We’ve all seen those clips in movies in which a man, nervous about making a good impression on a first date, practices saying “hello” in a thousand different ways in front of the mirror. In fact, most of us have probably done a version of that scene ourselves, though we’d never admit it, because the truth is that the tone in which you say this word really does matter.
According to Albert Mehrabian‘s infamous 7-38-55 Rule of Personal Communication, 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words spoken. And since research has previously shown that people draw major conclusions on how likable, competent, and trustworthy you are within just the first seven seconds of meeting you, the way you say “Hello” can have a huge impact on how you come across at an initial introduction.
Now, researchers from the CNRS, the ENS, and Aix-Marseille University have developed a computer program called CLEESE (which is available for free here) that can shed more specifics on the mental image that someone gets when you first speak. The machine took a recording of the word “Bonjour” and automatically generated thousands of alternative pronunciations of the word. The researchers then asked participants to listen to these variations and analyzed their reactions.
What they found was that when the pitch rose quickly at the end of the word, it inspired trust. When it had a descending pitch, placing emphasis on the second syllable, however, it sounded more determined.
These results are in keeping with a previous, very similar UK study on the word “Hello.” Researchers recruited 60 undergraduate students—half of them male and the other half female—and asked them to recite a short passage in their normal voice on the phone. The researchers then cut down the recordings, leaving only the part where they said “Hello” as they picked up the phone. They then asked 300 other students to listen to the recordings and evaluate how friendly or trustworthy the person sounded based purely on the way they said “Hello” on the phone.
What they found was that people seemed to have no problem forming an opinion of someone based on just these two syllables, and, in general, their impressions converged as follows:
“Men who raised the tone of their voices, and women who alternated the pitch of their voices were rated as more trustworthy. Men with lower pitched voices were generally perceived as more dominant. But the opposite was true for women: Those with higher average pitch were rated as more dominant.”
So if you want to come across as trustworthy and friendly, it seems that the consensus for both men and women is to maintain an ascending pitch, which is a good thing to keep in mind for that next date! And for more tips on how to make good impressions, find out how to Read Your Partner’s Mind with These 10 Body Language Tells.
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