Trying to act confident when you’re intimidated? Your voice gives it away

How you talk during a job interview reflects how dominant you feel they are.
How you talk during a job interview reflects how dominant you feel they are. Creative Commons

Keeping your cool during an interview for a job you really want can be difficult. But you may subconsciously be giving away how confident you are by the way your voice sounds when you speak to an interviewer.

A new study published in PLOS ONE examined the tone of voice people used to talk to others they viewed as high status or dominant. In an interview setting, people used a higher-pitched voice when being interviewed by someone they thought of as high status.

“Men and women might speak with higher-pitched voices towards high status people because a low-pitched voice sounds dominant, particularly in men, while a high-pitched voice sounds relatively submissive,” wrote researchers Viktoria Mileva and Juan David Leongomez in The Conversation. “Using a high-pitched voice would signal to an employer that the interviewee is not a threat, and may serve to avoid confrontations.”

Researchers said that high status can be attained one of two ways: Either through dominance, which requires force and intimidation, or through prestige, which requires knowledge and skills.

The researchers found that there was likely a relationship between the way people perceive their own social status and how they treat other people. Those who feel more dominant aren’t concerned with other people’s dominance, so they don’t alter the way they talk.

“At the same time, the more prestigious you feel the more calm and relaxed you may be, which may be why people started looking up to you in the first place,” the researchers wrote.

When people were being interviewed by someone they viewed as “neutral,” or not dominant, their voice intonation did not change. According to Mileva, perceptions of social status impact almost every human interaction we have.

“These changes in our speech may be conscious or unconscious but voice characteristics appear to be an important way to communicate social status,” Mileva said. “We found both men and women alter their pitch in response to people they think are dominant and prestigious.”