Are You Afraid to Commit or Do You Just Sound Like It?

 In Vocal Image

Closeup of a bald businessman with hand behind ear listening closely against gray background

One of my clients, a C-level executive, sounds like he is asking questions all the time. At least, that’s what his team tells me.  What I hear is a vocal image (how people perceive of you by the sound of your voice) of indecision created by a lot of “upspeak“. Upspeak is a speech pattern wherein most sentences end with a rise in pitch, like a question. Now I know that we were all taught to end statements by bringing the voice down in pitch.  Right? (That’s another way we sound indecisive – follow a statement with a question looking for agreement.) However, upspeak or open cadence is running rampant in our culture, and no matter how bold your statements are in English if you end each with a question mark the power goes away and people see you as unable to commit to your ideas. And I have to tell you that 90% of you are using upspeak all the time.

Change your vocal image and you change the way people perceive of you, otherwise known as your personal brand. In this case, it’s as simple as remembering to make statements that end in periods or exclamation marks instead of question marks. And it’s as hard as breaking a habit.

If you know that you have adopted the popular speech pattern of up-speak, and want to break the habit, here’s how:

  1. Record yourself speaking extemporaneously. Listen and transcribe what you said. Rewrite it with complete sentences and record yourself reading the new script. Listen to the difference. Practice.
  2. Pick one conversation a day to speak consciously making statements with closed cadence (downspeak). A conversation partner can help.
  3. Refuse to follow statements with “and,” “but,” “ok?,” “right?,” or “you know?” Let a statement be a statement.

For more on this topic, please see my post, This is Why Your Communication Doesn’t Have Impact. It includes a great video with slam poet, Taylor Mali.

Please “like” my Facebook, connect on LinkedIn, and follow me on Twitter. I welcome any comments or questions.


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