Up-Speak is not Speaking Up“Up-speak” (Up-talk) had its beginning in the era of the Valley Girl in California. It has since spread its tentacles across the years to wrap around the speaking habits of both women and men of all ages. Why is this phenomenon significant? Because Up-speakers unknowingly compromise the quality of the competent, knowledgeable leadership image that they want to project.
Columnist Hank Davis writes, in The Uptalk Epidemic: “It’s a nasty habit. It is the very opposite of confidence or assertiveness. It’s gotten all out of control. These days, even statements about which there should be no question or doubt are presented in this tentative, timid and deferential manner.”
When statements and assertions sound like questions, your credibility and competence can be doubted. When you give advice or offer an educated assessment in this manner, the perception of your expertise gets chipped away. Would you want to be represented by or rely on the advice of someone who sounds unsure and tentative? Tentative is the antithesis of confidence. Your voice should reflect everything you want your listener to believe about you – you have substance, you are in control, you are knowledgeable, you have the answer – not that you are unsure of yourself and are seeking validation.
“In the time it takes to say ‘hello,’ we make a snap judgment about someone’s personality,” says Jody Kreiman, a UCLA researcher who studies how we perceive voice. “On hearing just a brief utterance, we decide whether to approach the person or to avoid them.” I would add that in that same split second, we decide if that person has ‘gravitas’ and has the expertise to solve our problem, address our concerns, or represent our interests.
I have personally witnessed up-speak at the highest levels of Fortune 100 companies, and I’ve heard it used as a reason to deny a promotion or discredit an idea. A wise career move is to take the time to analyze your own speaking patterns and snuff out up-speak. Record yourself in a variety of speaking situations and LISTEN objectively. Become your own audience. Elicit feedback from a trusted friend or colleague. To be perceived as a leader and person of substance, you must not only LOOK like a leader with a polished physical image, you must also SOUND like a leader with a polished vocal image.