On Uptalk, the High Rising Terminal, and the Australian Questioning Intonation

January 14, 2014 in How to, Ignite, Media by Harry Key

The Daily Mail published an article that claimed that if you want a promotion, “don’t speak like an AUSSIE”

Well, being an Aussie myself, I’m not sure I’d quite put it like THAT.

It was talking about the habit of adding a rising tone at the end of a sentence, such that it’d be marked out as a question. Paying attention to how you inflect your voice will make a huge difference to how you’re received. Pearson (my publisher) conducted a study that found a huge 85% of bosses would see the ‘High Rising Terminal’ as a sign of insecurity.

Unless you’re going for a specific effect, downward inflections for statements or commands. Upward inflections to indicate you’re asking a question, you’re in the middle of a sentence, or you’re inviting people to think for themselves. Upward inflections invite critical evaluation. Now sometimes that’s exactly what you want, but at other times…

I don’t decree should’s and should not’s – so here’s the simple rule:

Experiment with your delivery, and

See what works for you.

It’s all about having the ability to choose, and making that choice deliberately.

With a bit of experimentation, you will probably find that in certain situations, upward inflections on statements and commands will make them seem gentler and more inviting. But when you’re managing people, or going for a job interview or promotion, and you’re talking about your own abilities and achievements, make sure you’re inflecting your voice purposefully. The challenge is, it’s exactly those times when many will fall into upward inflections as a symptom of being uncomfortable. So get in the habit, now. If you know what you’re talking about, make it sound like you do.

So if you want people to believe you, if you want to speak with certainty and gravitas, use downward inflections.

If you use inflection well, you can sound certain and authoritative when you want to, and open and welcoming, friendly and thoughtful. It’s a matter of noticing how you sound, and mindfully adjusting your speech for maximum effect.