I used to type “How do I sound smart” or “How do I sound confident” furiously into Google every time I had a Monday morning meeting in my former career. I hated how I never sounded (or felt) confident when I had to speak.
Since then, I’ve been on different podcasts and done recordings of my voice. There’s a few things that I’ve learned along the way to help me sound the best I can be and I thought that I should share some of what I’ve learned with you, too!
Manipulating the sound of my voice helps me sound confident in any situation, even if I’m nervous. So if you want to sound smart and confident or you simply want to communicate with other people better, then keep on readin’!
Wanna sound smart? Avoid UPSPEAK
You may not recognize the name, but you definitely have heard it before. This happens when someone speaks and it sounds like they end every sentence in a question. You might have heard it called “Valley Girl” speaking.
If you could imagine a sentence someone says lifting at the end, you’ve got upspeak.
This is great to use when you actually are asking a question. This lets the person know hey I’m requesting more information in a vocal cue.
But what about when it’s used in every sentence?
If you want to sound smart and confident when you speak but this sounds like you, take notice! Upspeak and making all your sentences sound like questions send that verbal cue to the person you’re chatting with that you’re unsure, even if you’re not.
Quite literally, this makes it sound like you’re constantly questioning yourself!
Something else to think about with upspeak is that there isn’t a real ending to the point of your conversation. Let’s say you’re in an argument and you know you’re right. Too bad it sounds like you’re not sure so it invites the other person to continue arguing!
When every sentence sounds like a question there’s no finality.
How to avoid Upspeak
It’s sooo easy to miss patterns like upspeak in your voice when you don’t listen to it. When I first started to record my voice, I couldn’t believe how much I noticed — and how uncomfortable it was to listen to.
So, I know it’ll be uncomfortable, but get on the phone with a friend and use a different device to record your conversation. Even if it’s just a few minutes long, you’ll start to see patterns.
I know you’re tempted to skip this, but don’t! Awareness is the first step to overcoming anything!
Next up, practice visualizing every sentence ending down on a period. Visualizations are powerful in every area of your life and this is no exception. Start to imagine the end of your sentences being drawn down to the period. You’ll end your upspeak in no time!
When you end with finality, there’s less of a chance someone will question you because you won’t sound like you’re questioning yourself.
How confident speakers use CHEST VOICE
Think of a motivational speaker, a politician or anyone that speaks to large audiences and sounds smart and confidently doing so. What do they all have in common?
- They don’t use upspeak and they have finality in every sentence.
- They don’t use a high pitched/a nasal voice or vocal fry.
- They don’t sound rushed or whisper
So you know the importance of avoiding upspeak and bringing your sentence down to the period for finality. But what about vocal fry and how does chest voice play a part?
This may be another one you haven’t heard the name of, but you definitely know what it is. This article from Time does a great job of explaining what vocal fry is:
“Vocal fry involves dropping the voice to its lowest natural register, which changes the way a person’s vocal folds vibrate together. Those changes create inconsistencies in the vibrations and lend the speaker’s voice a subtly choppy or creaky quality“.
They also use Kim Kardashian as an example of vocal fry. (Now that you notice, you’ll never unhear it!!)
This one makes me uncomfortable to talk about because I’ve noticed it a lot when I speak.
Vocal fry usually happens when you prolong a word to try and find the next one. So, while it may not send the obvious unsure cue like upspeak, it’s something you want to watch for.
I’ve noticed when I use vocal fry, it sounds like I’m bored of what I’m talking about, even when I’m not. That’s why I’m pretty much obsessed about using my chest voice all the time.
Once you discover how you sound with your chest voice, you’ll never go back. This is when you sound the surest and most confident.
Here’s how to find your chest voice:
- put your hand to your heart and speak
- raise and lower your pitch until you feel your chest vibrating
If you just tried that, now try ending your sentence in upspeak or making it sound “nasally”. You’ll notice you can’t feel your voice in your chest anymore. That’s when it becomes your “head voice”.
Now that you’ve seen it in yourself, watch a captivating speech like Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream”. You’ll notice he uses his chest voice and doesn’t use vocal fry, upspeak or his “head voice”.
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How are you going to sound smart and confident when you speak?
Use these tips the next time you do something scary like a job interview, asking for a raise or doing a presentation. Even if you don’t feel confident, at least you’ll sound like you are!
When in doubt, use chest voice and end your sentences down on the period. This avoids all the voice no-no’s and makes you sound confident and sure of yourself.
How are you going to sound confident and avoid the speaking “no-no’s”? Leave your answers in the comments below!
If finding self-confidence is important to you, then knowing your core values is a must. You have to know what those are so you can be confident in who you are.