Upspeak or uptalk (2 terms for the same thing) are getting lot’s of press lately. Some people are being “criticized” for using it. Some people seem to be feeling discriminated against for being criticized for using upspeak. Either way, if you want to be perceived as a confident, believable person, you’ll want to learn how to stop upspeak.
It’s pretty easy, just requires a bit of determination. We’ll go over the steps briefly here then get into more detail about why we use it & how to stop upspeak throughout the article.
Following are the 6 steps to getting rid of uptalk in your daily life:
- Record yourself speaking for just a minute.
- Write down the culprit sentences.
- Make an up arrow on the second to last syllable.
- Draw a down arrow right over the last syllable.
- Read it aloud by speaking louder where the arrow is up.
- Say the last syllable super quiet and short in duration.
Scroll way down to the section How to Stop Upspeak if you don’t need the whys and want to just get to the improvement part.
What is UpSpeak?
Upspeak (AKA Uptalk, Rising Inflection, Upward Inflection–It’s known by a ridiculous number of names, but I just call it Upspeak. It’s short & to the point which is where our communication skills should be headed anyway.) is when a person’s speech goes up in pitch at the end of a statement.
In English, we have:
Declarative Statements (in which one states a fact or a belief. e.g. “I really like coffee”)
Yes/No questions (in which one asks another for a yes/no answer. e.g. “Would you like coffee?”)
Wh-Questions (Questions beginning with “what” “where” “when” “how”)
Both Declarative Statements & Wh-Questions use a downward inflection. Meaning the pitch goes down. Only Yes/No Questions go up in frequency at the end of the sentence. Try this Y/N Question aloud:
“Do you want some ice cream?”
You go up at the end, right? But if you ask a wh-question, your inflection goes down at the end of your utterance. Try this:
“Where is the meeting?”
We’re supposed to go down in pitch as well as volume at the end of the word, “meeting.” So the ee sound in meet gets longer in duration and louder in volume and the -ing part of the word goes down in pitch, volume & duration.
But now let’s try using the upward inflection on some declarative statements. Try these aloud:
We have a meeting tomorrow at 4:30
I work at Google.
I need to leave early today.
I’d like a raise.
What did they sound like coming out of your mouth? How did you feel?
Impact of UpSpeak
So let’s say you’re using an upward inflection on a declarative sentence. Your listeners’ brains are working overtime, trying to figure out if the answer is yes or no. Because when we use Y/N question intonation, we are requiring work from our listeners. They need to answer us.
So here you are possibly delivering a report about an ongoing project, and you keep going up at the end. And your boss and team-mates are having a hard time processing your critical and intelligent messages.
That results in your message not being taken seriously, your ideas being dismissed. Not so much because people are annoyed by upspeak (although I hear that happens too) but because it’s difficult for them to process the information.
What is UpTalk and Why is it Unprofessional?
It’s a question I hear a lot. This article is here to explain what it is. But why is uptalk unprofessional? My main concern with uptalk is that it makes it very hard for you to be understood. The entire premise behind being a refined & persuasive communicator is that we are understood. In fact, that’s why we developed language & speaking in the first place.
Why would we want to sit in a meeting, trying to get our message across and be content with having no one understand us?
If you’re living the life of your dreams & everyone is doing what you tell them to do, then feel free to carry on. (Unless you just want to improve yourself because that’s the way you are.) But if you are working hard on achieving your success, then make communication skills training something you put into your life. It’s as important as going to the gym or doing your workout.
Did Ita Olsen Ever Use Uptalk?
Was I always a perfect communicator? No! I’m still not an impeccable communicator!
Full disclosure: I used to use upspeak like it was going out of style! I went up at the end, I had a super high pitch that had almost zero ability to project my voice across the room. Stop it, my list of vocal flaws was nearly endless.
But when I hung out my Communication Skills Training shingle in 1996, I decided I had to improve my own ability to speak in all anxiety-ridden environments. I knew that was the key to my getting ahead in my career.
How to Stop Upspeak
Truth? It’s not that hard to eliminate your upspeak. (It’s not that hard to do any of the speaking & vocal training that I teach, really) It merely requires a few minutes a day for a couple of weeks. We’ll stop upspeak in its tracks 🙂
Let’s go through the steps.
- Don’t be afraid of recording yourself. That will not help you in your life. Your tennis pro video records you. Your music teacher records you. Here you are by yourself at your kitchen table. Record yourself talking.
- Listen for upspeak and write down the offending sentences. If you have to listen a few times to find them, great.
- Draw an up arrow on last strong syllable on the last word. In this last sentence, it’s the ‘o’ in “word”. But if it were ‘talking’ it would be over the ‘a’ that you put the up arrow.
- Make a down arrow over the last part of the word.
- Read it aloud by speaking louder where the arrow is up.
- Say the last syllable super quiet and short in duration. Also, go down in pitch at the end.
Watch this video with Ita Olsen: Why am I Not Automatically an Incredible Speaker
The trick with bringing your inflection down at the end of your utterances is to determine which syllable receives the primary emphasis and making that one longer & louder. If the last word is a one syllable word, then the word itself gets split into 2 parts. For example:
“Here’s the book.” Sounds like: “Here’s the bUuk.”
That’s how to stop upspeak.
Results of Eliminating Upspeak
You will be taken so seriously when you speak. People will stop & listen to you. People will follow your lead. You’ll be considered refined & persuasive as a communicator. There’s no down-side to eliminating upspeak from your life.
Use the steps outlined above to eliminate your upspeak. Do this for a few weeks. Start with easy speaking situations, then when that’s mastered, you can work your way to more challenging speaking situations. Then your new “downspeak” will become a habit in your life. You’ll not have to work on your upspeak again. It’ll be a learned behavior. 🙂
Using upspeak literally undermines the speaker. It confuses people when they try to listen. Resulting in a much lower percentage of comprehension. Also resulting in fewer people following your call-to-action. You have a call-to-action. One of our primary calls-to-action is for people to think we’re smart in the workplace and in our personal lives.
UpSpeak is Not Your Identity
Your identity has nothing to do with something so superficial as speech errors. These things happen because that’s what we learned when listening to others. Speaking flaws happen more when we get nervous than when we’re comfortable.
Your identity is how smart you are, how funny you are, other important characteristics like that. Because our education system doesn’t teach kids to be great communicators. It’s not even addressed! So we are left to our own devices when it comes to developing communication skills.
What do you think about UpSpeak?
Tell me what you think about upspeak or uptalk. Which word do you like better? Have you ever heard of uptalk? Are you currently using it and would like to eliminate it? Do you know anyone who uses uptalk or upspeak? How do you feel about it? Did this article help you to stop upspeak? Have you ever worked on your communication skills in any capacity? These are the things I’d like to know from you. And then some!