25–30

8 thoughts on “Do you hate the sound of your voice?

  1. The other night I was sleeping and the answering machine got the phone call, it freaked me out a bit and the person who rang said it was the most professional answering service she had heard. LOL

    It’s all about perspective and as you said our voices echo in our own heads and when we hear it, our mind and most probably ego freaks out and tells us that can not be ours…

    Just checking your blog out and thanks for the follow on twitter!

    1. Exactly, sounds weird to ourselves but other people think it sounds normal (or professional, if we’re lucky). Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Warren wrote “Have you ever heard a recording of your voice, and thought “Holy crap! Is that what I sound like?”

    Perhaps its not as black or white as that.From my experience, I think alot of it depends on your confidence.

    A while ago I went through a stage of recording my conversations in an effort to analyse my voice and how it varied whilst I was interacting with people. I did this in an effort to improve my communication skills ,especailly during presentations and other public speaking scenarios.

    To my suprise, what I noticed is that when I listened back to my voice sometimes I did think ‘crap.. is that me?!’ BUT at other times I thought ‘Ohh.. that sounds actually quite good!’ and the only difference I could pinpoint was my level of confidence at the time of the interaction/recording.

    So my point is, its not neccessarily the sound of your voice that is important but ,but like many things, how assured you feel about yourself at the time.

    This is, of course, just my personal hypothesis based on very limited research but it has a ring of truth to it.

    What does anyone else think?

    1. Ah, but the problem there is you’re the only one listening back to it, and you know how self assured (or not) you were when you were talking. So you might unknowingly bias your interpretation. This is why they used independent observers in this study. If you’re feeling brave, try playing the recording back to people and ask them to rate how anxious you were at the time of talking, see what other people think.

    2. I’m curious..How did you record your conv? Was that a phone conv? If it wasn’t then did you hold your recorder when speaking to people? Well that sounds pretty awkward..
      I know It’s been a while, but i hope you’ll reply soon since i can’t wait to try this

  3. Yeah I agree with that. I’ve had to put my voice over a delayed loud speaker before and I cringed at the thought of it coming out for everyone to hear. It’s funny how you do not want to do something if you have to hear it coming out from your own mouth sometimes.
    .-= Improved Social Life´s last blog ..claim =-.

  4. This is a very interesting research project. I remember as a kid recording my voice on the tape player just for kicks, and was constantly astonished by the difference in what I heard through the recorder in comparison to what I heard when I was speaking to myself. I suppose we are our own worst critiques.

  5. Hearing my voice made me die a little on the inside whenever I tried to record a song. It was horrible, badly wanting to sing but ending up hating every bit of the recording and trashing it. I’m still trying to get over it. Thanks a lot for this article!

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