Ever since Boris Johnson became leader of the Conservative party in the UK, much has been made of his purported similarities to the American President, Donald Trump. Both men are seen to be “disrupters” within their parties. Both men have espoused a populist, anti-globalisation message to harness support among working class voters. And both men have led unruly personal lives.
While one can debate how closely these two men align beneath the surface, there’s one, less visible area where they are almost 100% in sync: their speaking styles. A voice analysis by the Vox Institute in Switzerland of the two men’s inaugural addresses as leaders revealed a remarkable similarity on nearly all aspects of speech, including things like tone, frequency, loudness, and intonation.
In particular, both men exhibited a pitch height (a term describing the perceptual ‘highness’ or ‘lowness’ of a pitch) that was well outside that considered optimal for the “perfect voice.” This is potentially significant, because pitch height is closely linked to perceptions of trust by the listener.
Boris Johnson was openly mocked for his lack of trust during the campaign. It didn’t end up hurting him in the polls. The same holds true for Trump, at least for now. But trust isn’t the only thing that is revealed through an acoustic analysis of speech communication. Other key leadership attributes – such as credibility, dynamism, competency and emotional engagement – are also conveyed through one’s voice.
Clearwater Advisers collaborates with The Vox Institute in our trademark Personal Presence Analysis diagnostic tool, which measures both the verbal – and non-verbal – aspects of stakeholder engagement. Anyone who has been in the corporate world will know that everyone has a different way of communicating. It is the subtle combination of your “Words, Music and Dance” that determines how the audience receive your message and how successful you are. Our diagnostic tool scores the “Music and Dance” elements of emotional expression and body language to show you how you are perceived by others and highlight the areas that can be improved.
The science suggests that both Trump and Boris are vulnerable, in the long run, to being undermined by their own voices. This may not catch up with them during their time in office. But business people stick around a lot longer, so there’s a lot more riding on getting your tone right.
How trustworthy do you sound?