Oh: Vocal Fry – what’s that?? This is a speech phenomenon of young American Women on TV reality and drama shows. The ends of sentences are ‘growled’ rather than spoken. It is a mannerism that annoys some people and unites others!
It is a mannerism being discussed on National TV , as well as quality newspapers. Even the distinguished feminist and political advisor, Naomi Wolf has commented on this vocal pattern.
Naomi Wolf has made a very interesting point, namely that it appears that young women in the States are adopting this vocal style, and she was concerned that middle aged men, who are more likely to be decision makers, find this vocal mannerism, very annoying. Apparently young women also speak very quickly; failing to listen and preventing anyone interrupting them. Although, I have to say that I have come across many people from other demographic groups who suffer from this!
Here is a short video about ‘Vocal Fry’.
There are a few very interesting points to be made about ‘Vocal Fry’ and also the way young women speak. According to linguistic experts, young women influence change in language and styles of speaking more than any other demographic. There have always been vocal styles for young women: the “Valley Girl” with the ‘uptalk’ (every sentence ending sounding as though it is a question), or the ‘Dolly Bird’ high girly voice that was favoured in the 1960s.
I fully understand why young women should be tempted to adopt a style of speaking that identifies you with a tribe. It makes you feel more confident. And speaking up in your first job, or when you are in a seminar at university can be really scary. I remember I would speak really quietly or adopt a very high pitched girly voice. But of course, being aware of how you speak, and how you come across to others – particularly if you annoy others – is an invaluable skill. Here are my top tips to developing your own voice, and one that people will listen to and not be annoyed by.
- Ask trusted friends to give you feedback on how you speak.
- Prepare what you are going to say before a meeting, to give you more confidence.
- Challenge yourself with a target of the number of times you speak in a meeting
- Take your time; remember speaking isn’t a race!
- Being a good communicator is about listening as well as speaking, so don’t feel you HAVE to speak even when there is silence!
- There is no harm in speaking more slowly – it is likely people will be able to tune into you more effectively and listen to what you are saying.
And one point to those of us who are older (like me): we should support young women – and men, to speak up in meetings so they can gain confidence and develop their speaking skills. If you or your young colleagues need some training in this area, why not purchase the Executive Voice Speak to engage Online Course, with some great exercises on how to speak clearly.