CommunicationLeadership: Say it like a leaderWords

Replace credibility stoppers with starters

Do you ever wonder about the words you use and the impact they have on how people perceive you? Whether you realize it or not, your choice of words may not be serving you well. You may be undermining your communication. Stop that pattern and gain confidence and credibility when you speak.

How you speak and the words you use do one of two things:
They build your credibility or rob you of it.

There are many ways that people erode their credibility. One of the most prevalent credibility stoppers I see (and ladies, pay attention because we tend to do this more than men …) is what I call “uptalk”.This is when everything a person says sounds like a question. Think California “valley girls” and teenage girls of almost any North American location who end just about every phrase with an upward inflection. Not only is this speech pattern incredibly distracting; it also robs you of your credibility.

You may recognize what I mean by “uptalk”. You hear other people do it and you know how distracting it can be. What you may not realize is if YOU are using it or not. Here are three ways to discover if you do so or not:

How to discover if you use “uptalk” or not: 

  1. Have a colleague be your “uptalk” counter;
  2. Record yourself;
  3. Become aware and listen to yourself.

The best way to critique any aspect of your communication is to have a trusted source be your ears and eyes and provide constructive feedback. Select your colleague wisely and make sure that his or her communication style meets your needs. If you’re looking for the bottom line, give-me-the-facts feedback, find someone who can give you that gets right to it. Alternately, if you respond more effectively to a gentle and nurturing approach, look around for a colleague who approaches communication in that fashion.

Recording yourself is an excellent method to become painfully aware if uptalk has found its way into your vernacular. Listen to your outgoing voicemail message. Do you end on up notes? Next time you leave a voicemail to someone, listen to it before you leave it. Check it for any uptalk and if you find any, re-record it until there is none. If you’re doing a presentation or attending a meeting, discreetly clip a mic to your lapel and record til your heart’s content. I often record my presentations and become painfully aware of all my speaking idiosyncrasies. You will too. And in this day and age of Zoom meetings and online presentations, recording yourself is easy (as long as everyone knows you’re recording). It’s a great opportunity to check out your speech patterns and see if you have fallen victim the uptalk stealing your credibility.

Finally, and perhaps most difficult, is simply being aware and noticing when you use uptalk. Listen to yourself. Be in the moment. Be a detective of your own speech pattern. If you find you are using uptalk, avoid the temptation to whip yourself. Instead, comment yourself for noticing! Pat yourself on the back every time you are aware of your own uptalk because being aware that you just said it is just one step away from being aware just BEFORE you say it. And that’s progress.

Replace uptalk with credibility starters

To communicate with confidence, end your sentences firmly on a down note. Try it now. Say, “I have a red car?” (up-talk). It’s tentative, questioning, and in its most extreme use, speaking like this may make you sound a little (how to say this politely?) flighty, ditsy, airhead-like and most definitely, uncertain. Now try the very same sentence ending on a down note, “I have a red car”. It’s strong, affirmative, powerful. Which impression would you prefer to give?

Uptalk may be stopping you from presenting a confident self-image to others. And if it is, now you know what to do about it (said with a “down note” — that’s a statement, not a question because I know it to be true). Try it and see for yourself).

© 2011 updated 16 September 2020, Marion Grobb Finkelstein

©2021 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Until next time, here’s to …
Better communication, Better business, Better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
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Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.

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