A Person’s Inner Life: What Their Voice Can (And Can’t) Tell You

For many people, emotion is carried in the voice. The voice quivers right before we begin to cry, and it’s hard to hide the tension of anger by just speaking softly. Even fatigue shows up in speech.

But that doesn’t mean that all emotions are easily discernible from how a person sounds. Severe depression, for example, can be hidden from friends and family, yet be serious enough for that person to seek therapy or counseling. Many people put up a false front, concealing their pain from others. It’s important to not only pay attention to the behavior of those around us, but to reach out and ask, “How are you doing?” even if everything seems OK. It might not be.

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • josh

    josh

    January 7th, 2011 at 2:51 AM

    there is a whole lot that a person’s voice can tell us about him,about what is the person’s state of mind right now,and many other things…I believe this and so do many other people…

    but as you have mentioned,it is not always perfect and there may be times when the other person is an expert in the same and may well be masking his true voice…?!

  • veronica

    veronica

    January 7th, 2011 at 5:30 AM

    Sometimes just asking a simple question like how are you doing will let someone know that you care and that will allow them to feel free to unburden themselves if there is something going on that they want to talk about. There are those who are masters at getting someone to talk and for the rest of us we just kind of struggle a little with that. But to be the kind of people that we need to be we have to be a little more willing to engage others and to help them know that it is ok to talk to us and to let us help them with something that they could be going through. There are many of us who just need that little bit of a push, a little encouragement, and then the emotions can really come out.

  • Colin

    Colin

    January 7th, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    Interesting article! When I’m very tired I stumble over sentences and lose my train of thought easily. When fatigue gets to that stage, I give in and go take a nap. I’m simply not being productive anyway. My wife listens out for it and sends me to bed. :)

  • Wendy

    Wendy

    January 7th, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    When I’m depressed, my speech becomes almost robotic according to my husband. That’s a sign you guys can watch out for if you’re concerned about a loved one. I also become less communicative. Normally I’m chatty and that dwindles away. Please do consider therapy for them or yourself if any of this raises a red flag.

  • Amber

    Amber

    January 7th, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    I’m a quiverer for sure. My voice always gives me away when I’m emotional despite my words saying different. It’s a kneejerk reaction to respond to “How are you?” with “fine”. An ex of mine told me once that when people ask that they don’t actually want to know: it’s just a way to be polite and acknowledge their presence there.

  • Victoria

    Victoria

    January 8th, 2011 at 7:14 PM

    Very true. And don’t forget when you ask “how are you doing?” to actually listen to the answer carefully. Even if they say fine you can still pick up on tonal quality. If I feel a friend has something they want to talk about, I’ll gently prod them with a “are you sure?” to see what happens. If they still say yes, I let it be. They will talk to me when they are ready.

  • Neil

    Neil

    January 8th, 2011 at 9:56 PM

    My voice gets hoarse when I’m a big ball of stress. Don’t ask me why but it does. I’ve been like that since I was a child, so there’s no hiding it from family members. Exams, first dates,interviews, you name it: I was the guy croaking like a frog.

    @Amber: I don’t think what your ex said is true. When I ask, I’m interested in the answer or I wouldn’t have asked.

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