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Seriously. This advice is particularly directed toward the young female leaders of tomorrow. The ones who currently insert the word “like” several times in one sentence – but only when they speak! This demographic, which ranges across the age spectrum, but I can’t forgive those in grades 12 through all of college (and sometimes beyond) and made worse in combination with the annoying propensity to end every sentence on a vocal upturn or upswing. This is also called a High Rising Terminal (HRT) up talk or upward inflection.  Male humans do it too, but it is pervasive among young adult females.

Be quiet for a moment and listen to your friends. You will hear it. Here’s a great example and suggestions for improvement:

I found this article on LinkedIn written by Bernard Marr. Want a promotion? Don’t upspeak!

Recently, I took a Megabus trip to visit my daughter in New York City. It’s a great deal I take advantage of and our university is a stop. As a Baby Boomer, I am the demographical exception on the bus. Almost everyone on the ride was a college student.  Several girls sat behind me – all university students – I am certain some of them were business majors, engineer majors, etc. They talked about their relationships, their classes, and I tried hard not to eavesdrop. But LIKE I couldn’t help it! LIKE really!! LIKE, you know, LIKE keeping my head from LIKE exploding. OMG!!

Every single one of them talked like that, and ended with the upward inflection. I didn’t have eyes behind my head, but I am sure they were tossing their heads and hair in concert with the verbal rhythm and musical intonations.

It’s a bad habit that needs to be broken! Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late president was slaughtered, simply slaughtered when she couldn’t control the pauses in her speech. Kennedy met with the Editorial Board of The New York Times in 2008 as she explored running for the U.S. Senate seat in NYC, vacated by Hillary Clinton. Kennedy was skewered in the media when the videotapes of her interviews were released. Her version of “like” was “you know” uttered an uncomfortable number of times, and a transcript release of her actual verbage made it worse. She didn’t get the job.

The opposite of the HRT is “Vocal Fry.” You can thank the Kardashians for the surge in popularity of this lovely trend.

Undoing the habit takes time, especially if you don’t know you are doing it. Everyone has techniques to pause while thinking. An occasional “um” or “you know” is normal. Quiet pauses are rare. According to surveys however, it is the verbal uptick at the end, that people find most annoying.  I’ve caught myself doing the upward inflection many times. It was (note past tense) very apparent on my voice mail messages. I’ve since re-recorded them.

Blogging might be the answer. Blogging can help you establish your bona fides and provide insights into how you think and consider serious issues. If potential employers Google your name (and most will) they can assess your intelligence and communication skills with the written word and form some positive opinions before meeting you, when, you like ruin it, with like how organized and you know, the good communications skills you learned at college.< Cue the HRT>