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Alright mate, how’s it goin’? 79% of UK men change their voices when talking to tradespeople

We all know someone who turns into Del Boy as soon as the builders are around or the plumber has come to check the pipes. Well, it turns out 79% of men in the UK admit to changing their voice when talking to tradespeople!

After seeing countless TikToks and even comedian Ricky Gervais taking a shot at the topic in his new Netflix special – not to mention some of the hilarious forums on the matter – we decided to take a deeper look into this unusual mimicry behaviour to find out who really does it and more importantly, why.

We surveyed 2,000 Brits aged 18 to 65 and uncovered a whole host of insights into the British public’s quirky habits when tradespeople are around. 

So, who are the culprits? 

Of those who admitted to changing their voice, it was discovered that 79% of men are guilty of doing so, whereas just two thirds of women (65%) said they change their voice around their builder. 

Interestingly, both men and women had different reasons as to why they subconsciously, or choose, to change their voices. Almost nine in 10 men (87%) shared that they change their accent to sound less formal and a staggering four in five men (78%) and almost all women (89%) believe it will help them to appear trusting and more likeable, hopefully leading to the hired tradesperson working to a higher standard.

Now, these may be some of the reasons according to the voice-altering Brits, but science has its own reason, known as ‘The Chameleon Effect’.* The Chameleon Effect is a scientific term for why we mimic the voice of people around us. It is an evolutionary survival tactic, where someone sees another doing a task that they can’t do, and mimics them in an attempt to gain insight into completing the task for themselves. 

With science proving that we do this in a bid to fit in, it’s no surprise that the majority of men (83%) admit they pretend to know ‘industry’ phrases and technical terms used by tradespeople whilst around them. However, it appears that this isn’t as prominent in women, with just over one in six (18%) ladies sharing they have done this. Despite all of this, still a staggering 72% of Brits said they’re not bothered by the technical side of what needs doing, as their main interest is getting the job completed. 

Looking into the age demographic, it’s apparent that age plays a big factor in who among us is a secret chameleon. Brits aged between 34 to 43 were the group most likely to be guilty of voice changing, with 82% of millennials doing so, followed closely by Gen Xs, with 77% of those aged between 44 to 54 admitting they do. 

It appears Gen Xs are the most caring too, as when asked further questions about how they treat tradespeople, the 44- to 54-year-olds came in top, fully armed with tea, coffee, and the biscuit tin for their tradespeople. 

A lot of trades are complicated professions needing specialist knowledge, and with that knowledge comes a lot of confusing jargon, from a switchgear and controlgear assembly to a flux capacitor. Well, it seems a third of the nation (31%) have no idea what tradespeople are saying to them, with over half of those (55%) searching online immediately after the tradesperson has left to understand what is happening.

With tradespeople being traditionally blue-collar workers, The Chameleon Effect appears to be prominent with people working in white-collar roles such as IT, government, or marketing. Of those surveyed, 69% work in white-collar jobs and when asked, three-quarters of those (76%) admitted that they felt disconnected from tradespeople who enter their homes. In comparison, only a third of blue-collar workers said they change their voice around those in the trade.

We hope this research brings a smile to your face as much as it did for us. The next time you have the builders around, you can keep your ears open to see if those you live with are turning into Del Boy or not – or whether you’re guilty!

*https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1025389814290 

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