Bueller and Batman: Monotone Voices and Personality Type

For some, speech is like a symphony, characterized by melodic shifts and sudden swells, their voice an instrument for conveying feeling as much as meaning. Others, however, have a more matter-of-fact – even monotonous – take on language, as demonstrated to hilarious effect by actor Ben Stein in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

There may be many reasons why we choose to vary our vocal tone or to keep it steady in certain situations – like hyping up a crowd for a show versus keeping a crowd calm in an emergency. Although we usually associate a monotone voice with dullness, sometimes it is intended to convey strength, authority, and power.

Consider the current trend among many male actors in leading roles to speak in a quiet monotone, mumbling or whispering their way through their lines in an effort to restrain their expressiveness and thus appear strong or even threatening. (Christian Bale’s monotone Batman growl, anyone?) 

Regardless of our intentions in specific circumstances, what can our personality type tell us about how we naturally speak most of the time? To explore this question, we asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “Your tone and pitch of voice do not vary much during conversations.” Just 36% agreed overall, indicating that most of us use a variety of tones, pitches, and registers on a day-to-day basis. There were a few personality traits that stood out, though, especially those that determine our Strategies.

Which personalities have the most unvarying voices? We take a look below.

Roles

Analysts, Sentinels, and Explorers (38%, 38%, and 36% agreeing)

Although most members of these three Roles disagreed with our statement, those who agreed did so in roughly equal proportions. The Thinking, Observant, and Judging personality traits all corresponded to slightly higher agreement in this survey, suggesting that Analysts, Sentinels, and Explorers alike tend to view conversation more pragmatically, rather than as a vehicle for emotions or as an art form unto itself.

Analysts, as Thinking personalities, are cerebral types who tend to filter out their emotions as they consider the world around them, and that emotional distance can sometimes come through in the way they speak, making them sound more monotone during conversations. Since Analysts often like to be in charge, they may also find themselves relying on a measured, restrained tone of voice to convey authority.

Sentinels, on the other hand, are stabilizers. They seek to create order and stability wherever they go, so it makes sense that their voices would naturally reflect a sense of calmness and reassurance. A steady voice is a sign of their Judging personality trait taking over, focusing on the facts and keeping things running smoothly.

Explorers, as Prospecting personalities, are somewhat more flexible and adaptable, which likely accounts for their slightly lower agreement. But as Observant types, they share with Sentinels a pragmatic, straightforward approach to conversations, which sometimes results in a voice that can sound even and monotonous. 

Diplomats (31%)

Diplomats agreed at a notably lower rate. How something is said, for Diplomats, may be equally important as what is said, and as such, they may infuse conversations with shades of meaning simply by changing their vocal pitch. As Intuitive, Feeling personalities, Diplomats are highly creative and more comfortable with expressing their feelings through their voices. They’re also good at reading other people’s emotions and apt to vary their voice based on what a conversation partner needs in a given moment.

Strategies

Confident Individualism (46% agreeing)

We saw more variation in the responses of the Strategies, with Introverts agreeing at rate 7% higher than Extraverts and Assertive personalities agreeing at a rate 6% higher than Turbulent personalities. This put Confident Individualists at the top of the results.

Preferring to do things on their own and confident in their own strengths, Confident Individualists don’t feel much need to vary their tone or pitch of voice simply to please others or make a point. They generally believe that their actions will speak louder than any words, much less any inflection. If a Confident Individualist’s voice naturally tends toward monotone, well, that’s just their voice, and they’re content to keep it that way.

Of all the personality types, Assertive Logicians (INTP-A) agreed with our statement the most (50%). As Introverted Analysts, Logicians live in their heads, always working through new ideas or having internal debates with themselves. This often makes them look distracted or detached and could easily extend to a monotonous-sounding voice. Since they tend not to think about emotional considerations, they may not even be aware of just how monotone they sound. But Logicians, especially Assertive ones, generally don’t see this as a problem – it’s just their style, and others can learn to get used to it.

As an example, think of the character Abed from the television comedy Community. An Assertive Logician personality type and an avid filmmaker, Abed is a keen observer of the people around him. You can always see the wheels turning in his head, but his watchful eye, monotone voice, blunt honesty, and apparent lack of emotion make him an oddball in the group and even unnerving to some characters. Yet Abed is comfortable with who he is, a Confident Individualist with no interest in changing his behavior to suit others.

Constant Improvement and People Mastery (35% and 34%)

With their opposing Introverted–Turbulent and Extraverted–Assertive personality traits, Constant Improvers and People Masters fell in the middle in this survey. The Introverted Constant Improvers who agreed that they don’t vary their tone and pitch of voice much in conversations may avoid doing so because of their preference for calm, quiet environments. Assertive People Masters are confident in their communication skills, regardless of whether they vary their voice or speak in steadier tones.

Social Engagement (30%)

Social Engagers proved to be the personality types who vary their tone and pitch of voice the most. As Extraverts, Social Engagers tend to be more animated, physically and vocally – getting other people excited energizes them. As Turbulent personalities, Social Engagers also tend to experience a wide range of emotions, and varied vocal tones may simply go hand-in-hand with fluctuating feelings.

Turbulent Campaigners (ENFP-T) agreed with our statement the least (26%), indicating that they vary their voices more than other personality types. Campaigners – especially Turbulent ones – tend to wear their emotions on their sleeve, making no effort to conceal their enthusiasm for a new project or their disgust over some injustice. These Extraverted Diplomats are nothing if not passionate, and their energy and passion naturally come through in their voices as they seek to inspire and motivate others.

The character Michael Scott from the television comedy The Office is a great example of a Turbulent Campaigner and Social Engager who is always trying to inspire and motivate his employees, often by way of goofy voices and jokes, animated gestures and behavior, and over-the-top enthusiasm for (usually bad) ideas. As much as he tries to exude confidence, his self-esteem is actually quite delicate, and he cares a great deal what other people think of him. As a result, he tries too hard to be exciting and likable, and it’s in those failed attempts that the show draws much of its humor and it’s relatable feeling of awkwardness. But even when Campaigners like Michael Scott fall flat, they never stay down for long.

Conclusions

Although the majority of our readers indicated that they do vary their tone and pitch of voice during conversations, the minority who disagreed are naturally influenced by certain tendencies inherent in their personality traits. This is especially true of individuals with the Introverted, Thinking, and Assertive traits.

Whether it’s a preference for calmness and security in their environment, a tendency to set emotion aside and get wrapped up in logical thinking, or a strong sense of personal confidence, personality types like Analysts, Sentinels, and Confident Individualists are more likely to speak in steady, even tones, to the point that some would call their speech monotonous.

As strange or annoying as a monotone voice may seem to personality types who are more vocally expressive, they must recognize and appreciate that people who speak this way are no less intelligent or interesting, and their communication and emotions aren’t any less valid. A better understanding of these personality-driven tendencies can help us better relate to those who approach speech and language differently than we do.

What about you? Do you see any parallels between your own vocal style and your personality type? Be sure to tell us in the comments below!

You can see the full set of data, including correlation coefficients, in the Academy. Please also consider participating in our Member Surveys!

1 week ago
I think I tend to speak smoothly and more monotone usually, unless I’m really passionate about a subject or excited about something. Then I add more inflections to my voice. As a 4 and 5 grade, my mom also worked with me on public speaking, teaching me to add inflections to my voice. That also contributed to the way I talk now. (ISTJ-A)
3 weeks ago
I think it depends. As INTJ-T, I like to make a situation "work"; so I sometimes talk melodic, and I maybe even exaggerate. However as Introvert, I must put a pressure on myself to do that. Otherwise I have a tendency to talk with low and monotone voice.
4 weeks ago
My voice is changing a lot... I mean, sometimes I am talking melodic and sometimes monotonous. It depends on the context.
1 month ago
The voice variance question was hard for me to answer. Since I’m very introverted my voice always comes out quieter than I wanted it to be and I mumble. I think the amount of what I speak that is understandable seems to vary as much as most people around me in different situations. I think I’d be a hard question for anyone to answer because we don’t pay attention every time we speak to hear how much our voice changes.
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