Do They Tune You Out?

I used to marvel at my brother. He had the most amazing super power; he had the power to “Ignore the irritating”.superman-149156_640

  • Criticism went right over John’s head.
  • The angrier women became, the more he could tune them out.
  • My mom’s voice did not register in John’s brain.

Years later, when he was married, this worked against him, but still, as a child who tensed every time I heard my mom’s vocal cords tighten, I envied John’s great ability to tune out.

One day, after another “mom’s orders” moment, I asked him “How do you do that?” “What?” he moved his riveted eye-balls from the TV to me. “Mom told you four times to take out the garbage and put your jacket away. You didn’t even hear her, did you?” “Meh, I never hear her. Mom’s voice is this squeaky noise. I just block it out.”

He turned back to the TV … and got yelled at by my dad later. Of course, John claimed “I never heard mom tell me anything.”

To John’s defense, my dad had the same super-power. He just cloaked it in “Yes dear” camouflage.

The workplace, life, relationships – look around. Chances are high that you are surrounded by men possessing the same super-power as my dad and my brother.

Example: “Wow! Bob told me (some earth shattering, life changing revelation) today. He’s right. Bob is so smart.” … (unamused look on your face) “Um … I’ve been telling you that exact same thing for the past, oh, 8 months.”

Guess what, ladies? This selective listening is not personal. It’s scientific!

Apparently some scientist (irritated woman, or man looking for a good alibi) noticed the phenomenon, and launched a whole study. Peer-reviewed scientific journal, NeuroImage, reveals that researchers at Sheffield university in Northern England discovered these finding: Men decipher female voices using the auditory part of the brain that processes music, while male voices engage a simpler mechanism.

“The female voice is actually more complex than the male voice, due to differences in the size and shape of the vocal cords and larynx between men and women, and also due to women having greater natural ‘melody’ in their voices. This causes a more complex range of sound frequencies than in a male voice.”  ~Michael Hunter, researcher

Imagine listening to a beautiful piece of music and a grating, unskilled violinist starts doing a high pitched solo. Can you hear it? Now picture a woman on a large stage … getting to the main point of her speech, raising her voice passionately, angry and frustrated at the problem, compelling us to see the need for the solution, going for impact … creating a wall.

Women have a unique challenge if we hope to break through the “great speaker” barrier. When we hit a certain vocal range, our words are lost. We become “squeaky noise”. Like an irritating song, our words shift into background until we “hit the right note”, “strike a chord” or “resonate” with our audience (puns ABSOLUTELY intended).

Have you had challenges getting men to listen to you, especially when you are upset?

When women tense up, our breathing becomes shallow, our neck, throat, larynx and jaw muscles, tighten and, instead of sounding resonant and powerful, we become squeaky and irritating… and men no longer hear our words. They just “tune us out.”

The next time you are about to speak on stage, in the boardroom … or to any boy or man in your life, do a sound check. If your voice is a few levels higher than normal, take these three steps:

  1. Move your shoulders back and down to open your chest and diaphragm.
  2. Balance your head effortlessly at the top of your neck, as though it were suspended above your body by a string from the sky. This will ease the muscles that influence the vibration of your vocal cords.
  3. Breathe. Let your belly expand, then then your chest as you breath in deeply through your nose. Let your belly collapse, then your chest as you breathe out through your mouth. Do that deep wave-like breathing two more times.

Now speak. Hear the difference?

I welcome your comments, stories, cheers, sighs of relief …