The Body Language of Voice: Use Your Voice to Your Advantage

September 16th, 2013

It's not just what you say, but how you say itA large portion of all human interaction is nonverbal, which is excellent news if you’ve mastered body language and conduct business exclusively face-to-face. The CIA’s The World Factbook reports that in 2011 there were 2.1 billion Internet users, 1.2 billion active landlines, and 6 billion mobile phones, and modern businesses are putting those connections to use. Now that digital communication has made the world smaller, our face-to-face meetings have largely been replaced by phone meetings, video chats and email.

So what’s a body language guru to do when all you have to go on is voice? Turns out there are plenty of adjustments you can make to the way you speak that can support – or detract from – your words.


My mother constantly barked, “Don’t slouch Jennifer!” She had a point: the way we carry our body affects not only our health, it also affects how people perceive us.

The way we sit or position our body has a massive effect on our breathing pattern, which in turn impacts how we speak. So sit up straight before you make that call – good posture radiates confidence all the way through the phone.


Our emotional state affects the pitch of our voice. When we’re excited or fearful, our vocal folds tighten and make the pitch of our voice higher. However, we tend to associate a low-pitched voice with authority, so if you’re trying to project a more commanding image, lower your voice a few steps. Voice pitch also exposes our mood; to make yourself sound happier on the phone, try smiling as you talk.

Tone and Inflection

Our word choice, delivery, and inflection constitute our tone of voice, an aspect crucial to accurately getting across your message. A curt, rough or forceful tone implies anger, while a soft, soothing and subtle tone of voice suggests delight or pleasure.

Inflection is the movement and melody of our voice, the highs and lows, and it signifies whether or not we’re interested in what we’re saying. Speaking in monotone indicates we have little or no interest in what we’re saying. Voice inflection, and the emphasis we put on certain words, can change the meaning of our sentences. So think ahead to the key points you’re addressing, and plan your tone and inflection around emphasizing those points.

If you’re in doubt as to how you sound or how you should sound, match your voice to the person you’re talking to. This doesn’t mean you should adopt a completely different accent; rather, make subtle, gradual adjustments by listening to the pitch, tone and inflection of the person on the other end of your phone call.

The reminders are simple, be mindful of your posture, answer the phone promptly, provide a sincere, welcoming and warm greeting, speak clearly, and please, don’t slouch. Sit up straight!

2 Responses to “The Body Language of Voice: Use Your Voice to Your Advantage”

  1. Great post, Jennifer! Since so many of us now do more than just chat, but hold important meetings and even pitch new business over the phone, it’s critical to be cognizant of how we sound and come across on the other end. Thanks for the reminders.

  2. […] Practice your speech and figure out the best way to deliver your jokes. Remember that tone, inflection, and body language can easily alter the meaning behind what you’re saying. […]

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