During the 1980s the “Valley Girl” accent started to gain widespread attention. The hallmark of this type of speech was the constant rising intonation at the end of sentences, making statements sound like questions. This pattern, called high-rising intonation or, more commonly, upspeak has become increasingly common, extending far beyond your typical “Valley Girl.” While many consider upspeak a harmless habit, it can affect the way others view you, particularly in a professional environment.
The constant questioning tone of upspeak creates an image of insecurity or uncertainty. Without realizing it, the upspeaker sounds as though they are asking their listener’s permission in each and every statement they make. The result is a lack of credibility or authoritativeness, key qualities in the workplace. This apparent lack of confidence can lead to lost opportunities for professional advancement and damaged client relationships.
So what can you do to reduce upspeak?
- Make a recording of yourself speaking in a few different situations. For example, record yourself during a business phone conversation, a personal phone conversation, and a practice run of a presentation. Compare the different recordings, and note when and how often upspeak occurs. You may find that you have a particular pattern of when upspeak occurs.
- Practice reading aloud, concentrating on decreasing rising intonation at the end of your sentences. Take care to only target this one feature—many people over-correct and end up with a monotone, flat intonation. Again, recording your practice can go a long way towards improvement.
- Try to use the skills you practiced while reading aloud in your day-to-day speech. As a start, choose a specific time in your workday to focus on reducing your upspeak. During this time, monitor your speech as you interact with coworkers and clients, taking note each time you notice an incident of upspeak.
- For additional help and to add a professional edge to your speech, you may want to seek the services of a professional communication coach or corporate speech-language pathologist. In addition to reducing upspeak, a speech pathologist can help you to craft a dynamic, professional speaking voice and increase clarity and confidence.
For information on the New York Based Speech and Accent Reduction services offered by Corporate Speech Solutions please give us a call at 212-308-7725 or visit us on the web at www.corporatespeechsolutions.com
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