Partners in Performance Blog

How to Be Persuasive: Avoid this One Voice Habit that Kills Credibility

how to be persuasiveIf you really want to know how to be persuasive, here’s a voice habit you will want to avoid. Have you ever noticed this? In just about every workshop on presentations I deliver, there’s at least one or two people who do this while speaking:

Although they’re making a statement, their vocal tone rises at the end, as if a question is being asked, do you know what I mean?

While it sometimes sounds coy and feminine, it kills credibility and ability to persuade. It’s not always young women who speak this way, some men also do. To me, it’s as if they’re asking for a nod of approval at each statement, before continuing.

This ‘girlish’ intonation robs young women (and some men too) from the ability to communicate persuasively.  When your voice rises habitually at the end of each sentence, you don’t show up as credible.  You give up your power.

Credible Voice vs. Approachable Voice

Is it always wrong for the voice intonation to rise at the end of a sentence? No, of course not.  Obviously it goes up when asking questions. And even when making statements, it is sometimes effective to raise your intonation if you want to come across as approachable. I call this ‘Approachable Voice’. If your intent is to create rapport, put people at ease in a difficult conversation, and establish a friendly tone, then using an Approachable Voice is warranted.

If you want to persuade and motivate use Credible Voice. Bring your intonation down at the end of your sentence.

This is the sort of vocal habit that’s a little hard to explain in writing, so I’ve made a short video clip to demonstrate. Take a look at these two short presentations to see if you can spot the differences.

I’m not convinced it’s a regional or accent thing, as people across Canada do it, and in the States as well. It’s pure habit. Like all habits, you can change it, but you first must be aware you’re doing it. Most people aren’t aware as it’s such an ingrained vocal habit.

Take any speech you’ve prepared, and record yourself for less than 3 – 5 minutes. Then listen to each sentence carefully and use paper to rate yourself. Make a mark at the end of each sentence to chart your intonation as up, neutral, or down.

You might be surprised at what you find.

Awareness plus Deliberate Practice

Yet awareness is only part of changing a habit. Next you must set up deliberate practice sessions. You can either use a recorder, a video app or ask a friend to help you rehearse. Practice making definitive, declarative and credible statements using natural intonation that doesn’t rise at the end.

If you continue to have this habit creep into your speech, work with a coach. Like most things, you can unlearn this habit and learn to speak with confidence and credibility.

Let me know if I can help. or call 905-877-5808.

 (Photo source:

This entry was posted by TanjaParsley on November 8, 2013 in Delivery Skills, Persuasion. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback.

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