Uptalk: A Part of Women’s Nature – Really?

We hear it every day. We hear it on news stations both on radio and TV. We hear it in conversation. We hear it at work. And, it is driving me crazy! You may do it yourself and not know it. What am I talking about? Uptalk or as I’ve described it in the past – the Valley Girl sound.

Uptalk is a manner of speaking in which you place an upward inflection on the last word of a declarative statement, making that statement sound like a question. It is interesting that the Urban Dictionary says it is common among teens and surfers. Certainly in the ‘90’s that was true. Today, however, uptalk is common among teens as well as those in their 20’s, 30’s, and ‘40’s.

Uptalk gives the impression to your listener that you are unsure of yourself.

In researching uptalk, I found an article in the monthly magazine, The Atlantic, in which Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, said that uptalk is part of a woman’s nature. Part of a woman’s nature? I don’t think so.

I had never heard uptalk in normal conversation from either my clients or those being interviewed by the media until 10 – 12 years ago. However, I have been writing about uptalk in regards to the personal introduction since I started my business in 1989. During business meetings, when people would introduce themselves, every statement in their intro sounded like a question. (And that was before Beverly Hills, 90210!)

No, uptalk is not part of a woman’s nature or else we wouldn’t see the rise of it among men. Uptalk is a habit. A habit that teens started in the 90’s and continued as they went through college and into the workforce. That is why we are hearing so much of it today.

Gillibrand further stated that women speak this way because they want to be ‘well-liked.’ I don’t agree. It started back in the 90’s because teenage girls thought it sounded cute and surfers thought it cool. And then it became a habit.

From my experience, the majority of adults who speak in this manner are not aware of it. At one of my recent voice & presentation skills workshops, a woman in the group told us that her colleagues had complained about her delivery, in particular, her uptalk. She was unaware of it. Once Bora heard herself on video, however, she recognized the problem and started finishing her statements on the ‘down swing’ instead of the ‘up.’

The best way to find out how you end your sentences is to record yourself in conversation and study the playback. If you are finishing your statements on the upswing, you can change this habit.

  • Focus listening to your speech when you talk.
  • Begin training your inner ear to recognize the sound. (Your inner ear is how you hear your voice in your head.)
  • Practice making statements and moving the pitch of your voice down as you finish your statements.

Example: He went to the store.

Once you are comfortable with the above sentence and are able to say those 5 words as a statement, ask it as a question:

Example: He went to the store?

Go back and forth between question and statement, training your ear to recognize the difference.

With practice, you can end the uptalk.  You will sound more confident and look and feel more confident in the process!


If you would like to discover your ‘real’ voice, join me at my next Voice & Presentation Skills Workshop, February 17 & 18, Mt Laurel, NJ

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How Charlie Puth, Rita Ora and Andy Bell Deal with Vocal Abuse

Charley Puth: “Not use it. That’s the quickest way. And don’t whisper — a common misconception is that if you whisper, it’s better for your voice, but that’s way worse. That’s just as bad as screaming — that’s the same sensation.”

Rita Ora: “Oh my gosh. You can’t speak to anyone. You become antisocial. I lock myself in a room and don’t talk. Apart from steaming the s— out of myself, that’s it.”

Andy Bell: “Plenty of rest, you must rest. Don’t talk too much … Well, a little bit. And lots and lots of steam — as much steam as you can.”

From the article I read about this topic, 14 Singers on the Fastest Way to Recover from Losing Your Voice, the most common response was not using the voice.

The one thing these singers have in common, however, is that they are being paid to sing. Chances are pretty good that you and I are not! When not performing, these singers have the luxury of being quiet. You and I do not. Our professional and even our personal lives depend on our ability to speak.

What should you do if you are plagued with a chronic sore throat or even
loss of voice?

Learn to power your voice from your chest cavity thereby taking the pressure off your voice box and throat.

Why don’t the singers do the same? With popular singers, it really depends on the type of sound they are trying to achieve. Many of them use their throat and vocal cords as their primary amplifiers which is very stressful to those delicate areas.

For speaking, however, changing the way you place your sound will not only eliminate vocal abuse but it will also result in a deeper, richer, more mature-sounding voice. After I had worked with John, he attended a Pittsburgh Steelers game and later told me that he did not lose his voice during the game. He was able to be heard amidst the din of the stadium and still had a lot of energy after it was over. This was quite a change for him. Previously he had been shouting.

Once your chest is powering your sound, you then have the ability to increase your volume without screaming or shouting. This is known as projection. In the years raising my two boys, I never yelled at them; I projected.

Until you make this change, your vocal abuse will continue. Drugs will not solve the problem although limiting the amount you speak will certainly help. My question to you, though, is how long can you afford to stop talking?

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How Professional Does Your Voice Sound?

So many people rely on their voice for their business – yet so many people are unaware that their voice can have a tremendous impact on the success of their business. When you hear yourself on recording equipment or an answering machine, for example, what is your reaction? While your 1st response may be that you don’t recognize the sound, it is quite possible that your 2nd reaction is one of embarrassment.

Does your voice sound professional? Does it exude confidence?

Before I discovered my ‘real’ voice, I worked for a tour operator in Philadelphia, selling pre-packed tours to various vacation spots through the US and Mexico. My success at that job was negligible. My boss, on the other hand, a former priest who had previously taught English, was the epitome of success. What did Harry have that I didn’t? An incredible speaking voice. Deep, rich, and resonant, his sound was mesmerizing. I lasted about 3 months with that company.

Following my dismal experience at ‘Your Man Tours,’ I discovered my optimum or real speaking voice while in graduate school during one of my singing lessons. That is one lesson I took to heart because I knew that that lower sound was richer, warmer and more mature in quality. Following my graduate studies, I moved to New York City and got the job I wanted because I sounded like I knew what I was talking about. While I was only 24, my voice exuded confidence and professionalism. And, it paved the way for even better jobs during those years.

While your voice accounts for 37% of the image you project, imagine what happens in a webinar or over the phone where your listeners have only a voice on which to focus. And that is the one you hear on your answering machine – not the sound you hear being distorted in the solid and liquid of your brain!

If you find your voice embarrassing on recording equipment, how do you think your listeners feel about it? You’ve got a better one inside of you, just waiting to be discovered. Don’t let poor vocal habits jeopardize your success in communicating.

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Colorful in Person But a Monotone at the Lectern?

When I consider the thousands of people with whom I’ve worked over the years, it is fascinating to see how many of them lose their ‘color’ when they stand at the lectern to deliver a speech or presentation. In normal conversation, these people are animated, emotional, alive. At the lectern, however, they:

• briefly glimpse their notes;
• look up with fear in their eyes;
• open their mouth to speak and pray that something will come out;
• something does come out but they are unable to control their speed; and,
• talk with little or no expression, hoping to get it over with as quickly as possible.

The cause is nervousness.


I love nervousness – that marvelous rush of adrenaline which can lift your presentation to a whole new level. However, if the above ‘symptoms’ sound like you, then your nervousness is working against you. When that happens, it is impossible for your emotions – the color, the life, the animation – to be expressed. Simply put, your nervousness is in control and not you.

Recently I read an article in which the writer said that in order to control your nervousness, try deep breathing before you walk up to the lectern. That is certainly good advice; however, better advice would be to continue the deep breathing throughout the entire delivery. Make diaphragmatic breathing a habit and you will discover a control that you never knew possible as well as an end to breathlessness.

Successful speakers (as well as performers, musicians, & athletes) allow their nervousness to work for them and the really good ones understand the value of the breath.

Watch this brief video clip in which I discuss the value of breathing for public speaking.

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Forcing Your Voice TOO Deep

dreamstime_xs_26491419I received an email recently from a man who said that when he started as a broadcaster, his “voice was child-like, thin, and at times hoarse;” however, he was able to transform it to a crispy baritone, “probably by its constant use, headsets that helped in modulation and by forcing it to go low through the years.“

There are several facts in his description that I found worrisome; however, what really bothered me was his statement, ‘forcing it to go low through the years.’ I can’t tell you how many in the broadcasting business have done the same and have lived to regret it because of the damage it has done as they aged.

Some time ago, I saw a video in which a man (who thinks he teaches voice) suggested yelling for great lengths of time in order to make the voice deeper. Wrong! In discovering your ‘real’ voice, you never yell or try to force it lower. If handled correctly, you will find that when using your chest cavity as your primary sounding board and speaking within your optimum range, your voice will naturally settle in your lower register. In doing so, you will also discover that it is easier to speak from your chest than from your throat.

While men may wish to have a deep, bass sound, for example, everyone’s range in speaking is individual. Some men will have deeper voices while others will speak higher in pitch. The actor, Kevin Spacey, does not have a deep, bass voice; however, he does have one of the best voices in Hollywood because it is very rich and resonant. In addition, his diction is impeccable. When this man speaks, you want to listen. No, he does not possess a ‘James Earl Jones’ sound – he doesn’t need to.

Great news from Brian in Belgium.

Brian is a Brit working in Belgium and since he discovered his ‘real’ voice, one of his colleagues from Bosnia told him that she understands him better, remarking that he now has more volume and speaks more clearly.

Way to go Brian!

By the way, I’ve Skyped with Brian so I was able to hear the results as well. Remember, as a customer of Voicing It, you get me as your personal coach whenever and as often as you wish by means of Skype. I really am part of the package!

What is Voicing It?  The best means for finding your ‘real’ voice unless you are able to spend 2 days with me in a Voice & Presentation Skills Workshop!

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Public Speaking – It’s Not Over Till the Fat Lady Sings!

fat ladyRecently I spoke to a client named Bryan who I hadn’t had contact with for several months.  Had he not emailed me in advance to schedule a time to speak, I would not have recognized his voice on the phone when I answered.  His higher-pitched, nasal voice was gone.  Instead, I heard his ‘real’ voice, a deeper, resonant sound which was not traveling through his nose!

Bryan still has an issue however.  He finds that there are times when he is unable to hold on to his real or true voice as he feels it going back up to his throat.  I recognized one of his problems immediately while he was discussing this with me.

As he was talking, he would start speaking faster and faster.  This can make your pitch rise unless you are aware of it.  (Pitch refers to the highness or lowness of sound – not the volume which is loudness or softness.)  I hail from New Jersey where we drive fast and talk even faster!  But I am conscious of my pitch when I start to speak more quickly.  Bryan was not.

This brings me to Bryan’s 2nd problem.

I asked Bryan if he had a trim waste and he said, yes.  While Bryan has not consciously been aware of this, his trim waste has been keeping him from making the breathing a habit.  When you breathe properly, your diaphragm will move down and out, thereby slightly expanding the mid-torso region.  With shallow or lazy breathing, on the other hand, the diaphragmatic region is sucked in, pushing the mid-torso region up and out.  (Yes, it is great for the figure but bad for the voice because it places undue stress on the throat and vocal cords.)

What does all of this mean regarding Bryan?  In teaching voice and breathing, I have found that those who were most conscious about the process of diaphragmatic breathing and what it could do to their waistlines were the men – not the women.

Bryan’s difficulty with the breathing is allowing for this expansion.  What he needs to realize is that the amount of movement correct breathing involves is slight…very slight.  This brought to mind the phrase, “It’s not over till the fat lady sings.”

What does the overweight individual have over those who are thinner?  Often they are more relaxed in body.  They are not trying to hold in their abdominal region.  That is why some have voices which can soar with such breadth and depth and power.

Bryan then realized what was happening and will work on allowing for the slight expansion of his midriff.  Kudos to Bryan who also admitted that the more relaxed he is, the easier it is to speak.  Why?  Because he has taken the pressure off his throat and vocal cords.

Which brings me back, once again, to the fact that if you want to find your real voice, it isn’t going to happen unless you learn to breathe with support.   Your dog is doing it; your cat is doing it; and, every other mammal on earth is doing it.  It is only the most intelligent of the mammals who stop the practice of deep breathing and revert to upper chest breathing sometime during childhood development!


Check out Voicing It, my video training for the speaking voice in which you get me as your personal coach by means of Skype. Consider me part of the package!

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