"I hate the sound of my own voice!"
It’s the most common refrain we see online related to people doing their own transcribing, or their reason for paying someone else to do the transcription they’ve been putting off.
A number of articles have been written on the phenomenon known as ‘voice confrontation’ and I’ll dig out some nuggets from them later on, but first I’d like to throw my own anecdote in.
When I was a kid I had a very high pitched voice. As an 11 year old boy I was frequently annoyed when I’d answer the phone and be mistaken for my mum. Then one day, I was at my best friend’s house and his mum called upstairs to see if we wanted some lunch. When I called back down, she asked who was up there… I walked to the top of the stairs to show her it was me and her response made me so incredibly happy, “Oh Neil, I didn’t realise it was you, your voice is so deep now!”
Sure enough, I didn’t get mistaken for my mum on the phone anymore and I was overjoyed to have lost the squeaky voice I’d been landed with. I was a grown up!
Fast forward a few years to my mock GCSEs. My German oral test was done and the teacher rewound the tape to get it to the right point for the next pupil. When he played it back, I heard someone saying the exact same words that I’d just said, but they had a really high-pitched voice. “Who was that?” I asked, stupidly. “That was you, obviously,” came the reply.
My illusions were shattered. Why had my friend’s mum told me I had a deep voice when I still sounded like a tiny child? Why did I believe her? Why did my voice sound so deep inside my head when this is what came out of the front of my face?
Even now, when I’m recording the voicemail greeting on Transcription Centre’s phone number and I’m forced to listen back to it before I can accept it (or delete and re-record it about eight times) I am still surprised by quite how much I don’t sound right. This shouldn’t be a shock because I’m very old now.
The fact that I am not the only person in the world to experience the feeling of wanting to curl up into the foetal position and rock gently when hearing my own inane ramblings is part of what this transcription business is based on. Barely anyone can stand to listen to themselves blather on. Let’s have a look at what some clever people say about it.
The conventional wisdom on voice confrontation is the simple fact that when you hear yourself in your own head, it’s just that – in your head. The jawbone and skull are vibrating (remember the toothbrushes that play a tune through your teeth as you brush?) and therefore delivering deep and rich tones to your ears, but it’s only you hearing these tones. Everyone else just gets the air conducted version of the noise you’re making with your vocal chords – and that cuts out the lower frequencies. When you hear yourself on tape it’s what everyone else hears.
Imagine how Barry White sounded to himself.
A lot of our self-identity is wrapped up in how we sound. So there is a psychological shock when what we hear sounds like someone doing a weird impression of us.
There is another theory that compounds the tonal disappointment with a few more insecurities. In 1966 two psychologists called Phil Holzemann and Clyde Rousey concluded that the other reason we cringe at the sound of our own voice is that there are ‘extra-linguistic cues’ wrapped up in our speech which reveal more about us than we think we are conveying. Only when listening to yourself speak can you hear emotions such as indecision, sadness and anxiety. “The disruption and defensive experience are a response to a sudden confrontation with expressive qualities in the voice which the subject had not intended to express and which, until that moment, [s]he was not aware [s]he had expressed.” This explains why my voice sounded even worse to me for that three seconds of solid C grade German – I was nervous and awkward and both emotions are VERY clearly there to hear. Plus, I’m British so that’s pretty much our default setting on tape.
So you’re not alone if you hate the sound of your own voice – in fact you’re in the majority. You don’t have to listen to it though, because we’re here to save you. Transcription Centre can take care of your audio files – we’ll turn them into Word files and make you look good whilst saving you from turning yourself inside out. Your cringe muscles don’t need that workout.