If I told you this was not written by ChatGPT, would you believe me? It wasn’t – and I pr0mise that eye’m telling u the trooooooooth.
If you need more proof, let me do an idiosyncratic 90-degree turn and tell you about whales (featuring a plethora of parentheticals), because for this Good Talk edition I was going to tell you a few things about ChatGPT… and then this happened:
Who’s Using Vocal Fry in the Ocean? Dolphins and Whaaaaales.
So stay tuned and I’ll share something on ChatGPT in a couple days, but I couldn’t miss this moment to talk about whales and vocal fry.
The TL;DR version of the article is this: turns out whales and dolphins emit sounds that are strikingly like what humans produce when in the midst of the much maligned habit of vocal fry.
The first skim of this article seems to validate vocal fry: “See? Whales and dolphins do it too! It’s natural.” But a deeper analysis would suggest otherwise.
And I chose this slightly picayune story as the sole topic of this edition of Good Talk because it illustrates an important theme I’m often helping clients recognize to improve as communicators:
If you encounter reductive, slightly arbitrary advice about communication, be skeptical.
Examples of that as it applies to the “pro/con” assessment of vocal fry might sound like these two ends of the spectrum: 1) vocal fry is totally fine and any critique is a biased attack on individuality; or 2) vocal fry is a nails-on-the-chalkboard career-ender and indicates lack of promotion potential.
I would offer what I hope is a more nuanced and liberating view. In its simplest explanation, vocal fry is speaking without sufficient breath support. The meager amount of air flowing past the vocal cords creates a vibration that’s a gravelly rumble rather than a robust, resonant ring in the room (to use more alliteration than ChatGPT ever would). Think of a car inching forward in fits and starts as it runs out of gas.
Vocal fry is a problematic habit because it results from a speaker using less of themselves to communicate. In the example of whales, the sounds they emit are close to the human pattern of vocal fry precisely because those marine mammals are in a setting in which they need to communicate with the absolute minimum amount of air possible. They utilize this capability for a good reason— so they can remain submerged longer.
Humans are in no such situation; air is practically the only thing anymore that’s totally free. It’s there for you, anytime you want it! Experience the freedom of indulging in all the air you want!
In fact if you want to—right now—take an ample breath and then read the longest sentence in this newsletter aloud. Hint: It’s the final sentence. (Take that ChatGPT! Would you give the reader a direct instruction to do an in-the-moment exercise? That refers to a sentence you haven’t even written yet? Maybe you would, actually.)
The next time you feel yourself sliding into a pattern of vocal fry, rather than allowing that to trigger either negative self-talk or righteous defensiveness, simply consider that you have more options than a whale in the fathoms below and enjoy the gift today has given you: as much air as you can possibly use, at any and every time you want it.