How we say words changes their definition. For example, if I laugh and call someone an SOB it may be a taken as a term of endearment, but if I say it acrimoniously, it has an entirely different meaning. I’m probably going to get my butt kicked. One of the most misused patterns of speech is inflection. Think of inflection as a musical score. For rising inflection each word in a statement is represented by a note ascending to a higher pitch than the last. Lowered inflection is the opposite, in other words, the statement begins at a higher note and ends at its lowest.

People use Rising AND Lowered Every Day

When we ask questions we usually do so with rising inflection, and when we confidently make statements we employ lowered inflection. It’s when we unintentionally use rising inflection that our communication becomes misunderstood. If I asked you to say, “Kids, it’s time to do your homework” and you asked using rising inflection, turning the statement into a question, would your children take you seriously?

What Rising Inflection Creates

30 years ago I taught telephone sales techniques and one of the most important and most difficult tasks was breaking marketers of rising inflection. We use rising inflection when we’re unsure. It’s natural for a new marketer to use rising inflection because they’re new and haven’t developed the knowledge that brings confidence.

In marketing as in life, people judge others quickly. One rising inflected statement can change the perception of a prospect from interest to doubt. Whether it’s lead generation, sales, or life in general, rising inflection can change the intended meaning of a communication.

If you were at a dance and someone came over and asked you to dance using a timid sounding rising inflection, would you dance with them? Maybe, maybe not, but you would hesitate and think about what their lack of confidence meant.

How to Control Rising Inflection

It takes practice. It’s a simple plan but hard work. For some of us, it takes a lot of practice. If you want to sound confident, you must be confident. There’s no substitute for preparation. Preparation breeds confidence. Confident people speak with lowered inflection.

Use your hands. Your voice will follow your hands. Begin a statement with your hands open palmed, facing out, at eye level, and bring them down (use the same motion you’d use to shoot a basketball) as you make the statement.

Record yourself and break it down. I know, you don’t think the recording sounds like you. right? It does. Your ears don’t give you a true representation of your voice because they pick up low sound waves carried through bone. Your voice is higher than you thought it was. Listen, and note, times you use unintended rising inflection, and then practice using lowered.

Here are more ideas from How to improve your inflection on the phone.

Where did this post come from—Left Field?

Well, kinda, sorta. I read this research from New Scientist. Confident? Your voice gives you away in milliseconds.  My reaction was, that’s nice, but everybody knows rising inflection makes one sound timid and uncertain, don’t they? Apparently not. I also learned that people are quicker to judge than I expected. “Watch what you say, or rather, how you say it. People judge how confident you are in just 0.2 seconds.” The article went on to say, “Unconfident statements, on the other hand, tended to be higher in pitch and slower than all other expressions, as well as rising in pitch towards the end. Neutral statements were acoustically closer to confident ones, although they were lower in pitch, higher in intensity and spoken more rapidly.”

How Important is Inflection?

It can make all the difference in the world. Even the most well-crafted presentation will sound timid and weak when it’s spoken with rising inflection. And worse yet it sets up questions in the listeners mind such as:

  • Why aren’t they confident?
  • Don’t they believe in what they’re saying?
  • What’s wrong with the product or service?
  • What am I missing, is this scam?

Do you use rising inflection unintentionally? If so, and you’d like to improve, give me a call at 317- 271 – 1398. But ask for me with confidence.