The fourth step to brain mastery comes straight out of science fiction. In his classic sci-fi novel Dune, Frank Herbert shows us a powerful family communicating their intent with secret hand signals and controlling less dominant individuals with the Voice, a mysterious way of speaking that bends others to their will.
Here’s the surprising truth: you can do something like this with your own voice, in real life. By working on two things – changing the unconscious leadership dialogue you have with yourself, and finding and releasing your leadership voice – you can increase your leadership capability enormously.
Researchers have known for a long time that when we speak we put out low frequency sounds that we’re not aware of – consciously. They assumed that these noises were meaningless byproducts of our vocal chords as we communicate with one another and shout at passing cars and other annoyances.
They were wrong. Those sounds are not only meaningful, but they determine who’s in charge.
The Secret Sounds that Run Your Life
Every sound produced by a human – or a musical instrument, or an animal, or a machine – has an aural ‘fingerprint’ that you can measure by charting its frequency responses in units of sound called ‘hertz’. We humans can hear sounds ranging roughly from 20 hertz at the low end to 20,000 hertz at the upper end. Anything at about 300 hertz or lower sounds to us like a low bass note, or as they go lower, not like notes at all, but rather like rumbles of thunder, say.
Sounds are not pure emissions of one note at one frequency. The quality of a sound – the difference between your mother-in-law’s voice, for example, and a chain saw — is determined by the overtones and undertones that the sound produces. A sound gets its quality from the number of over-and undertones, as well as the intensity of them.
Very broadly speaking, we like sounds that are rich in overtones and undertones. The ‘thinner’ a sound is, the more likely we are to find it irritating, on the whole. There’s a wide individual variation in the kinds of sounds we find appealing, but on the whole, for example, a thin, nasal voice is less appealing to us than a rich, resonant voice.
And here’s the amazing part: people who put out the right kind of sounds – below the range of human hearing – become the leaders of most groups.
So what are these low frequency sounds we all emit – and of which we’re not aware? Sociologist Stanford Gregory of Kent State University decided to pay attention to them by studying them a bit more closely. What he found was extraordinary.
Who’s Really in Charge Here?
Working with colleague Stephen Webster, Gregory studied interviews on the Larry King Live show and tapes of British politicians and former U.S. presidents. Why this particular grouping of people? Because the issue of power and deference is bound to come up when high-status individuals are involved, and Gregory had a hunch that these mysterious sounds might be involved.
Gregory and Webster found that in conversations and meetings, people rapidly match each other’s low-frequency sounds.
In order to have a productive conversation or meeting, we need to literally be on the same wavelength.
The researchers also found that lower-status people match the higher-status people in the room.
You might expect that everyone would meet in the middle, but that was not the case. When Larry King was interviewing someone of very high status, he matched the high-status individual’s tones. When the interviewee was low status, he or she would match Larry King. The quickest to match Larry was Dan Quayle, presumably someone who had good reason to be deferential.
We not only want to be on the same wavelength, but we want to know who’s in charge.
How We Pick Sides
The point is that there is an unconscious element to the voice that is literally beyond our ken.
What happens first? And what are the criteria? Gregory and Webster’s research indicates that the initial process happens quickly, in the first few minutes of the conversation. We get together, we start talking, and in a couple of minutes, we’ve unconsciously picked a leader and lined up behind him or her.
So it’s hardly the case that much conscious thought has gone into determining who should be top dog. Rather, an important part of our relationships to others is determined, at least in part, unconsciously, and with incredible speed.
The good news is that you can learn how to increase your production of these secret influencers in order to make sure that you are the leader of any group you want to control. You can gain mastery of others by using your voice to influence them unconsciously.
More on how to accomplish this feat in a future post.