You already know that what you say in meetings in the presence of your boss can go a long way toward making them think that you're capable, serious, and ready to take on greater responsibility. What you might not realise is that how you speak is almost as important as the idea itself.
In a recent post on LinkedIn, author and enterprise performance expert Bernard Marr writes that employees who use “uptalk” - ending their sentences with a higher pitch (as if they're asking a question) - put promotions at risk by coming across as less confident than others who don't.
And Australians and New Zealanders are among the world's worst offenders, with UK researchers crediting the prevalence of Australian shows on English TV with an increase in uptalk by Britons.
By turning every statement into a pseudo question, it's as if “we are questioning our own statements and therefore subconsciously tell[ing] our listeners that we either are not sure of ourselves or what we are saying,” Marr writes.
To a boss looking for a strong, confident leader, this speech pattern – also known as High Rising Terminal (HRT) or Australian Question Intonation (AQI) – can come across as a sign of weakness or insecurity.
This was confirmed by a recent study by UK publisher Pearson that showed a majority of bosses “believe uptalk hinders the prospects of promotion as well as better pay grades in their organisation”.
Here are some key stats, based on the responses of 700 male and female bosses:
• 85 per cent believe uptalk is a clear indicator of a person's insecurity and emotional weakness.
• 70 per cent find uptalk a particularly annoying trait.
• 57 per cent confirmed that uptalk has the potential to damage a person's professional credibility.
• 44 per cent stated that they would mark down applicants with uptalk by as much as a third.
Marr says the "uptalk epidemic" is spreading quickly across Britain, the US, Canada and many other cultures, but adds Antipodeans are largely exempt from criticism.
"They are excused because uptalk is simply the way everyone speaks – and because everyone does it, nobody is disadvantaged by doing so," he writes.
Still, the next time you find yourself drifting into a higher pitch, think about your next promotion and end your sentence with a full-stop, not a question mark.