What role does voice play in attracting a partner?
Over the summer, Sandro Pehar was texting with a potential match on the dating app Hinge. After a few jovial exchanges, she gave him her phone number, and the first message Pehar sent off-app was a short voice memo describing a random ‘shower thought’ he had earlier that day.
“On these apps, it’s hard to gauge tone and to banter,” Pehar explains. “For me, banter is a large part of my personality.” He’s been sending audio messages to friends for a few years now, so it was natural for him to transfer the practise to dating apps. Bumble integrated audio notes into its messaging platform in April 2020. And in October 2021, Hinge added a voice prompts feature, allowing users to answer questions about themselves by recording 30-second audio messages.
Pehar says that most of his matches have been receptive to his voice messages. “It feels more authentic,” he explains. “We’re connecting as if we would in a conversation. They like hearing my voice. I like the playfulness of it.”
When he receives audio messages back from potential matches, Pehar sometimes feels more attracted to them. But the opposite also happens too. “There was one person who had this super whiny voice and I just couldn’t do it,” he says. “They sounded like a valley girl.”
For singles looking to shake up their online dating routine, incorporating audio interactions could be one way to do it. A survey from Hinge showed that 52 per cent of users say they can “learn more about a potential match through a voice message” while 65 per cent of users “believe hearing someone’s voice would help them determine interest in a match.”
Philip J. Monahan, an associate professor in the department of language studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the department of linguistics at the University of Toronto, says that we gain a surprising amount of information about someone from hearing their voice. “We’re quite good at assessing people’s ages from a voice alone and their physical size and race,” Monahan explains. “We can also tell their emotional state, if someone’s happy or upset.”
The pitch of someone’s voice also contributes to how attractive they’re perceived. “Males, in general, tend to find female voices that have a slightly higher pitch and are slightly breathier more attractive than female voices that are slightly lower in pitch,” says Monahan. “Women tend to prefer men with slightly lower voices.” But Monahan believes that this research, which is rooted in evolutionary psychology, is somewhat weak since the connections are correlational, as opposed to causal. “There could be other variables at play that are driving attractiveness,” he explains.
Most studies on voice and attraction are focused on cisgender, heterosexual women and men. But a 2019 study from Southwestern University in Chongqing found that “gay men who perceived themselves as more attractive showed a stronger preference for lower-pitched voices compared with self-perceived less attractive individuals.”
In the context of online dating, adding an audio clip to your profile or sending a voice memo during the initial days of messaging can help create a richer picture of your personality. “It’s hard to detect things like sarcasm, intonation and pitch fluctuations,” Monahan says. “A lot of the subtleties that would allow people to pick up on the fact that they are being jovial or joking in nature are lost in pure text communication. A lot of humour is based on timing, vocal inflections and intonation.”
Carolyn Thompson is a voice and performance coach based in Toronto and she says that she’s received four or five requests, mostly from straight men, for lessons on how to sound more attractive. Thompson offers no guarantees, but she does believe that practise can help. “When I have taught public speaking or singing, I’ve had my clients tell me ‘my husband or wife says my voice is so milky smooth,’” she explains.
Thompson’s first tip for improving your elocution is simple: open your mouth. “People have a tendency to speak through this little slit because their jaw is locked,” she says. The result is mumbled speech that makes it difficult to be understood. “They don’t realize how much tension they have in their voice,” explains Thompson. “The easiest way to relieve that tension is to open your mouth.”
Another suggestion is equally simple — to smile while you’re talking. Thompson says this helps to lift and brighten the sound of your voice. Her last tip is to slow down. “When we’re nervous, we ramble,” Thompson says. “Our brains are going a mile a minute.” It takes practise, which she says can be done at home in front of the mirror or with friends or family. “Don’t be afraid to take a breath to give you that moment, that little pause, to slow down.”
When it comes to recording a voice memo or an audio prompt for your dating profile, Hinge recommends users opt for a “single take,” since repeated attempts can sound jilted. “I compare it to when I’m recording my voicemail on my phone. I think ‘that first one was good, but let me see if I could do it better.’ And then 28 times later … ,” Thompson explains. She also thinks that pauses or stumbles over speech could help to better convey your personality. “For me, if something’s too perfect, I’m suspicious.” Regardless, it’s okay to feel a little awkward or nervous while recording your voice, if it’s not something you do often.
While it may be tempting to put on a Barry White or Scarlett Johansson to increase right-swipes on your dating profile, Thompson and Monahan both liken this to a form of vocal catfishing. “It’s just like if you gave the wrong picture or an older picture of you, and that picture isn’t accurate,” says Thompson. “When they see you, they’re going to realize that voice was put on because you’re not gonna be able to maintain it.”