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Presentations: High pitch of voice = low competence

Presentations: High pitch of voice = low competence
21. Januar 2023 Uwe Freund

Pitch of voice as a career factor: High pitch = low competence

Your voice and manner of speaking influence your career.

Your voice and manner of speaking are a decisive factor with which colleagues and HR administrators attribute competence to you. These factors can therefore have a direct influence on your career. Managers and HR developers can, through targeted speaker coaching, use the full potential of their voice and manner of speaking in their business communication.


The human voice influences our perception: We assess people by how they speak or sound. Even the attribution of leadership competencies is influenced.

Joachim Sauer, president of the Federation of HR managers, expressed heavy criticism of German personnel policies. Leadership positions are being “staffed with the wrong people” in German companies (Astheimer in the F.A.Z. on 12th December 2012). Specialists and long-term staff are given preference for promotions while social and communicative competencies barely play a role. However, lack of communication skills in management leads to a lack of trust in leadership competencies (Sauer, Cisik n.y.).

It is important to understand that a person’s voice and manner of speaking are an integral part of their communicative skills. This raises the following questions, which we need to answer:

How does the speech and voice of a manager affect staff? And what influence does this have on the assessment of their leadership competencies?

The two factors pitch of voice and pace of speech have an influence on the assessment of various competencies which people ascribe to a speaker. In a study done by Eicher, Sapper, Traubinger (2015), it was determined that speakers who are careful to speak with a natural voice pitch, and who avoid speaking too hastily, are assessed by their audience considerably more positively in respect to all leadership competencies.

Your pitch of voice and pace of speech influence the perception of your…

self-confidence: Women with a neutral pitch of voice and speaking pace are assessed to be more self-confident than women with a high pitch and faster speaking pace. In addition, female listeners in particular assess the competency of the speaking executive to be higher. There indeed seems to be a devastating judgement on high pitched female voices: Even if they do not feel insecure, they are assessed as being insecure. Their self-confidence is therefore not recognized. (Eicher, Sapper, Traubinger 2015)

comprehensibility: In men, a neutral pitch of voice and pace of speaking especially influence the competency of “comprehensible communication”. Men with a high-pitched voice and a rapid speaking pace are therefore criticized by their listeners as being incomprehensible. Men with natural pitch and balanced pace are assessed to be more comprehensible.

ability to assert yourself and motivation: Also, the speaker’s “ability to assert himself” as well as their “ability to motivate others” are positively assessed by listeners when speakers use a natural tone and moderate pace of speaking.

According to this, a “good” speaking style – in the purely physiological sense – has a decisive influence on people’s assessment of your leadership competencies.

Both managers and HR-developers can thus use targeted speaker coaching to make full use of the potential of their voice and speech in business communication.