Listen carefully and you’ll notice that there’s a weird phenomenon going on with young girls and young women. They have a growly cynical tone to their voices. I’m talking about the very nasal method of communicating that is accompanied by a harsh scratchy growl emanating deep within the throat area. It makes these sweet and innocent looking young women sound very cynical and bitter.
At long last, it’s been given a name, vocal fry, according to researchers from Long Island University. The professors said they had found evidence of a new trend among female college students: a guttural fluttering of the vocal cords they named “vocal fry.”
This voice is heard 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, young girls with innocent faces speak to friends and they sound like bitter divorcees aged forty-plus. In the past, you rarely heard young boys or young men using this tone of voice, but it is increasing used by men of all ages. Vocal fry actually damages the vocal cords.
Vocal fry very likely began with the Gen X mothers of the Millennials. This generation is scornful of the values of their Baby Boomer parents, who left them a legacy of fractured families and federal deficits. They came home to an empty house after school, because Mom was working, too. Dad was promised a gold watch but got a pink slip instead. Thus, they are cynical and trust only themselves.
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 on 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. Hopefully, it’s not too late to snuff out this unfortunate trend.
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 gruff and growly voice. 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 schoolteachers 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 boardroom 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 literally talk themselves out of business or career success.
It is not always what you say that makes an impact, but how you say it. That definitely includes your tone of voice. To hear vocal fry, simply Google vocal fry and then select “Vocal fry speaking with Faith Salie.”
Sandy Dumont is an image consultant living in Norfolk. She has 30 years experience working with Fortune 500 companies and their staff. Contact her at www.theimagearchitect.com or 757-627-6669.
Sandy Dumont, The Image Architect, is a sought-after stylist and image consultant in the arena of corporate, political and celebrity image and has spoken to audiences throughout the USA, Europe and Asia. Sandy is a prolific writer and has published numerous books, eBooks and DVDs. Her books and speaking style employ psychological insights into how we perceive color, judge wardrobes and incorporate (or don't) social norms into our daily lives.
Sandy is a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and Past President of NSA Virginia, and Past President of the SE Virginia chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO. She consults with individuals and corporations and also conducts corporate and individual image makeover workshops on the subject of impression management and image skills. Sandy is also a keynote speaker at conferences both nationally and in Europe and Asia. She also does online image consulting and image makeovers for individuals and groups.
Sandy Dumont has appeared on radio, TV and in print throughout the world. She was recently featured in a cover story with Money Magazine. In December 2009, she was the recipient of the Women in Business Achievement Award.
Sandy Dumont, The Image Architect, is MORE than an Image Consultant. For information, visit www.theimagearchitect.com or call 757-627-6669.Website: www.TheImageArchitect.com