What is upspeak and how can it be holding you back

I started listening to podcasts recently. Most of the podcasts I subscribe to are hosted by women generally on issues related to career, personal growth and feminism. I also subscribe to an email for career growth. I liked an article they wrote about not knowing your passion and they generally write in a very clear and easy to follow manner.

And then the other day they decided to make a video. Because I had liked what they wrote I decided to listen to the video hoping to feel inspired and with a sense of direction.

Perhaps the two woman made very good points in the video but I couldn’t pay attention to it. All I could think about was the train wreck of a performance I was seeing. Where on paper they were easy to follow on screen they were talking over one another as if they hadn’t rehearsed. Where on paper they were clear their talk was majorly laced with filler words that made me cringe every time.

And what I realized at the end of this video is that although both of the women in the video are well educated and can write well, when they speak you wouldn’t be able to tell.

What is up speak? It’s finishing sentences as if they were questions, the gradual  rising inflection in your pitch near the end of a sentence. Women have majorly been accused of using up speak. In addition other verbal ticks are the use of filler words.  We all use filler words to some extent; um, I mean, like. I know I have been guilty of using um. But its detrimental when your use of filler words or up speak gets in the way of your message.

While I was pregnant I went to a pre-birth class that was held at the hospital. One of the speakers was great but the other said um so much that I couldn’t pay attention. I finally gave up and started tallying how many times she said um during the half hour. The tally was very high. Think every 2 words and then an um.

The thing with up speak and excessive filler words is that it makes the speaker sound uncertain. If you’re a doctor and you have to tell your patient all her treatments worked you wouldn’t want to pose your answer as “you have been cured of cancer?”.

The effects of up speak are debated whether or not it’s what’s holding women back in their careers. It’s theorized that focusing on up speak and verbal ticks is another way for society to internalize women’s behavior so they have more self doubt in themselves. But in my personal opinion I can tell you that the use of up speak and filler words may be distracting to your audience and you might not be getting the message across. Think if you’re in sales, or in teaching, or in any profession that requires your voice to be the way you connect with people. You want your message to get across and you want to sound like the expert on the product, lesson, procedure, etc. Don’t undermine your credibility by sounding unsure of yourself.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s