I can never accurately visualize how a person looks based on their voice. It never fails – I’ll be on a conference call with someone imagining how they look. Then, when I either meet them in person or find their LinkedIn profile, the face NEVER matches how I imagined them.

Hotties are Notties

Just recently I totally mis-visualized a phone colleague. For much of 2015 we were working on a project together exclusively via telephone. This lady was incredibly smart, totally on top of things, and an amazing professional. She was spectacular to work with and nothing could diminish how impressed I was with the work she was doing.

I eagerly anticipated each weekly status call. Not just because I knew she would have moved the project forward a considerable amount, but because of her voice. She had a voice made for phone sex. She could make a fortune operating an 900-number. Her voice was smokey and sultry. It brought back vivid memories of Kathleen Turner voicing Jessica Rabbit. But, the true kicker was her slight tinge of accent. She grew up in Georgia and had the slightest remnant of a Southern accent. “Ya’ll” just seemed to drip off her tongue like molasses. From her voice it’s no surprise that I envisioned a Southern belle version of Jessica Rabbit. Let me tell you, talking to her was a highlight of each week.


Finally, at the end of November I got to meet her. I was more excited for this meeting than I was for Thanksgiving (and I love Thanksgiving). Dressed in my workday finest, I headed for the conference room where we were going to meet. When I open the door I immediately surveyed the room trying to find this amazing Southern lady. Instead, there is only one person seated at the conference room table. And she looks like she’s about 80 years old. Blue hair. Easily weighs 300 lbs. Smells like a pack of Marlboros.  Yes, it was her. She was NOTHING like I imagined. She spent the first 30 minutes sharing her concern over leaving her cats home alone for two days.

The fantasy was ruined. Don’t get  me wrong, that surprise did nothing to change my opinion of her. She is fantastic to work with and I still really look forward to our project update calls. The only change is that now it’s a lot harder to picture Jessica Rabbit in a pair of Daisy Dukes when we talk.

Men Too

It’s not just women who were nothing like their phone voice. For over two years I was working on an implementation with a 3rd party vendor. The project lead was a great guy with a weak voice. While he was more than capable of coordinating the project, his voice left a lot to be desired. He sounded like puberty passed him by.  His voice was high pitched and sounded like it was being forced through a straw. Unlike Southern Jessica Rabbit, this guy gave off a wimpy, “sand kicked in his face at the beach” kind of vibe.

Of course, when it comes time to meet him, I discover that he is a 6′ 4″ tall, strapping lad with a chiseled jaw. The kind of guy who makes women swoon. Superman was my first thought. This guy was a living god, with the voice of a 10-year-old boy. I felt bad for the guy because he could have been God’s Gift to Women, but his voice would betray him every time.


The Moral

I guess ultimately I need to do a better job of not imagining the face that goes along with the voice. But it’s so much fun!

When listening to someone talk, do you create a picture of them in your mind? How is that working out for you? For me, it’s not good. Obviously not a strength of mine.