Vocal Fry and UpSpeak, a habit you need?

What is Vocal Fry? What’s the deal with UpSpeak?

Vocal fry and UpSpeak are not terms made up to further denigrate young women and men in the work force. It’s not a way to describe how they don’t measure up. Since us humans are essentially of the Ape variety, adopting habits from others is how we learn and acculturate. We pick up all kinds of habits along the way, some consciously, some unconsciously, especially habits of personal expression. If your parents talk with their hands a lot, chances are you do too. The accents of your family or neighborhood are assimilated into the way you speak – which is why there are regional dialects. The same is true for vocal habits. Vocal rhythms and intonations such as UpSpeak, and speaking from the back of your throat (which is Vocal Fry), are learned habits. And if you grow up with kids in the school yard who speak with Vocal Fry or use UpSpeak, you could easily adopt that habit as your own. There’s nothing wrong about it, it’s human.
But this generation is not the first to adopt and pick up habits of expression from each other. The difference is this is the first generation to be under such an intensely magnified microscope and in more areas of our lives than ever before. We are now dissecting ourselves down to the microscopic – and sometimes this dissection takes a turn for the negative. But you can look back at previous generations and see what habits of expression have essentially “gone viral”. In the 1940’s and 50’s, it was not considered feminine for women to speak with a low-pitched voice (or men with a higher voice). In response to this idea of gender identity, many women tried to force their voices higher and in some cases, like good ole Marilyn Monroe, went breathy or adapted a girly-ness in their voice as a way to sound feminine and sexy. People try to change their voice to match an idea of what’s acceptable. These days, most women I work with, don’t want a high voice. They feel a high voice is not sexy or feminine, and that a girly voice coming out of an executive woman cuts their power in two. They’re clear about that.
The same is true for Vocal Fry and UpSpeak. While there is nothing “bad” about a person who speaks this way, it is limiting. A mode of expression you may have learned from your friends as a kid and decided to adopt as a way to be accepted or to be considered funny or cool, when used as the exclusive way of communicating significantly limits what you’re able to communicate.
If, for example, you’re trying to convince someone to do something, you wouldn’t repeat one reason over and over in order to change their mind – the same is true with vocal expression. You don’t use just one rhythm or way of speaking for everything you need to communicate. It would be really hard to get what you want in life. It follows that if you’re a woman or man who wants to grow and be powerful in your job (and in your life) having access to your full voice is essential, not only to be persuasive when you need to be, but also to be more yourself even when it’s difficult to be yourself. When you have your voice, you have access to more of Your Self. And when you’re being your most powerful, authentic self, my guess is no one can deny you anything – at least not without a bit of a squirm.

Adele Cabot
Founder, Teacher, Coach, LAvoiceJOY, LLC
Voice Work. LAvoiceJOY. Contact us for more information. www.lavoicejoy.com