Storytelling: Why do women UPSPEAK?

My client Ann ( not her real name ) and I have been working on a story that conveys a very simple point- data insights influence decision making.

Ann will be delivering the story to the key stakeholders today. Whilst presenting she changes something unknowingly. Instead of concluding the story with confidence and saying, ” So, that is a great example of how data insights influence decision making she turns her point in to a question, she asks the audience, ” So, do you think data insights influence decision making?” and her tone changes too, it rises in the end.

Ann’s choice of turning her statement in to a question is a common practice amongst many female speakers. Many of us make our storytelling sound like a questioning process. Questioning here is not that confidence filled voice but doubt-filled oration.

*Christopher Peterson who was the professor of psychology at University of Michigan describes this habit of rising intonation at the end of any and all utterances, upspeak. Upspeak (also known as uptalk, rising inflection, or high rising intonation) turns every sentence into a question.

Linguists have studied upspeak, finding that it occurs most frequently among younger individuals and among women.

Raising the tone of your voice at the end of a sentence in a way that suggests what you are really doing is asking a question, not making a declaration.

Read this out loud

” We went to the movies, and then we got ice cream.”

And now this one – “We went to the movies? and then we got ice cream?”

Researchers say the questioning style serves a clear purpose for women, discourages interruptions and encourages reassurance.

So, when we are unsure of ourselves, not because we do not have knowledge but because we are nervous about sticking our necks out – we unconsciously make our comment sound like a question in order to deflect criticism.

It is important for every woman to be aware of this and nib it the bud when you find yourself doing this. I am certain many of us do not even realise we do this but from here on… take notice.

Source: The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman 

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