Have you noticed that more and more young women have a cynical tone to their voice? Perhaps you haven’t identified it as such, but listen carefully and you will notice that there’s a weird phenomena going on with young girls and young women. I’m talking about the very nasal method of communicating that seems to come from the front of the mouth rather than the throat area. Think of the telephone operator portrayed by Lily Tomlin years ago, and you will hear a resemblance to the nasal and almost mocking voice to which I’m referring.
You hear this voice on the radio and in TV commercials. You don’t have to look at your TV screen to know the approximate age of the person speaking. She won’t be a Baby Boomer. She’s very likely to be a member of the Millennia generation, born after 1980; but she could also be a member of Gen X, born roughly between 1961 and 1980. In essence, she sounds like she has a distrustful and negative attitude to life.
Regrettably, this unfortunate trend is spreading rapidly. At the mall, very young girls with innocent faces speak to friends with the voice of a cynical whining woman. Rarely do you hear young boys or young men use this tone of voice. Why you may ask? Or maybe you haven’t. I have, and I think I know.
It very likely began with the Gen X mothers of the Millennias. This generation is scornful of the values of their Baby Boomer parents who left them a legacy of fractured families and federal deficits. Dad was promised a gold watch but got a pink slip instead. Thus, they tend to be cynical and trust only themselves; team play is for Boomers.
As Gen X girls came of age, sturdy clunky shoes became the rage. Colette Dowling’s 1981 book “The Cinderella Complex” may have inspired them to convey to the world that they had both feet planted firmly on the ground, and were not about to depend upon a man to take care of them. Sadly, they entered the workforce and encountered the Glass Ceiling.
So, the stage was set for many of these young women to express their cynicism more and more. It can only be assumed that either directly or indirectly their young daughters subconsciously picked it up. Within a few years, their friends picked it up. Now it’s apparently a part of their persona. Personally, I hope it’s not too late to snuff out this unfortunate trend.
The most shocking thing of all is that radio and television stations hire young women to do commercials with a grating voice that comes across so cynically. I, personally, cannot trust the information that is given by someone who sounds so negative. There is even the occasional female announcer reporting on the world’s news in this distracting voice. After several months of hearing a young woman report the news from China, I sent an email to her station and reported that I tended to perceive everything she reported as having a negative quality due to her cynical and negative tone of voice. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to complain, because she is no longer heard on that station. Hopefully, she was sent back to “remedial” radio school.
On a recent flight from California to Virginia, I sat next to a young woman who looked very pleasant so I asked her if she was headed home. She was, and she began telling me about her trip to California and her life in general. It was an exceedingly tedious experience for me to hear this young woman’s whining nasal voice, and after two hours, her voice grated on my nerves so much that I excused myself and explained that I had a headache and needed a nap.
My fear is that the young crop of female school teachers will pass on this speaking affliction to their young students. That would be very sad, indeed. Women still have a Glass Ceiling in the workplace, and part of the problem has to do with speaking styles that differ from men. Women have higher and softer voices, so they often command less credibility as a result. Furthermore, they often pause out of ingrained “gender politeness” before speaking up in the board room or other mixed-gender settings. Two strikes and you are not out; but if young women speak out in a voice that sounds more like a nagging mother than a mover and shaker, they may strike out. They may literally talk themselves out of business.
It is acknowledge that it is not always what you say that makes an impact, but how you say it. That definitely includes your tone of voice.
Sandy Dumont is an image consultant with 30 years experience. She is the Go To person when you want to get rid of “Corporate Casualty” attire in your firm. Get a copy of her free book at her website: theimagearchitect.com.