In response to Hillary Clinton’s recent speeches, political observers called her voice “loud, flat, harassing to the ear” and said that she has a “grating pitch” and a “punishing tone.” This sparked a debate over whether or not she’s receiving unfair criticism because she’s a woman. Many people feel that she’s being held to a different standard than her male political counterparts.
As someone who has practical experience coaching professional speakers and has spent over 30 years in the theatre developing an expertise of the body-voice as an instrument that political commentators do not have, here’s my take…
Yes! Hillary is being held to a different standard than her male political counterparts.
Yes! Hillary has, at times, been “loud, flat, harassing to the ear” with a “grating pitch.”
So have Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and every single other candidate that’s currently running for office!
In fact, almost everyone in the Western world suffers from the same root cause. What root cause? We’re all speaking with instruments (our body-voices) that we’ve trained throughout our lives for suppression instead of expression. Most of our instruments are trying to suppress our emotions and our life force while communicating. When the instrument gets tired enough, it has an even harder time communicating. Hillary, and most of the other candidates still in the game, speaks using an instrument that’s inadequately trained and severely taxed. Most of the candidates are at least partially hoarse at this stage in the campaign. If the average person raised in the Western world were to run for office and campaign day after day with their poorly trained instruments, they too would most likely sound like Hillary, Bernie, Ted Cruz and others on the campaign trail.
Emotional armor is minimizing their impact.
(Watch this video for an illustration of emotional armor related to actress Ellen Pompeo)
This same phenomenon, habitual tensions, born out of years spent subconsciously training herself to speak with the voice of suppression rather than expression, is blocking the fullness of what lives inside of Hillary (and many other candidates) from reaching the world. All of the commentators are noticing the static – the excess tension and inefficient effort layered on top of losing her voice.
Passion + an impaired instrument = qualities such as strident, grating, abrasive, aggressive and unlikable.
In other words, Hillary is beating on a toy drum as hard as she can in the attempt to get it to play like a real drum.
Is criticism of Hillary’s speaking fair? Yes and no. Hillary is being held to a different standard than her male counterparts. However, that doesn’t mean that the criticism is without merit. The political commentators simply don’t know how to give constructive criticism about someone’s voice. Most of the world delivers feedback about the voices of others in a harmful way. It’s not constructive criticism. It’s useless criticism. If Hillary asked them, “What do you suggest I do instead?” they wouldn’t know how to answer her with any level of mastery. They simply know that they don’t like it as much when a woman tries to speak enthusiastically with a taxed instrument as they do when a man does.
Here’s some constructive criticism for Hillary, her male counterparts and every emerging Leader reading this: hire a voice coach. Learn to nourish your body with breath and support your voice with your core muscles rather than tensing your throat. This will nourish the sound of your voice – removing the static and allowing what lives inside of you to come across to others. This is not something that can be done in a day. There is no miracle cure. You’ll need to retrain your instrument to express in a nourished way so that it will know how to do that for you in the heightened moments you can’t yet see coming. In the end, training your body-voice to unleash your inner inspirational, resonant Leader would be time well spent.