During Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech, I liked the improvements in her speaking voice. I shake my head when I read that her supporters lecture us to be more politically correct; you cannot order us to, “stop not liking her delivery, you men do the same thing and get accepted.” Listeners cannot escape their visceral responses. I say, “Stop telling us how we should respond.”
Our culture has conditioned us to hear and respond to voices since we were babies. We did not choose our responses; we grew them based on the events that accompanied the speaking. We are sensitive to tones, overtones, undertones, volume, brittleness, rhythm, pace, inflections in both high-pitched and low-pitched voices. We have all been soothed and yelled at by both men and women. We know it when we hear it. Watch how babies respond to voices; that is our nature.
Before microphones, people speaking to large groups or singing had to amplify their voices, a kind of practiced yelling. Preachers in churches, actors on stages, singers of opera, and teachers in classrooms had to speak/sing loudly to be heard.
The advent of microphones made this unnecessary. Radio and television stations discovered which kinds of speaking voices are soothing, grating, jarring, preaching, threatening, etc. They just do not hire people who do not speak successfully to their audiences.
No amount of chiding, “people should not let shrill voices bother them, they should just hear the message,” will change our automatic responses. The speaker must accommodate the listener, not the other way around. That is what voice coaches do.
What I noticed, during Hillary’s speech, was how many times she caught herself when she started to elevate her voice for emphasis, and lowered it into a more powerful, conversational range. There is no need for yelling with today’s microphones.
The finest example at the convention was Michelle Obama’s amazing speech. Replay it to experience the smoothest, clearest, most comfortable, conversational speaking I have ever heard. She made it easy to hear her very strong points without yelling, grating, or preaching.
So, let the critics of the voice critics relent; no one will take you seriously; no one will cheer if their ears are not happy.