It's always unsettling to hear your own voice.
Whether it's higher than you thought it was, more nasally, or simply not at all like it sounds to your own ear, it's easy to find yourself harshly judging the way you sound on recordings.
This insecurity isn't totally unfounded, either.
The sound of your voice really does have a huge impact on how people around you make judgments about your potential and competence, and certain styles of speaking have demonstrable effects on perceptions of confidence or leadership abilities.
But before we get into the nitty-gritty of how you can use your voice to succeed, it's important to understand why our voices sound so different to us in the first place.
The science behind how you hear yourself speak
When you hear yourself speak in your day-to-day life, you hear your voice through a different medium than you hear the voices of others.
That's why hearing your voice played back to you on a recorded video or voicemail message can be so startling.
When someone speaks to you, their voice travels through your outer ear, ear canal, and eardrum before you perceive the sound.
When you speak, however, the sound waves that you propel into the air will not only cause your eardrum to vibrate, but other parts of your body as well.
Movement from your vocal cords travels through your body when you speak--and because lower-pitched tones travel through the body more easily than they pass through the air, you hear your voice as more rich and resonant than others will perceive it to be.
How your voice affects the way people see you
Considering the wealth of evidence that suggests listeners respond more strongly to the way you speak rather than the words you actually say, it's important to be aware of how your voice sounds to others.
In fact, recent research from Quantified Impressions, a communications analytics company, demonstrated that the "voice quality" of a speaker was worth more than twice as much as the content of the speaker's message.
Tone of voice is so important that hiring managers at some companies have begun taking into consideration the voices of applicants when choosing who to hire!
Experts have identified a few specific vocal habits that tend to irritate listeners.
The first is vocal fry, or the tendency to lower one's voice to the point of sounding creaky or gravelly.
The second is "uptalk," where the speaker ends each sentence with an upwards inflection that would ordinarily suggest that the statement is a question.
The last is volume control, and this one is pretty obvious: if you are speaking in a whisper or a booming roar, people will have to go to great lengths to either discern what you're saying or protect their own eardrums.
Train yourself how to speak
Fortunately, you have a lot of power over the way you speak. After all, it is your own voice. Here are a few simple exercises you can do to transform how others hear you.
The first (and most important) thing you can do is make a recording of yourself speaking.
This is the easiest and best way to find out how your voice sounds to the rest of the world.
If you add video to your sound recording, you'll also be able to analyze your body language, which is crucial, considering that most of our communications with others are nonverbal.
It will be even more helpful to record yourself speaking a wide range of sounds, pitches, and emotions.
Some people particularly dislike the quality of their voice when expressing anger, grief, or other stressful emotions, as these sentiments can cause the voice to tremble or quiver.
A second exercise you can try is speaking from different places in your body.
Speaking from your diaphragm will make your speech fuller and less breathy, while speaking from your throat will remedy a squeaky or nasally voice in short order.
The third vocal training hack is simple: stay hydrated! If you drink enough water, your vocal cords will stay limber, and you won't need to clear your throat as often.
Finally, just as an athlete requires regular exercise to stay fit, your vocal cords need frequent workouts to maintain peak performance.
There are a huge variety of vocal exercises to try, but lip trills and deep breathing routines are a great place to start.
These tricks will help you regain control over the way others perceive you, and stop you from flinching the next time you hear your own voice.