Those adept at the art of seduction will know how it works: a flick of the hair, a high-octave laugh and a gentle stroke of the arm can’t fail to get you noticed. But, this week, another bow has been added to cupid’s arsenal, with researchers finding that women, like their male counterparts, adopt a husky voice when flirting.
Turning the idea that men find higher-pitched – what some might call “more feminine” – voices on its head, psychologist Dr Katarzyna Pisanski, from the University of Sussex, has found that women in fact lower their timbre around people they are attracted to. Handy to know for those festive parties where you might meet your own Mark Darcy.
Yet, that’s not all that altering your voice and body language can achieve. For Margaret Thatcher, having coaching to make her so-called “shrill” speech firmer created a commanding presence. For you, at this time of year, thinking about your voice, gestures and responses can bring additional cheer, stop arguments and keep the kids under control - yes, really.
Here, vocal confidence specialist and actor Judith Quin, who runs coaching service Your Whole Voice, shares her advice on how to get through the rest of the festive period...
Snag a kiss under the mistletoe
Quin confirms that lowering your voice really works when it comes to seduction, because it has the affect of drawing people in. “They have to come closer – physically move in,” she explains, adding that you shouldn’t mumble. The most important trick, though, is to smile. “Smiling changes the tone of your voice and that’s key,” she says. “If you smile with your eyes and your mouth, you’ll smile with your voice, too.”
Inspire with your reading in Church
Stand up tall, open your mouth and project to the back of the congregation – but you know all that already. The way to make your words truly sing is to imbue them with meaning, says Quin. “Remember what you love about your reading and why it’s important to you. When you’re connected to the passion behind what you’re saying it gives you a different tone and energy.”
Fake enthusiasm for a Christmas present
As you tear off the wrapping paper with the family looking on, there’s always a slight fear that what lies beneath will be a massive let down. “Even I, as an actor, have difficulty with this one,” admits Quin. “Remember that someone has chosen it for you - and people generally don’t give you a present they expect you to hate.” Her advice if you are disappointed? Just say thank you. If you can manage a “Wow”, even better. There’s always the present drawer until next Christmas...
Get the children to listen to you
“Strangely enough, we come back to lowering your voice,” says Quin. That’s right: your flirting technique can also persuade the children to behave themselves. But given how excitable they are by the time Christmas Day has arrived, it’s best to be clear and concise with them. “It’s Mary Poppins: firm but kind,” explains Quin.
Command the dinner table
Once everyone has been seated, be the first to suggest that you all pull the crackers together, Quin advises. Put your hat on, whip out the joke and nail the punchline – more on that shortly. Now, you’re the one running the party. “Let other people have their say, too, because no one likes the person who hogs the conversation,” she adds. “Ask others questions and make sure everybody is included - even Aunt Maude at the end of the table.” Most importantly, take the lead on pouring the wine and make sure glasses stay filled.
Cracking your joke
Timing is key when it comes to getting giggles from a cheesy cracker joke; it’s all about the pause between the question and the punchline. “No matter how bad the joke is, say the answer as if it was the most obvious thing in the world and everyone should have known,” says Quin, before giving her own example. “What benefit does Santa Claus give his workers at Christmas?” Big pause. “Elf insurance.” Easy.
Cut through a family argument
“Run away!” Quin jokes. Or, intervene with some diversionary tactics to diffuse any rows threatening to boil over. Use one of the warring parties’ first names, make eye contact and, with a ‘stop’ hand gesture say something simple, such as “Simon, not now” or “Fran, can we talk about this later?”advises Quin. “Give them something fun to do, such as go outside or play a game,” she adds. “If in doubt, offer alcohol: ‘Drink anyone?’”
Mingle with intent
Your liver is crying out for a break and your brain is all out of wit. But it’s New Year’s Eve, the night that will set the tone for the next anum. So put your glad rags back on and bring your A-game. “Be positive,” says Quin. “Think of all the good things that happened last year and what you want to create next year. Appear interested in others and ask them questions. Small talk actually helps you make connections and find similarities. When you find the place where you’ve got something in common then the conversation becomes interesting.”