Creative LeadershipEngaging Culture

Speaking Quirk of the Week

There’s a very odd habit that most younger people – particularly women in my experience – have that really damages their ability to communicate.  It’s the curious habit of making every statement a question.  In other words, they make their voice rise at the end of every phrase.  As a result, everything they say sounds like a question.  Are you understanding what I’m saying?  Here’s why it’s so damaging:

1.  It makes you look very unsure of yourself and what you want.

2.  It undermines your confidence.

3.  It confuses the listener.  (Is she making a statement, or asking a question?)

4.  It just sounds really weird.

Similar to other speech quirks such as adding “like” to every sentence, I have no idea how it started.  But there’s no question that if your goal is to have your influence felt, make a point, or get your voice heard, you should start eliminating this today.

When you make a statement, be clear that it’s a statement, and not a question.

Anyone else notice this one?

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  1. So thought provoking! Definitely need to listen to myself and be careful I don’t fall in the same trap.

  2. I do notice that odd raise of the voice at the end of some statements and I honestly think they are unsure of what they’re saying or they’re from some odd culture that I can’t nail…… Even if I don’t agree with the person, I much prefer someone who is confident about what they have to say. And as for “like”…… don’t get me started. The Valley Girl died a decade ago, I thought!

  3. Yes, and I am the world”s worst. It is the lack of confidence and not being sure how the other person will receive it. If it is a question, you are leaving the field wide open for their response and to do some back peddling should you feel you made a stupid comment. Lack of confidence is a horrible feeling.And a hard one to overcome. I would love to go to a seminar on confidence and learn what causes it and how to conquer it.

  4. Maybe it’s a trend…. the younger women are learning it from the older women. I hear women in their 40’s and 50’s end sentences this way. These women I know have no reason to lack any confidence in themselves. For some, it just may be a cultural speech pattern they’ve picked up on. Now you got me wondering if I’m doing it!!!!

  5. I think the younger generation, including myself, has a hard time with choosing the right words. The word “Like” is a substitute for a description of what they are thinking. Stop and think about what you are trying to say before you speak.

  6. I think, like any other skill, this is something that must be learned and practiced. During college, we covered this in our Speech class. We were required to practice getting through a sentence, then through a paragraph and so on, without “um.”

    But for most of us, we don’t practice this to the point of eliminating the quirky speech patterns.

    And I think this is an issue that is universal, not relegated to male or female. While a man might not use “like” as much, he might stammer or pause more often looking for the “perfect” word rather than any word that would convey the idea just as well.

    Good post, Phil.

  7. It’s most certainly a confidence issue. Maybe it’s not surprising to find this constant need for validation when we live in an era of the trial balloon. Standing by your convictions has been replaced with testing the market first. It’s kinda understandable on one level because the audience makes such immediate and superficial decisions over the value of an idea so quickly, you don’t get a second chance to grab their attention. And if your 140 characters don’t launch a million tweet responses, it just didn’t count. The result in my students is often a constant “check to make sure their audience is still with them attitude.” I think part of my mission as a teacher is to help them appreciate the company of a truth, even if you are alone with it.

  8. Phil, sounds like your speaking career is really expanding! What was your topic for the Disney resort and the Salvation Army?

  9. Young women have always had idiosyncratic speech patterns. It is part of what identifies them in Western Culture. Remember Moon Zappa

  10. Likely the problem originated on Venus, where every conversation is discussion and thoughts are often completely formed in the course of discourse.

    Martians are more prone to have formed the thought entirely before commencing human interaction.

    The questions then continue: Is this difference forgivable? Who is most willing to adapt? Are there any merits to this “quirk” we would essentially be eradicating?

  11. It’s called “uptalk” and, speaking of Moon Zappa, it percolated up from Valley Girl-speak of the 80s, which sprang from SoCal surfer culture. Popularized in sorority-speak (remember Saturday Night Live’s sorority girls? “Delta Delta Delta, can we help ya help ya help ya?”) It is no longer owned by young women–I hear even women my age (50s) use it ubiquitously. Unbelievably irritating. I always want someone to say, “Are you asking me or telling me?” I think for a lot of women, it indicates their openness, their way of saying, “Do you understand?” Unfortunately, they come off sounding juvenile and silly.

  12. I am 100% guilty of this one. I realize it after I have done it and regret it the moment it is out of my mouth. Confidence is something I always wish to convey in all areas of my life and am actively trying to break this habit. Thank you for further reiterating how damaging it can be!

  13. I say “like” to every sentence when I speak without knowing it. I am working on it though. It’s like when some Pastors say “amen” all the time.

  14. I was only discussing this one with my family last week! We also spent Easter with a group of Swiss who do the same by adding the word “oder?” to the end of the sentance.

  15. A late note….

    Taking in a fair amount of media from down under, I’ve noticed a number of Australians, in particular, use “upspeak” to indicate that they’re not done talking….it seems to be a “don’t jump in during this pause; I’m not finished, yet.”

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