The vocal attraction of business leaders and Hollywood stars
Powerful men are attractive. There’s no doubt about it. We’ve all seen media photos of beautiful women draped around very ordinary-looking guys who just happen to be highly successful.
Money may well come into it but if those men communicate for a living – whether they are actors, politicians or entrepreneurs – they’re likely to have charisma. Very few people succeed in life without it. (Sports stars are a notable exception, as they make it to the top through physical rather than intellectual skills.)
For the most part, charisma plays a role in success. And the voice plays a big role in charisma.
The power of an attractive voice: influential or just plain sexy?
There are distinct similarities between what’s attractive to clients and stakeholders and what makes you fall for someone romantically.
In a business setting a man’s attractive voice can express authority, gravitas and credibility. But it only takes a slight vocal tweak to convey intimacy, sexuality and passion instead. Such is the power of the voice…
So, as a society, what do we like about a man’s voice and what’s the difference between boardroom authority and bedroom appeal?
To answer this question, let’s look at the vocal qualities that everyone appreciates.
Low and lovely
Here’s the bottom line: we all like low-pitched voices. Whether we’re listening to a business contact or a male love interest, the depth of a man’s voice can have a significant impact on how we feel. And how we feel will determine how we act.
Listen to British chat show host/comedian Alan Carr.
Now compare him with actors Morgan Freeman and Matthew Macfadyen. Or even with Bill Mitchell, who has probably the best lager advertising voice in the world. (I’d buy beer from him and I don’t even drink beer.)
Even staunchly heterosexual men will be much more drawn to the deep male voices than the squeaky tones of Mr Carr (sorry Alan).
Manliness and the attractive voice
Our response to low voices is hard-wired in our genes, whether we are male or female.
Depth of voice is related to levels of testosterone – the hormone which makes men masculine. Our perception of ‘maleness’ is closely linked with physical strength, as it was useful in our evolutionary past to have a strong male leader who could slay sabre-tooth tigers with ease, fight off hordes of marauding cavemen, and carry back buffalo from the hunt. In other words, we needed a truly manly man in charge.
Those requirements are no longer fundamental today, of course, and no man needs to be Hercules to succeed in business or personal relationships. Despite this, our biologically-triggered response to the low voice has stuck.
Voting with our ears
Recent research shows that politicians with low voices are more likely to succeed. Not because they are stronger or fitter in this instance, but because the voice tends to drop with age and a deeper vocal sound has a more positive impact on the voting public.
People are more likely to elect politicians in their 40s and 50s, whose voices convey an optimum level of seniority and wisdom. Politicians in their 60s and above can start to sound as if their health is failing, and may come across as too old to lead.
This might interest Donald Trump, who has just turned 70. He would be the oldest US President ever to take office if he wins the election later this year.
Rich and reassuring
Meanwhile last year, on the other side of the Atlantic, a much younger politician, Ed Miliband, led the UK’s Labour party to an appalling general election defeat. His strangulated, congested sound was mocked by voters, and he resigned immediately on the day of his phenomenal failure.
Richness of tone is vital when it comes to the attractive voice. A rich voice often equates to a powerful person.
The gloriously rich and resonant voices of Sean Connery and Daniel Craig may have contributed to each of them being cast as James Bond. The world’s best known secret agent is always successful in missions and always gets the girl. His attractive voice a fundamental part of his appeal.
Melting and melodious
Speaking with an attractive voice involves using a wide range of vocal notes. The voice is a very fine musical instrument and can be used to evoke emotion. And emotion is what people act on. Even the toughest corporate executive follows his gut instinct when deciding whether he wants to do business with someone.
The world’s number two tennis seed, Andy Murray, is a powerful man in many senses of the word. He is loved by the British public as a great sporting hero, and was married last year after a 10 year courtship.
But if Andy were working in business or competing against others for the love of a good woman, his voice would not be his greatest asset by any means. None of the energy he shows on court comes through when he speaks. He sounds flat and monotonous, even at times of great joy such as winning a major tournament. This makes him vocally unengaging and would reduce his ability to influence in a workplace.
Compare his sound with that of the Welsh actor Richard Burton, who, more than 30 years after his death, is still considered to be one of Britain’s greatest voices. Rich, resonant, melodious and just beautiful.
From boardroom to bedroom
The low, rich, melodious voice is attractive in both boardroom and bedroom, but one more element adds blatant sex appeal.
Research reveals that women like their men to sound breathy. It seems that heterosexual women want partners who are large and low voiced, but not aggressive.
Adding breathiness into the voice reduces the perception of aggression and therefore makes a man more attractive. Pillow talk is hushed, and a man with an intimate bedroom voice can make the ladies swoon.
Although he’s not known for being a romantic hero, Clint Eastwood provides us with a great example of breathiness. He’s one of the ultimate tough guys, but he moderates his voice with breathy tones to appear calm, considered and reflective (usually while killing someone).
Oh and let’s not forget the guru of love himself, the large, husky singer, Mr Barry White.
To add a sexy breathiness to your voice (or to avoid it in a work situation) you can learn how to use your vocal cords properly. They need to be fully closed for a rich, resonant tone, and not quite closed for that come-to-bed sound.
Creating your own attractive voice
But what if you’re a medium-sized man with a middle-of-the-road voice? Don’t worry – all is not lost. There are ways and means to a richer, deeper voice.
Learning how to breathe more effectively, and using your abdominal muscles instead of your throat to pump out your sound, will create some amazing changes to the way you sound.
This is simple and natural, involving techniques which we all used as children but which, as adults, most of us have forgotten. The vast majority of my male clients find their voice drops naturally and turns more masculine and attractive after a very short while.
David Beckham is a point in question. He’s not a client (otherwise I couldn’t talk about him) but in 2008, for example, his voice was high-pitched and awkward. With significant voice training under his belt as well as football training, he now sounds very different – much lower, much more masculine.
But you don’t need to be a professional footballer to work on your voice. If Beckham can do it, you can. And by understanding how to use your bedroom voice and your boardroom voice at appropriate moments, you’ll certainly boost your chances of success – one way or the other.