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Feb 06 2014

To Find Your Voice You Have To Use It

Published by under communication,Uncategorized

© Mikael Andersson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Mikael Andersson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

A voice is more than the way you sound when you speak and there is more to finding your voice than going through some scales to work the muscles of the larynx or learn to breathe. The singers and speakers we love have distinct voices that display unique characteristics (think James Earl Jones) or voices that stand out in the crowd. How did they get that way?  Were they born with voices like that or did they have to find them?  In the case of James Earl Jones, he was a stutterer and spent a lot of work and time to find his voice.  And once he found he could speak without stuttering, was he automatically the voice of Darth Vader? How did he find the voice that made him the voice of CNN?

A Google search on “find your voice” delivered more than a million results.  Surprisingly, few of them were related to the physical voice.  In fact, many were related to areas such as writing, psychology, the visual arts, and social change. But I believe it’s all the same; those who are looking to find their voice in the world or in the arts or politics have to go through similar discovery and exercise to have a voice that has impact.  And, no, I am not saying that you have to sing scales to be a writer. But what I am saying is that if you want a voice that others will hear or if you don’t like the one you have or if you want to form a perspective that will be reflected in your work, you have to start with the voice you’ve already got.  The real question to ask is “How do I shape my voice it will be heard in this noisy world?”  Here’s how:

  • Play with sounds and/or ideas,
  • Take some chances, and
  • Don’t let anyone shut you down.

Play with sounds, play with ideas, colors

As a singer or speaker, you have to try out your sounds.  Babies do this when they learn to speak.  Mine did it to learn to sing when they were tiny.  Adults can learn from babies.  Adults can play with sound until they get something that works to communicate and that they like to produce.  We also learn from others, such as coaches or role models, or we can create something new.

Just as singers experiment with sounds to find something that expresses how they feel, you need to develop your own ideas or style and get feedback from others to develop your voice in the world.  Find a role model or a group in which you can try out your ideas while learning from others.  Examine your ideas. Shape them into something you want to share with others. Play with them.  Challenge them.  Challenge others.  Ask questions and seek the answers.

© Galina Barskaya | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Galina Barskaya | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Step out and take chances

I started singing in front of others when I was a very young.  I sang in church and at school until I eventually sang in competitions, plays, operas, concerts, etc.  Singing in front of others is never the same as singing at home. It allows us to learn and grow more because we get feedback. Leadership guru, Ken Blanchard, said “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” It nourishes.  Singers and speakers perform in public to get that feedback.

One way to take your metaphorical voice out in public is to play devil’s advocate with someone.  To do this, try defending or arguing the side of the argument with which you DON’T agree. Or paint a piece in a new style. Or create a new format for a poem.  In doing this, you get clearer about what is true for you and you also get clearer about how others may respond to your voice.  If you want to do challenge yourself if this way, take a look at this wiki.  Then take a chance and speak up in the next meeting, or write that book, or find a show for your art.

Don’t let anyone shut you down

Sometimes you get good feedback and sometimes you don’t.  Some people are uncomfortable with their physical voice because of negative feedback about their singing or speaking they got when they were young.  That’s sad, but true. When someone tells me that they are tone-deaf, I ask if they were encouraged to sing as a child, and nine times out of ten they tell me a parent shut them down.

The same is true for your other voice.  You have to play with ideas in order to formulate your own, and there are always people who are ready to tell you that your ideas/drawings/solutions are stupid.  I was lucky.  I grew up in a home where discourse was served along with dinner every night. I didn’t always like the arguments that ensued, but I did develop beliefs and perspectives that were my unique view of the world and I got comfortable sharing them. But there are many who are silent simply because they let someone tell them they were wrong or no good at what they were attempting.

The final truth about finding your voice:

You do have a voice.  Everyone does.  In fact it’s unique because there is no other voice with exactly the same physical make up, perspective, history, and development as yours. In other words, you don’t have to find it because you didn’t lose it; but if you don’t use it, you WILL lose it. And the world will be poorer for its absence.

How are you using your voice and what do you recommend to others?  Please share in the comments below. Or find me on Twitter, Facebook, or Linked in and we will continue the conversation there.

Images courtesy of Dreamstime. 

To learn more:

Post on The Accidental Creative, 10 Questions that will help you find your voice

Post on this blog: Where to find your voice in 2013

On Five Creativity Exercises to Find your Passion

Toastmasters is a great place to learn to speak up

Is there a Million Dollar Voice for CEO’s?

To see how others are using their voices for good, here’s a compilation of my Raise Your Voice posts


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Dec 31 2013

3 Essential Ingredients of a Meaningful Conversation

Published by under communication,Speaking

What I remember most about being home from college for the holidays is deep, meaningful conversations with people.  My mom was the master of this art.  One year I had a traumatic experience with a man- the kind that shapes you forever- and when I arrived home, I was sad and frightened.  Even though I didn’t say anything at first, Mom, of course, picked up on that; I can still see us in the laundry room folding clothes, crying together and talking for hours.  I credit my mom with the renewed sense of hope and courage with which I went back to college that January.

However, it seems that many people are concerned that we are no longer conversing with each other – anywhere.  In the article Now that everyone is connected, is this the death of conversation? Simon Jenkins discusses this in great detail.  He quotes Sherry Turkle, MIT professor and author of Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other, We have confused connection with conversation – the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship.”

I am not convinced that conversation is dead, at least in my world.  But I see the need for a refresher on how to have a conversation that is meaningful; I want to encourage us all to have those conversations now before we forget how.  Therefore, reflecting on meaningful conversations I’ve had over the years, I have attempted to put together a recipe – one that can be used in any situation whether at home or at the office.  I’ve come up with three ingredients for that recipe, but I’d love to hear from you if you know of others.  My three ingredients are inquiry, implicit communication, and humor.

Senior adults with their adult children.


I tend to see the glass half full. When in conversation, I expect the other person is well intentioned even if the conversation is difficult.  Sometimes, I am disappointed, but, for example, I prefer to agree to disagree rather than assume people are jerks if they have a different opinion.  This perspective also allows me to be curious and ask questions.  I’ve learned a lot about life and people by being curious and I’ve found that people appreciate being asked about their ideas and experiences.

“You can cross huge divides when you engage in dialogue or conversation from a position of inquiry, and if you do that from an appreciative stance, it means your inquiry is looking for what to appreciate or value in that other person’s story.” (Appreciative inquiry and Robyn Stratton-Berkessel: A conversation – Los Angeles Business Strategies |

Appreciative inquiry is a term used to describe a specific process of communication that has had tremendous success, particularly in areas of strife between different cultures.  To Robyn Stratton-Berkessel, it is a way of life.  Even without knowing the exact process, the idea of appreciative inquiry is powerful and will result in more meaningful conversation.  To apply it, we need to remain respectful and hopeful, with the courage or conviction to keep the conversation going. We must remain open to each other with a desire to learn and grow.  And we must then ask meaningful questions rather than superficial ones that merely fill the silent spaces.

Implicit communication

In spite of the power of inquiry to create a meaningful discussion, often it is what is unsaid that matters most.  We all know the feeling of the “elephant in the room.”  If we deny what is unsaid but known, we deny the opportunity for a deeper relationship.  We evade the truth and cannot share from the heart, talking around what is important rather than dealing with it.

Being direct in conversation is one way to deal with the unsaid.  You can bring it up – get it out in the open.  However, it is also possible to accept that what you know and feel in your heart is true, have empathy for that situation, and not address it head on.  Simply sitting quietly in the same room with the bereaved may mean more than a discussion about loss.  Trust your gut.

“From equivocation to consideration, from persuasion to in-group consolidation, from threat to thrall, implicit communication plays an important role not only in diplomacy, but in everyday communication. We have a choice either to master the unsaid or to be mastered by it. Biljana Scott, in article in The Guardian about poetry, politics and what is unsaid being powerful.)


My dad used to love to play Devil’s Advocate at the dinner table just to get a rise out of us kids. That certainly helped me to shape my own views about life, but it wasn’t always fun.  Sometimes we got our feelings hurt.  The answer was to find something to laugh about.  My dad always knew when to do that.  Today, when I have a difficult discussion with a family member, I look for the opportunity to inject humor to create a space for us to find a way to leave the conflict and ease into a better place, even if only temporarily.

In an excellent overview of the power of humor, writer Nichole Force says, “Among other things, laughter has been shown to reduce stress, boost the immune system and enhance brain chemistry through the release of serotonin and endorphins.”  When in an intense discussion, humor can take the intensity down a notch because of its effect on the brain.  Force also describes how  humor has gotten people through such horrible times as the Holocaust.

According to comedian, Jessica Halem, perhaps the best reason to use humor in conversations is this,  “Laughter physically loosens you up to receive information or to connect with other people,”  Read Halem’s guide on how to make someone laugh and be prepared for your next discussion.


There is a lot to be gained by being in conversation with people, and even more if we stay fully engaged enough to have meaningful conversations.  To do this, we must remember to be inquisitive, pay attention to implicit communication, and find something to laugh about.  What else have you found to be important? Let’s keep talking to each other in 2014 and beyond.

If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, please share by clicking on the share buttons below.  Thank you!!

Related post:

The Right Questions Institute Blog




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