Q. I heard you speak at the ACES summer program at the Universities at Shady Grove where you told the audience not to "talk like a girl" (which I found offensive!) I want to talk like me and, by the way, isn't that a sexist thing to say? Still, I just heard my voice on a video tape and I'm kinda worried that you may be right.
A. Thanks for calling me out on that expression. At first I wanted to defend how effective it was (I bet you knew what I meant: the sing-songy voice and the way certain people end a sentence with a cute little inflection.) But then a friend posted this You-Tube video and I realize it was a damaging expression. I had some truly harrowing experiences when i was a kid because I "threw like a girl" so it makes me cringe to think I participating in repeating words that are so undermining. My apologies.
That said, (whew), It truly concerns me when I hear people (yes, mostly young women) who talk in a voice that is little girl Saccharin-sweet and maybe even a little patronizing. For example, a person walks up to the office receptionist and says, "I'm here to apply for the job?" as if it's a question. It's not, it's a a declarative sentence and one the speaker should present with confidence. It's one thing if you teach kindergarten, but some of these women, and men, are business professionals who will have greater success if they convey a certain measure of power and poise.
There was a time, early in my business career, that I heard myself on a tape and it was a light bulb moment. I sounded like a squeeky mouse. I decided to lower my voice and speak slowly every time I answered the phone. Friends who called didn't recognize me (and told me I sounded a little scary. Good!) Gradually I was able to re-train my voice. I later learned Katie Couric did the same in her early television days.
BOTH men and women can have voices that annoy or convey the wrong message about their capability. Here is a fascinating piece about how employers look down on candidates with vocal fry (except if you are the host on NPR's This American Life). Academic research demonstrates that your voice makes has a huge impact on the overall impression you make.
So, my apologies for making it all about the Valley Girl but, like, applying dress for success lessons to your diction, tone, voice, and speech patterns will help you earn the respect of colleagues and more opportunity.