Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Vocal Habits That Like, Hurt, Like, Your Career

Vocal fry. Upspeak. Like, you know, those things are so, like, annoying?

In recent comments about whether or not "vocal fry" hurts women in the workplace, readers weighed in on the story and said that yes, it does drive them crazy. (If you don't know what "vocal fry" is, think of Kim Kardashian and the way she sort of growls and gasps out the end of her sentences.)

But readers also went on to complain about upspeak (the voice rising at the end of a declarative sentence as if it's a question. "I went to work? And got a lot done?") and the overuse of the word "like."

"I, like, went to the mall? And, like, I couldn't, like, finding a parking space? And I'm like, so, like, frustrated?"

There was also some debate about whether these speaking habits hurt women more than men.  Are women judged more unfairly for such irritating speaking habits? Possibly -- even though I find such speaking habits annoying whether it's a man or a woman.

Here's what I do know: Communication in the workplace is a constant landmine and is probably one of the biggest causes of careers going off the rails. If you don't consistently communicate well, then all your other skills will not be as appreciated or utilized.

We always need to work to improve what we say, when we say it and how we say it. Upspeak makes you sound unsure, even if you're the CEO of a company. Vocal fry makes you sound like Valley Girl 2017, more suited for planning the prom than a big international project. Using "like" constantly makes it sound as if you're afraid to state your opinion or ideas and are hedging your bets by using "like" instead of being definitive.

You may not even realize you've developed some of these habits. I know that "like" has become part of my vocabulary, and I'm determined to eradicate it. It won't be easy, but I'm taking it one conversation at a time and trying to speak more deliberately until I can break the habit.

My advice is to record your own voice when speaking to others, to try and spot bad vocal habits. Ask friends or family if you say "um" or "you know" or "literally" too much. Learning to speak more clearly and concisely is a great investment in your career -- and can prevent your voice from getting fried.

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