Upspeak: Destroyer of Credibility

Invisible question marks – ending sentences on a higher pitch is a plague that has seeped from middle school girls into our business communications. Maybe even to yours.

Taylor Mali’s Def Poetry Jam explains:

I’ve witnessed upspeak at the highest levels of Fortune 100 companies, and I’ve heard it used as a reason to deny a promotion, a sale and an idea.

Just this week on NPR, they did a special report about its impact on trust and credibility.

As University of Glasgow psychologist Phil McAleer recently told NPR, “From the first word you hear a person speak, you start to form this impression of the person’s personality.”

For men and women, alike, credibility can be built or eroded after your first word. Click through to hear the difference between “Hello?” and “Hello.”

Since you never get a second chance to make a first impression, here are three tangible tips:

1.  First, use your smart phone to audio-record your next conference call. Awareness is the first step to changing this habit. Listen to see if it sounds like you are asking questions or making statements.

2.  Make an effort to end your sentences in a lower tone than you begin them. Think about putting a period at the end of the sentence (visually, that’s down.)

3.  Lastly, a note of caution: Make sure you don’t make remove ALL the change in pitch and personality in your voice. You should still have a vocal range that changes throughout your sentences. Just think about ending your sentences as statements. Not questions.


One comment on “Upspeak: Destroyer of Credibility

  1. I find “Up-Speak” not only annoying, but in some cases extremely manipulative. The speaker, by upward intonation, thereby demands attention and affirmation in the form of a nod or “uh-huh.” I frustrate the up-talkers by a blank stare. L. :)