Friday, April 26, 2013

Actually, I just want to add … She said that? OMG

The other day I watched as a woman in her 20s describing some aspect of her career in marketing. Each sentence in her commentary, while full of declarative statements, ended on the up-swing. The inflection she used with every statement sounded like a question. With each inflection, the changes in pitch in her speaking, was undermining her expertise. She understood her subject matter but her speech pattern was hurting her credibility. Instead of sounding like an authority, she sounded a little like a Valley Girl. She seemed to doubt herself with her tone throughout her short presentation.  

This way of speaking drives me crazy.  All that "up-talk," everything uttered—even simple declarative sentences—sound like a string of questions from a sulky teenager. Too often this approach to the spoken word sounds more tentative than it should. This inflection/question phenomenon seems an outgrowth of the 80s Valley Girl stereotype caricature:  an unapologetically spoiled airhead interested more in vapid materialism, shopping and social status than intellectual development.
Say the words, She said no as if you were disappointed. (You should notice that the pitch of your voice dropped on the last word.) Now say those words again as if you were surprised – as if you were asking a question. (This time you should notice that the word no was higher in pitch than the first two words.) Listen to a recording of this exercise as you say those words with both types of expressions and you can begin to recognize the difference in inflection between the statement and the question.

Consultant Tara Sophia Mohr suggests working on cutting the questioning tone too. She also offers a few other things to consider (from an article in the Huffington Post):
Lose the just.  (As in: "I just think ..." or  "I just want to add ...") The word demeans what you have to say.

Drop actually too (As in: "I actually have a question" or " I actually want to add something") It makes it sound like you're surprised by your own ideas.  

Don't say that you are probably wrong. (It shows a lack of confidence.)

Don't preface your statement by saying, I'll take just a minute. (It sounds apologetic and implies that you don't think what you are about to say is worthy of time and attention).  

I’m probably wrong …This will just take a minute but I just, actually, think, well…This inflection stuff and these insidious linguistic traps are worth working on?   

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