By Diane DiResta
Uptalk is invading the work place and is reaching epidemic proportions. It’s that singsong speech pattern that has a rising inflection at the end of sentence. It sounds like the speaker is asking a question instead of making a declaration.
Once the exclusive domain of teens, it is now a regular part of the adult world. And I don’t mean Generation X. It’s everywhere. It can be heard even at management levels and it’s destroying their credibility.
Uptalk renders the speaker weak, tentative, lacking conviction and authority. How can a person influence, lead, or command respect if they can’t take a stand and sound like they mean it?
I’ve even heard it at networking meetings. It sounds like this: “Good morning. My name is Jane Doe? “ Well, is that your name or isn’t it? It takes seven seconds or less to make a first impression. Would you do business with someone who isn’t sure of his/her own name?
According to one study, the voice is nearly 40% of the message. You can convey a message through your intonation alone! Next time someone asks a question, respond with a yes or no with only your tone. They will understand what you meant.
If you ask for a raise using uptalk you will remain at your present salary. If you try to sell a product, you will fail. If you direct your staff, they won’t follow. Why? Because uptalk makes you sound like there are other options!
What causes a communicator to choose this pattern of speaking?
Habit. We don’t always hear the way we speak and the affect it has on others. When I was invited to do a chat on ivillage I posted my article, Ten Ways Women Sabotage Their Communication in the Workplace. Thinking these tips did not apply to her personally, a woman emailed the tips to her friend Her friend sent them back to her saying, “You have uptalk.”
Foreign/Regional Accent. If you are from the South or from a country like India, China, or parts of Canada, you may have a rising inflection as part of your cultural speech pattern. This is more difficult to change but can be conquered with ear training, practice, and professional coaching.
Peer Identity. This is most often the case with teens and children. They tend to identify with the group and will adapt the speech patterns they hear on television as in the case of the show Clueless. Many parents are frustrated by their attempts to teach their children to speak correctly. Uptalk is a way of sounding like their peers and not like their family.
Insecurity. The voice is the greatest barometer of emotions. When you lack confidence it will show up in the voice. In our politically correct environment people are becoming less willing to take a stand. By using “safe words” and a rising inflection, the speaker can easily back petal or soften the real intent of the message. In selling, a fear of rejection may show up in the form of uptalk.
So how do you eliminate uptalk?
Identify it. Many people are unaware that they use uptalk. Tape yourself during a conversation and listen for a rising inflection. Ask friends to give you honest feedback.
Practice. Start with some drills. Say a sentence with uptalk. Then say the same sentence with a downward inflection. Hear and feel the difference.
Introspect. Tune into your feelings. Are you feeling unsure or insecure about the situation, the audience, or the words? Your emotions will be reflected in your voice. If the stakes are high, practice how you will say it in advance. Act as if.
Monitor yourself. Use the buddy system. Ask a friend or co-worker to let you know when you fall back into uptalk. It takes 30 days to break a habit.
There is no value in using uptalk. When you bring your voice down at the end of a sentence, you will automatically sound more authoritative and confident. People will hear the conviction in your voice and will take you seriously. Your credibility will improve and you’ll be more persuasive.
Copyright © Diane DiResta. All rights reserved.