Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Vocal up-speak challenges professional users

Imagine this — you just gave a great speech. You knew the material, the audience was active and engaging and you looked great. Now imagine coming home and opening up to the Internet where all over the place was your name and someone making fun of the way you talk.

Glottal fry, or vocal fry, and up-speak refers to “creaky” voices and the act of ending sentences in a high pitch, even if what the speaker is saying isn’t a question.

It is similar to how the Kardashians speak. They end most of their sentences as though they’re asking a question.

On July 23, journalist Jessica Grose, a former host of the “DoubleX Gabfest” podcast for Slate, was interviewed on the popular NPR show “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross.

Grose said she would come home after a podcast to negative emails and rude comments on her Facebook about her up-speak.

“I was hurt — that sounds a little silly, I’m a big girl,” she said in the NPR interview. “I write all the time on the Internet, and I’m used to criticism, but there’s something really personal about your voice, especially if it’s something you’ve never thought about as unpleasant. It’s not fun to hear that people find it irritating.”

Plattsburgh State Communication Disorders and Science Professor Raymond Domenico said vocal fry is not a disorder unless it is used all the time, which could then create a problem for the individual.

“With glottal fry, the muscles that bring the vocal folds together are working. They are held together, but they are not being stretched from the interior dimension. They’re brought together from side to side but not by their length,” Domenico said.

When Grose was interviewing a man in his late 60s, he told her that she sounded like his granddaughter. Grose took this as him saying that he did not take her seriously. He even asked how old she was.

“I found it irritating, and at that point I found it mildly sexiest because I don’t think he would have said something similar to a young man who used some of the verbal ticks that perhaps I used,” she said.

This was the first time she felt her voice was hindering her career. She sought professional help to make her voice sound more professional.

Grose said she went to a voice coach and learned some tips regarding how to change her voice. After a month, she decided she was done getting help and that she had learned what she needed to know.

Susan Sankin, a speech pathologist, offers vocal coaching to individuals who want to change their voices. She was on “Fresh Air,” alongside Grose and told listeners that men and women enlist her help because they tend to be unhappy with their voice.

“They just have developed a speech pattern that’s a habit, and they don’t know how to break out of it,” Sankin said. “When we present ourselves, the way we speak is our verbal image.”

Sankin said individuals come get help from her to help them sound more confident and more sure of themselves. She made a comparison about how verbal image is similar to appearance.

Lauren Ciaccio, a PSUC transfer student from the Fashion Institute of Technology, is involved in a lot of feminist and women’s rights groups, so she has become familiar with this topic.

“In all cases, listeners should be paying attention to the content and not criticizing women for their voice. As a female, people want to find the sound of our voices pleasant,” Ciaccio said. “On some level, we as a society are a bit vain and want our women to be pretty and pleasant and soft-spoken.”

Sankin said she feels that glottal fry and up-speak are distracting from the speaker’s message. She seeks to help individuals break out of their pattern of speech to become more confident and more defined as a speaker.

Grose told “Fresh Air” listeners, “I have started thinking of voice almost as the way I think about outfits. If I’m going for a job interview, I’m going to wear a different outfit than when I’m out with my friends.”

Similar to Grose, PSUC Journalism and Public Relations Assistant Professor Rachael Jurek has dealt with negative feedback because of her voice. Jurek said her first boss after college would criticize her voice, and she began thinking about ways to change it.

“After a while of thinking about what he said, I learned to change my voice with who I am talking to,” she said. “I am like a chameleon with how I change the way I talk in situations.

“Your voice is something that you hear slightly differently than the people around you. It’s part of your identity,” Jurek said. “And feeling like you have to change it to please the people around you makes you question other aspects of your communication style.”

Email Cardinal Points at cp@cardinalpointsonline.com

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