Is the way you speak limiting how you’re perceived by others in your career? Scientific research and my experience as a public speaker and international leadership coach says, yes. In this blog I will share with you two major credibility killers that sabotage you when you speak, and how to address them!
Ever heard of vocal fry? It’s that scratchy, gurgly, valley-girl sound which is present when the voice is lowered and airflow is constricted a great deal, and especially towards the end of a sentence. While lowering your voice to conclude your point is, in general, a good practice (more on this in a bit), vocal fry is at the extreme, and has been observed by researchers to negatively influence how trustworthy, competent, educated and hireable you seem to others. Ah me!
See, while it’s becoming increasingly ingrained into the habits of younger people through public characters like Katy Perry and Kim Kardashian being so often in the limelight, people who aren’t of the same cultural moment aren’t going to be familiar with these patterns of speaking and therefore will perceive it on the fundamental, biological level. What do I mean by this? Vocal fry is, in essence, a vocal malfunction. When you’re doing vocal fry, you’re actually letting your air flow out as little as a sixth of its possible capacity. The message you’re unintentionally sending is that you don’t want to be here, you don’t want to touch others with your air, you want to keep it to yourself. This limits your potential for leadership and sabotages the impact of your message. Why should one who won’t share their air be trusted? Here’s what to do…
Air is a physical force. It vibrates the eardrums, and the skin. To exude trust, it’s imperative that you keep enough air flowing to caress the people you’re talking to. Think of it like a massage and do not break your flow! That’s your focus, give your voice enough air and the confidence will follow. Vocal fry really is the equivalent of dragging your feet on the ground when you walk, so we must avoid it at all costs to be seen as a professional. Now, what’s the next cat we must let out of the bag?
Uptalk! Ah, such a staple of Australian culture, and ever-present throughout women in the corporate world. Well, guess what… It definitely does not help your career prospects! “What is uptalk,” I hear you ask? When you raise your pitch towards the end of a sentence, as if asking a question, that’s uptalk! If you’re stating something you either maintain your pitch, or more powerful yet, you descend into the period or exclamation (which can be quite powerful). But, by contrast, stating in the same tone as one would for a question will have you perceived as unsure, indecisive and insecure. So, what’s the solution?
Practice mindfully. Start by shortening your sentences, which will make it simple for you to consciously do the opposite and reshape your habits. In every case where you are not putting forward a question, you want your default to be a descent in pitch. Of course, be careful not to fry, so ensure you provide enough air! What you practice will become more permanent, so be deliberate and it will eventually pay dividends throughout your career.
So, now we know about these vices, make a promise with yourself to banish them from this moment onwards! If you have a yearning for more lessons on building greater presence and influence in your career or as a leader, then please explore the other content I provide on my website and through my social media channels. It’s an investment in you, and that’s the best kind you can make.