Monday, January 27, 2014

The Downside to Uptalk

I have been speaking with audiences for almost a decade about the negative impact of Uptalk on their
presence.  Despite this though, it still remains one of the most common coaching issues for my clients to work through.

For those unfamiliar with the term Uptalk, it is the upward inflection typically heard when someone is asking a question, but it occurs when making a statement.  This upward inflection serves to turn your statement into a question, making you sound hesitant and unsure of your content. Over time, and with frequency, it can seriously undermine your credibility.

Generally, people will fall into one of two categories of Uptalkers.  Either they uptalk all of the time, and are therefore Habitual Uptalkers, or their uptalk is leakage serving to signal shifts and changes in their internal state.

A recent study, conducted by Thomas Linneman highlighted key Gender Differences in handling success by tracking the use of uptalk by contestants on the popular television game show Jeopardy!  Overall, he found that contestants tended to use uptalk roughly 37% of the time.  This usage does make sense given that participants are, in fact, often wondering if they have the right answer or not.  This self-doubt leaks out through their voice in the form of uptalk.

However, Linneman also found that men tended to use more uptalk when they were playing against female contestants or when they were correcting a female contestant when she was wrong.  It seems that men will unconsciously integrate more uptalk into their speech in an effort to 'soften' some of their language.  Their increased uptalking, in these situations, signifies an attempt to be 'nice'.  We know from additional research that this is often the source of much of women's uptalk within the workplace, reflecting their desire for others to like and think well of them.  Perhaps it is heartening to know that men's uptalking behaviour is also influenced by the same desire, even if not to the same extent as women's.

The finding of Linneman's that is the most disturbing for me though is the link he uncovered between success and uptalk.  We have long known that women are often encouraged to downplay their success, while men are encouraged to own it.  Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In speaks to many of the reasons why women's careers stall out, resulting in fewer women at the senior level.  Uptalk is one of those reasons.  It is a subtle cue we deliver to others, letting them know that we do not feel we are worthy or deserving of success.

In Linneman's study, he found that the more success the male contestants enjoyed on the Jeopardy! show, the less uptalk they exhibited.  They became more comfortable and confident with their success as it increased.  However, the more successful that a female contestant became, the more uptalk she engaged in. Her comfort with her success increased, resulting in more uptalk.  Unfortunately, in business, the greater your uptalk, the more hesitant and unsure you sound, which will serve to limit and restrict the responsibilities you are given.  If you don't sound ready and capable then you are likely to be passed over.

Certainly, learning to speak without Uptalk is a necessary step to stepping-up.  You need to sound confident if you want others to place their confidence in you.  I work with clients often, helping them to eliminate their uptalk.  However, it can't stop there.  We need to also work at eradicating the belief that women are somehow not worthy or deserving of their success.  Often they have worked longer and harder to prove themselves, yet they are still left feeling like an imposter in that senior role.

 “I still face situations that I fear are beyond my capabilities. I still have days when I feel like a fraud. And I still sometimes find myself spoken over and discounted while men sitting next to me are not. But now I know how to take a deep breath and keep my hand up. I have learned to sit at the table.”    Sheryl Sandberg

Learning to 'sit at the table' means learning to have confidence that you are 'enough', that you are deserving and that you have the right to be there.  Gaining this belief helps us to manage and control the unconscious and damaging leakage (such as uptalk) that we would otherwise display.  

And men... though research supports the fact that women are the more likely uptalking culprits, I have many male clients working to eradicate their uptalk also.  In the end, we all want to appear and sound confident and capable, even in those moments when we are not.  Perhaps, more so in those moments.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Impact of the Anchoring Effect on your Success

I don't have an answer for you in today's blog posting, but I do have a question for you to consider.  First, let
me start by sharing a little about the psychological phenomenon known as the Anchoring Effect.

The Anchoring Effect is a psychological bias that serves to influence our perception of an event.  It can have very large implications for the final outcome we experience.  For example, let's take a look at a study conducted by Strack and Mussweiler (1999).  They looked to determine the relative impact of a prefacing question upon a final answer.  In this instance, they asked half a group of participants whether Mahatma Gandhi died before or after the age of 9, while the other half was asked where he died before or after the age of 140.  In each case, the answer was quite obvious for each group and each found the question to be somewhat silly in nature.  However, participants were then asked to guess the actual age of Gandhi's death.

The first group guessed an average age of 50, while the second group guessed an average age of 67. His actual age of 87 is irrelevant for the purposes of this study.  What is important is the degree of influence that the prefacing question had upon people's guesses.  In each instance the prefacing question had served to skew the results.

We see the impact of this Anchoring Effect in many other instance in our daily lives.  The sticker price of the car we are looking at will determine the final price that we settle on during our negotiations of the car price, regardless of whether that final price is truly 'fair' or not.  Our impression of the deal we got is driven by that first, anchored, sticker price.

The key is to understand that our brains are wired to use anchors (reference points) in helping us to make decisions.  Sometimes those anchors will work in our favour while, at other times, they may not. Unfortunately, the impact of these anchor points is largely impacting us unconsciously, preventing us from ensuring that they influence us in favourable versus unfavourable directions.

Now... my question.  The impact of the Anchoring Effect is well documented and is used consciously and universally by shrewd sales personnel and top negotiators.  However, my question is to consider the impact of the Anchoring Effect on your Success.  Let's look at this simply and consider only...  your salary.  How much do you think you are capable of earning per year, maximum?  Got a figure?

There's your Anchoring Effect.  I haven't done a study on this myself, but I do know that some have been done indicating that whatever your figure you will likely find that it is roughly what you end up earning.  If you believe you are capable of earning $30,000 you will find that it is ultimately what you end up earning.  If the figure is $50,000, $150,000 or even $1,000,000 the same is true.  In setting this figure in your head you have served to Anchor that belief, unconsciously influenciing all of your decisions, often in subtle ways, to 'help' you achieve that goal.  The choices you make end up working in support of that anchored belief.

In order to change your relative level of success you must therefore challenge those Anchored assumptions about what is possible for you.  In short, we Achieve what we Believe.  Change your beliefs about what is possible and you create new possibilities for yourself.  Why would we want to anchor in a limiting belief for ourselves?

Consciously we may not, however it is our unconscious mind, working in conjunction with our negative self talk, that sets the bar.  It's quite likely that if you aren't enjoying the level of success you desire, that you have set your bar too low.  It's the reason that those who win the lottery often find themselves down the road with nothing left, they are back where they started, earning what they always have.  That dollar figure was anchored in their unconscious and so they 'spent' and 'disbursed' their winnings in such a way as to return to their anchored belief.

Spend some time thinking about your definition of success for yourself and what limits you may be inadvertently creating by this definition.  Consider expanding that definition, including new possibilities and potential for yourself.  Cut loose from your existing anchors, those that may be weighing you down unnecessarily and keeping you in place, creating new anchor points that place you far ahead of where you currently are and see how that belief influences your choices, helping you to experience, have and be more in the future than your current anchors held you to in the past.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bullet Journalling

Still looking for a way to keep those New Year's goals and plans in check?  Find that your desire to use that
App to keep yourself organized, or that hot new 'system' that's out has fallen by the wayside and is now collecting dust in the corner with your exercise ball?  Don't despair, web designer Ryder Carroll may have the simplest solution for you yet!

After over a decade of development, trial and error, Carroll has introduced to the public his method for planning, tracking and note taking - all in one simple little notebook.  The Bullet Journal Notebook uses any blank paper notebook, providing an Analog system for the Digital Age.  The ease and the simplicity of the system are likely its strongest benefits.  No steep learning curve here.
Track the Past, Organise the Present, and Plan for the Future
 Check out this video for a quick overview and demonstration...

I have long kept a blank book on my desk, always in easy reach, within which I keep an ongoing record of quotes, facts and information crossing my desk that I don't want to lose.  Someone mentions a great book and I jot it down.  I read a quote that resonates within me, I jot it down.  I come across a fact or statistic that I know I will want to use in a program or future article, I jot it down.  Rather than writing them onto sticky-notes that end up getting lost or stuck to something that got filed elsewhere, I always know where to find those 'missing' pieces of information.  A quick flip through past entries will always spark an idea, action or new thought, helping to shift me out of any state of inertia that may have overcome me.

Carroll's use of his journal is inspired.  It doesn't require any fancy Apps or programs, no complicated systems to learn or perfect.  Simple systems are often the most powerful - because we do them.  Nothing works if you don't use or do it.  If you've been struggling with keeping yourself organized or on-track, or have found that your systems for keeping up with your life seem to be sucking up more time than you're spending on doing the things on your list - maybe it's time to grab a blank journal and give it a try.  You can pick up a little more information on Carroll's system by visiting his website at

In the end, all that matters is that you have a way of getting things done.  Finding a way to keep yourself on track can help you not just get more done, but helps you to stay busy doing the right things.  Any system that helps you do this is the 'right' system... for you.  If you haven't found yours yet, give this one a go.  The simplicity of the system may be just what you have been looking for!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Planning your Becoming

It's that time of year where the internet abounds with ideas for setting your resolutions, suggestions on keeping your resolutions and consolation to those that break them.  You can find tools and articles to help you set your goals, ways to make them SMART, and systems to help you break them down into manageable bites and schedule them.

Instead, I want to suggest that you add a dimension into your goal-setting this year.  All too often we focus on what we want to do or have.  Our focus is on what we want to 'get' out of and from our goal setting, but we spend little time reflecting on what that achievement will make of us.  We are all shaped by our experiences in some way.  What we live through, the way we approach and experience it, will shape the person we become.  It therefore makes sense to devote some time to considering, and planning, our Becoming.
“The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than what you get.”  Jim Rohn
We can all set goals that are achievable, allowing us to check them off the list and feel good about ourselves in being able to do so.  However, asking ourselves whether that goal aided us in becoming 'more' of the person we want and hope to be, is likely going to be a more challenging criteria.

Instead of simply establishing that almost inevitable New Year's resolution of weight-loss (come on... we all likely have a few pounds to lose after the holidays!) consider instead that the goal is not simply to lose weight.  In Planning your Becoming you take this a step further.  Perhaps you have always struggled to lose the weight, or perhaps your challenge was not in losing but in keeping the weight off.  The goal then is not truly to merely lose the weight but to gain the ability to remain with a lifestyle plan that allows you to create and maintain a healthy weight.  What do you need to 'become' in order to make this true of you?  A weight-loss plan merely becomes the vehicle by which you become the type of person that no longer needs a conscious weight-loss plan with a definitive start and stop, you simply 'are' the weight you want to to be, leading a lifestyle that supports that - effortlessly.

Your efforts shift slightly as your focus shifts.  No longer are you rewarding and celebrating each pound lost as the milestone, but instead rewarding the resiliency to stick with the plan, you recognise each donut you say no to as a nod to your determination, each sit-up and push-up as a testament to your internal strength and determination.

These are the life-lessons that surround us, that have not only helped shape the person that we have Become thus far, but that continue to shape us into the person we will be in the future.  Who do you want to be? Craft and plan now for your Becoming.  Build goals that test and strengthen and build the character traits you admire, the skills you want to possess, the values you believe in.  It's not simply about checking things off of the list, it's about checking the right things off.

Take a look at your list of resolutions and goals for the year and assess what their accomplishment truly means to you.  What life lessons will they provide, what character traits do they support or allow you to test or discover, what values do they build?  Who you Become is within you to create.  Begin shaping it consciously by establishing goals and accomplishments that support your Becoming.

Everything we do teaches us something about ourselves.  Spend your time wisely, teaching yourself those things that are worth learning.