Unconscious voice changes can give away true deep emotions.

 
As my boyfriend and I were having a casual dinner at a quiet Chinese restaurant, my boyfriend (who later became my husband) was telling me about his day when suddenly his voice unintentionally changed in a subtle way. It became a little scratchy, deeper and lower pitched when he said: “I really enjoy being with you” and as he reached for my hand “I’m falling in love with you.” The changing tone of voice touched me intensely. It sounded really genuine and true, coming from deep inside. It was charged with emotion. The words that were said were important but as important was the voice carrying those words.

One reason I was so touched and that I believed the sincerity in my boyfriend’s voice is that 30 years of practicing medicine had thought me to pay as much attention to the tone of voice in which patients spoke as to the verbal meaning of their speech. I had informally learned what social psychologists and psychoacoustics specialists have discovered in the laboratory, that “paralingual” (non-language) vocalizations carry an enormous amount of crucial information about a speaker’s true emotions. In particular, I had learned that when patients abruptly lowered the volume and pitch of their voice while adding “scratchiness,” they were going to tell me some deep, possibly scary truth about themselves.

Originally Published on Psychology Today

© Dr. Chris Gilbert, MD, PhD

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