Speak with Confident Statements: Tips for Avoiding Upspeak

If you’ve ever watched the 1995 movie Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone, you’ve heard what speech coaches refer to as upspeak. This movie depicting Generation X was full of Valley Girl talk, a type of conversation where your inflection rises as you speak. The pattern of speech makes what you say come across sounding like a question, even when you’re making a statement.  Upspeak has also been called up talk, up speak, and valley girl talk.

Most of the time, when people use upspeak in their speech, they’re not even aware they’re doing it, it’s just a habit. It’s a speech pattern that tends to be more common in young people and women. Some language research has found that women use this type of inflection to not come across as pushy or bossy.  However, I have heard this pattern of speech used by male and female college students as well as male medical doctors and fellow speech-language pathologists.

This speaking pattern is very contagious!  There are times for each speaking patterns.  My job as a speech trainer is to help you get your point across and communicate effectively.  Change requires paying attention to your speech patterns and making modifications depending on the audience with whom you’re communicating. That includes upspeak, and here are a couple of reasons why:

  • Upspeak can serve as a distraction to your listener, to the point where they’re paying more attention to your inflection than to your message.
  • Upspeak can make you come across as hesitant and unsure of yourself.
  • Upspeak can make others doubt your message and your knowledge.

Break the Cycle

There are some relatively easy ways to reduce upspeak from your speech.  The first and most important thing is to become aware of when this is happening. You might not hear yourself talk in this way, but if you are doing it a lot, your throat will tighten as your inflection gets higher and higher, which makes your vocal cords get tired when you’re talking.

One way to figure out just how much you use upspeak in your daily conversations is to record yourself talking, and then listen to it with an objective ear. Once you’re aware of your use of upspeak, then you can make a conscious effort to make statements that sound like statements rather than questions.

Remember to breathe when you are speaking as this will give you a chance to monitor your speech.  As you are speaking, think about your statements ending with a period and downward inflection.

There are times when speaking that we are indeed looking for affirmation. One way to avoid upspeak in these situations is to make your statement and then ask a question, such as “What do you think?” or “Do you agree?”

Are you concerned that you do not speak with authority?  Do you have a colleague that needs to talk with more power and less upspeak? Here at Triad Speech Consultants, we specialize in guiding adults to improve their communication so when they are talking, people listen and easily understand them. The goal is to get your message across and not have your audience distracted by your tone and inflection.  Schedule a free consultation today.  I will listen to your speech and give you strategies that you can start using today!