When Having A Quiet Voice Hampers Your Social Success

One thing that can get in the way of your social success is when you have a soft or quiet speaking voice. Sure, not every soft-spoken person has a ton of problems, but all things being equal, you'll have a simpler time of things if your speaking voice is easy to understand. The same applies to similar issues like having a tendency to mumble, talk too quickly, or trail off. This article will cover the effects of having a quiet voice, the factors that can cause it, and what you can do if it affects you.

"Well, people are always asking me to repeat myself, but I'm sure I speak clearly"

One point to mention is that if several people have told you that you speak at too low a volume, then you do. Sometimes quiet talkers will get frustrated and say things like, "My voice is fine. Other people need to learn to listen." If only one person consistently asks you to repeat yourself, you could make a case that they just don't hear well. But if you're always being asked to speak up, then the culprit is your own style of speaking. From the outside in it's often hard to get a sense of what you sound like to other people. If you record your voice and play it back you'll get a better idea of what everyone else hears (your phone should have a Voice Memo feature you can use).

Immediate effects of having a quiet voice

If you're soft-spoken you've probably run into problems such as:

Longer-term effects of speaking quietly

Over a longer period of time talking quietly can have other negative effects:

Reasons people may speak in a quiet voice

A quiet voice may have a physical explanation. Many soft-spoken people will also tell you the issue is tied into feelings of shyness, poor self-confidence, and other psychological factors. A mix of the two is also common.

Physical reasons

Social or psychological reasons

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Ways to improve a quiet voice

It depends on what the cause is, but becoming less soft-spoken often involves a combination of learning the techniques to speak at a higher volume, along with addressing any underlying shyness and self-confidence issues. Working on one of these areas sometimes naturally overlaps with the other.

Address physical issues and learn to speak more loudly

Rule out physical causes

You may know for a fact your quiet voice is related to your shyness, but if you suspect a physical reason, it can't hurt consult your physician. They may refer you to an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor (a.k.a., an Otolaryngologist), who specializes in diagnosing and treating such conditions.

See a Speech Therapist

This is another option to consider. Speech therapists are trained to help people with a variety of speech production and voice problems.

Attend a class that will teach you to use your voice more effectively

People who talk quietly can usually learn to speak more loudly and clearly. There are a variety of places where you can be taught these skills. As a side effect, you'll likely get a chance to become comfortable being the center of attention in a safe, supportive environment. Some classes you could look into are:

Practice working with your voice on your own

You don't necessarily have to take classes or see a professional to improve the clarity of your voice. Here are some assorted things you can try by yourself:

Just get used to speaking at a higher volume

People who speak quietly often say it feels weird and uncomfortable to speak more loudly. They may feel like they're yelling inappropriately, or like they're straining their throat. Over time these concerns may disappear. Your body's vocal equipment will get used to generating more volume. You'll realize that while it might feel like you're yelling when you're speaking more loudly, it doesn't sound that way to everyone else.

Tackle any contributing shyness or confidence concerns


If you have broader problems with shyness and low self-confidence there's a whole section of this site devoted to those issues. Some of the articles are:

Getting Over Shyness
Common Worries Shy Or Insecure People Have
Overall Attitudes For Handling Anxiety
Observations On Becoming More Self-Confident
Cognitive Distortions And Socializing
Why You Should Process The Upsetting Memories That Fuel Your Social Anxiety And Insecurities

Check out the articles above for more details, but here's a quick summary of what addressing shyness involves:

Again, information on how to do all these things can be found on the rest of this site.

Face any fears you have of being in the spotlight

A key part of reducing shyness is to face your social fears, in a gradual, manageable way. Here are two general articles that describe how to do that:

Why It's Essential To Face Your Social Fears
How To Face Your Bigger Social Fears Gradually

If you have a quiet voice you may have specific mini-fears around speaking up or being the center of attention. That's something you can expose yourself to as well: