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The Uptalk

My husband and I play jeopardy on our Alexa a few nights a week. While we only know approx. 40% of the answers, it is a fun way for us to learn new things and see how we compare to the millions of other people playing the same game. For those of you who are familiar with the game, you are still required to state your answers in a question format, "What is..." or "Who is...". If you don't, Alex Trebek will remind you of the appropriate way to submit your response. Without fail, every time we time respond with an answer pulled out of thin air, we somehow manage to answer in such a manner that our question response sounds even more like a question than a response. 

It is the uncertainty that drives us to respond in this manner. It's almost as if we are responding but simultaneously asking Alex Trebek if our answer is correct. If you come over to our house to play you will notice that half of the time our faces stare at the Alexa in anticipation of the correct response on the screen. Our faces, body language, and the manner in which we are responding to the question impart absolutely no confidence that we are convinced of the response that we are giving. It was my mother-in-law that recently taught me that there was a term for this: Uptalking.

Uptalking is when there is an upward inflection of your voice at the end of a sentence, thus making your sentence sound like a question rather than a statement. One of the greatest examples that I can give is in an interview setting: You pose a question to the candidate and they respond, but with a rise in inflection at the end of each sentence leaving you asking yourself if you, the interviewer, need to respond. I sit there and silently say to myself, "I just asked you a question and you seem so uncertain in your response that it's as if you are asking me if your answer is correct. I'm so confused."  I typically respond, "Is that a question or an answer?" and, if they respond, "answer", then I say, "You don't seem confident.". I'll be honest when I say that I can't remember a time where I hired an individual who spoke with such uncertainty or lack of authority. In fact, I'm certain I haven't.

Before you judge me, think of colleagues you know who consistently speak in such a manner. I find that I do not trust the validity of their responses. It's not because I think they are intentionally providing me with incorrect information, but rather that they appear so unconfident in their decision that I need to dig deeper in order to confirm if the information is, in fact, correct. This causes more work on my end. So you tell me: Do you want to hire someone whom you believe will create more work for you, or rather someone who will alleviate your workload?

I recognize that there is another end of the spectrum where someone is so overconfident in what they say that bullshit spews from their lips at all waking hours of the day. The points here are: 

1. It is hard to take someone seriously when they are in a professional setting and constantly questioning their own decisions/responses.

2. Leaders typically do not (if ever) waver when they communicate a path forward.

3. If you want to move up within your organization you need to exude confidence, be able to back up your decisions with data and, most of all, believe in yourself! 

I find that we slide into this fault of uptalking when we are communicating upwards within our organizations. There are ways to work on this, not only by validating your findings with data before you communicate, but also by making a conscious effort to not let a person's title intimidate you to the point of insecurity. If your goal is to move up within the organization, make sure that you are firm in what you are saying (and can back it up with facts!). You never want management to question why they should hire you or move you up within the organization.. Be confident in your abilities so that you can show the world what you are truly made of.

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