Everyone has had that terrible moment when they've heard the sound of their own voice through a voicemail or a recorded video for the first time. You might think your voice sounds so high that it's actually whiny, or so low that it's weird and gravelly. Either way, it can be both confusing and surprising to hear your own voice on any other occasion besides the moment when it's coming out of your mouth. But as it turns out, there's a lot to learn about what your voice reveals about you and your personality, and the research on the subject is honestly fascinating.
For instance, Business Insider reports the results of a new study conducted by the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris, which revealed that there's something rather important about how your voice sounds when you say one word in particular: hello.
If I had to guess what you're doing right now, you're definitely trying to remember how, exactly, you like to answer your apartment door or your cell phone, or in what manner you greet people on elevators. Your parents have probably lectured you before about how important it is to greet people correctly, but it's pretty unlikely they warned you about this.
According to the study, the pitch of your voice when you say "hello" can determine how trustworthy or dominant you might come off to another person.
The study involved 44 participants (both female and male), who were told to listen to 100 different versions of the word "hello" (technically, since the subjects are French, they listened to the word "bonjour," which means "hello"), all with different pitches, spoken by either a man or a woman.
The results were consistent across gender, surprisingly enough: According to the study's findings, a falling pitch (which is when the pitch gradually decreases in tone) gave the highest impression of dominance, while a rising pitch (which is when the pitch gradually rises, like when you ask a question) gave the highest impression of trustworthiness.
The importance of research like this is obvious, as was noted in the study's abstract: The way that you speak to people defines your social interactions just as much (if not more) than your body language, which is why it is so beneficial to understand what type of impression you're giving off, exactly.
For example, if you work in sales, or a similar field where power dynamics are important, these particular findings might suggest you practice saying "hello" as more of a statement, rather than a wondering question. In contrast, if you're working in a field that relies on human connection and empathy, like social work, then it might be important for you to seem approachable and trustworthy, meaning you might want to say "hello" with the rising pitch that can imply a question.
Of course, this might be a hard challenge to put on yourself, since your voice might sound different to you than it does to other people.
In the above episode of the online series SciShow, YouTube personality Hank Green talks about why your voice sounds so different in your head than it does when you hear it on voicemails or in other recordings.
It all goes back to the way you learn to talk, Green explained. When you learn to talk, you have to match what you're thinking with what you're hearing, so when you hear your own voice, you're not just hearing the sound that someone else hears; you're also hearing the sound as it bounces around in your head. Green explained,
Our voices that we hear through our own heads actually sound deeper and more resonant, but the big difference is simply that when you hear [your own voice] recorded, you're not hearing your voice as you've heard it [in your head] your whole life. You're hearing it as other people hear it.
Bottom line: Maybe take it with a grain of salt while you listen to a recording of yourself saying "hello" 100 times over. You'll likely never truly learn what your voice sounds like to other people, so the best thing you can do is actually show people real, tangible reasons why they should trust you, or listen to you, and hope that your voice communicates the same message as your actions.