Mary Clare Healy - Dec 16, 2008

Up Speak Advice

I have been working on this for a long time and getting nowhere. Every sentence I say sounds like a question because my pitch goes up on the last few words. I’m 32 years old, and it’s time for me to stop sounding like a teenage girl. It doesn’t help that I’m also a really tiny person; most people don’t believe that I’m 32.

Thanks for the question. Sounds like you’re talking about something referred to as “up speak.” Up speak can make you sound tentative and inexperienced rather than firm and confident. You’re right to be concerned about the perception it leaves with people, especially when you’re a woman who looks younger than her age. So, what can you do about it?

This isn’t an easy habit to break, because you’ve probably spoken this way for a long time. But, with effort and some practice, you can change. Being aware of it is the first step. Now, it’s time to train your voice. The simplest way to do this is to record a new outgoing voicemail message. There are lots of short sentences there, so the potential for up speak is pretty strong. After you’ve recorded your voice, play it back and listen for up speak. If your pitch doesn’t drop at the end of your sentences, try it again. This is a good exercise because many people raise their pitch after they say their name.

Another idea is to imagine that you’re taking a step down at the end of your sentences. You might even want to try it on real stairs. As you literally step down, try to make your pitch go with it. This might feel odd, and you may feel that you’re draining all the enthusiasm out of your voice. But keep practicing. You’ll find the right balance. And be sure to ask someone you trust to give you feedback on how you’re doing.

by Mary Clare Healy, Trainer at Turpin Communication