by Morey Stettner
In my 20 years as a speech coach, I’ve heard many otherwise confident people tell me, “I hate my voice.” They’re convinced that their accents work against them or a nasally twang undermines their authority.
Repeatedly, I assure them that they sound fine. Then I warn that they’re sabotaging themselves by acting as their own worst enemy. For many adults, self-criticism is like air. We inhale it constantly. It gives us life. Yet there’s this troublesome truth lurking beneath the surface: We dwell too much on what others think of us.
Don’t believe me? Consider a psychological study conducted at Cornell University. Researchers asked some volunteers to wear T-shirts with a huge photo of Barry Manilow. The subjects then walked into a room filled with their peers.
While half of the shirt wearers admitted feeling self-conscious donning the Manilow shirt, researchers found that only 20 percent of the people in the room even noticed it. The results indicate that we’re far more aware (and embarrassed by) what we perceive as our gaffes or failings than others.
Taking this a step further, you can safely conclude that just because you’re mortified by your “bad hair day” doesn’t mean anyone else cares. Even if they’re staring at you while appearing disappointed or distracted, your hairstyle may be the last thing on their mind.
The Barry Manilow shirt experiment should lead you to rejoice. You’re free to cut yourself some slack! You can silence your inner critic and stop fretting about seeking others’ approval.
As much as you may dislike the sound of your voice, who asked you? The real test is whether you communicate well with others—and whether they understand you and respond appropriately to you.