Vocalize This!
Voicing Your VIP Status
Words mean more than what is set dow n on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse
them w ith shades of dee per meaning. —Maya Angelou (American poet)
that, for better or worse, stick with you for a lifetime.
Some voices are soothing and pleasant to the ear, while others are brassy,
raspy, or nasally, striking you like nails on a chalkboard. What many can-
didates fail to realize is that your voice is a powerful natural instrument
that paints a mural of your inner thoughts and emotions. So if your voice
does not coincide with your professional image, it may very well be a con-
tributing factor to losing out on a job opportunity.
The sound of your voice, in addition to how you use it to shape your
words, particularly over the phone, where there are no other visual clues
to escort it, forecasts clues about your character traits: shy, nervous, arro-
gant, sophisticated, intelligent, energetic, sluggish, professional, or pol-
ished. For that reason, aligning your voice and speaking style to either
accentuate or camouflage the personality and physical characteristics you
want to convey is essential for building your overall business image.
Perhaps you stand six feet tall and you find yourself being interviewed by
someone who is nearly a foot shorter than you. In this case, a softer more
approachable voice would work in your favor. Or maybe you’re inter-
viewing for a position within a fast-paced, competitive environment; a
strong voice with an engaging style would be more fitting.
To help me clarify the physiological components of the voice, I reached
out to Dr. Craig Zalvan, MD, FACS, medical director at the Institute for
Voice and Swallowing Disorders at Phelps Memorial Hospital Center,
located in Sleepy Hollow, New York. My initial conversation with Dr.
Zalvan was over the telephone, upon the return of a message I left with his
receptionist. He possessed a voice that was warm, friendly, yet authorita-
tive in the area of laryngology (the study of voice disorders). As demand-
ing as his schedule is with clinical appointments, planned and unplanned
surgeries, and membership and advisory board positions within profes-
sional associations, his enthusiasm and willingness to share his knowledge
were evident through his phone voice.
We worked on securing a time and date that was mutually convenient,
and in the midst of conversation we discovered we live a few houses away
from one another and that our daughters travel on the same school bus
each day. The local coffeehouse was to be our meeting place. It turns out I
unexpectedly gave birth just six days before our meeting. Rather than
rescheduling our talk, Dr. Zalvan was kind enough to pay me a house call.
His appearance and disposition were every bit as warm as his voice had
been on the phone. Then, over afternoon coffee and banana bread, he
explained the inner workings of the voice we all produce to verbally com-
municate our ideas during an interview and beyond. He characterizes the
voice as having four core components:
The Generator, which is where the voice originates its power, is found
within our lungs and abdomen. For optimal performance, it is important
to maintain a posture without slumping or constriction of the chest cav-
ity. Doing so can limit the amount of air intake, which will decrease the
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