Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Positive Effects of the Human Voice

 Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.
Maya Angelou

Has this ever happened to you?  The other day I encountered a problem that I simply could not solve on my own.  Feeling lost and frustrated, like many people these days my first response was to post my issue up online, sending a general call out for help and advice.  People responded, and within minutes I was sorting through various well-intentioned ideas and information.  Many of the answers and attempts to help me  made perfect sense, yet there was something still bothering me.  Why?
   One of the helpful friends who responded wanted to share some problem solving tips she learned from a website she had come across.  But she did something different than everybody else.  Instead of just posting a link up or emailing it to me, she sent me her number and the best time to reach her by phone.  At first, I was taken off guard.  I went over it in my mind, and in the recent history I could not recall even one person who had shared their phone number with me with instructions about when to call.  I am a friendly and personable person in life and online, yet phone conversations had somehow slipped away from me.  It seemed to me that many people have abandoned auditory communication in favor of email, texting, and message boards for their ease and efficiency.   Feeling intrigued and almost nostalgic, I dialed the number, not really sure what to expect. 
   "Hi Elana, how are you?"  The sentence had barely been spoken, and already begun to feel my stress levels decrease.  They continued to lower throughout the conversation, as she told me her potential solution to my problem and what links to go to to find out more information.  By the time I hung up the phone I was smiling and feeling peaceful.   Why did this simple exchange of ideas have such a strong impact on me?
   According to a recent article on the WIRED blog, the human voice could have benefits that go much deeper than merely relaying information.  The article tells of a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin where girls were exposed to an intellectually stressful situation in a laboratory setting, and then given the opportunity to communicate with their mothers, either in person, by phone, or via instant message.  Those who were exposed to the comforting voice in person and over the phone, showed a decrease in their stress hormone cortisol, as well as an increase in oxytocin, a hormone linked to pleasure.  The levels of those who communicated via chat showed no noticeable difference.  According to the study there maybe other non-chemical benefits as well.  The ability to detect emotion and intonation, to hear and acknowledge stress; these are all lost on the written page.  This would explain why my friends' online advice, however well-intentioned, had seemed to come up short.
   The potential psychological benefits of the human voice should be considered in marketing as well.  While it is possible to serve your clients online alone, the addition of the human voice element could give your company the edge it needs to send it to high levels of excellence.   When customers feel that not only are their base needs met but exceeded, new levels of trust in the working relationship can be formed and there is no lid on the potential places your company can go from there.
Citation: "Power of Mom's Voice Silenced By Instant Messages" by Brandon Keim, Wired Science, January 5th, 2012
You can reach Elana with questions and feedback at

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