Feb 06 2014

To Find Your Voice You Have To Use It

Published by under Musings

© 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 Entrepreneur.com 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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Jan 22 2013

Top 5 Business Trends in 2013: Your place, your voice

Published by under Musings

2013 AheadRecently, Forbes magazine published an article by Meghan Biro called 5 Trends Defining the World of Work and Leadership in 2013. In the article, Meghan points out that

“Uncertainty has increased, not decreased this past year. The country does not have its financial house in order. People of all ages and skill levels are worried about their jobs, their families, their futures.

It’s up to us as leaders to create a collaborative, engaged global workplace with extending social communities built on a foundation of healthy culture, real trust, and respect for all types of talent. This is a tall order, but we can do it. Our future leaders are depending on us to continue the mission.”

In order to be ready to participate in “a collaborative, engaged global workplace with extending social communities,” you will need a clear, purposeful voice, either physically or metaphorically. You will need to embrace “conversations that matter,” a name I use to describe those discussions that require thought and foresight. You will need to speak up with ideas that have value. You will need to be ready to interview and be interviewed, and you will need to listen to and be respectful of others’ voices. Below, for each, trend, I show you what to consider and how to prepare to participate.

Trend #1: 2013 Will be the year of collaboration technology. Think: Social media. Social Media is often a medium of expression for the Voice that represents your thoughts and expression rather than just a place to keep in touch with friends. There are lots of great books and videos on social media. To participate, learn to use it effectively. Rather than telling about your breakfast, tell your story and re-tell other peoples’ stories. Find your unique niche. Then commit to it and stay involved. Over time, your Voice will be expected in the mix. As for your physical voice, add video or podcasts to your strategy, making sure that your intention aligns with your content and both with your delivery. And also remember that the social web is permanent. Choose participation wisely.

Trend #2: As Baby Boomers become more anxious about retirement prospects, look for a multi-generational collision in the work place. Brio says, “There are differing expectations now in the world of work. Challenging times lie ahead for leaders, managers and HR pros who are not able to adopt rapidly to innovation and the unique communication needs of different generations. We need open-minded, passionate, talented people of all generations to work together as one.” Your voice reflects your intention. Be clear about your intention. Create a personal statement of intention and use it as a filter for your message. Set your intention to be open-minded and passionate. Work on that executive presence.  Create content that reflects these characteristics. Work on your listening skills, and learn to dialog with others using co-operative communication skills.

Trend #3: Increasing government regulation, especially around ACA, tax changes and Social Security, will keep job growth low. More than ever, good interview skills will be needed to compete. But today’s interviewers are increasingly looking for unique candidates with a great story to tell. Find yours and be prepared to tell it. If you are one of the people who does the interviewing, be sure to listen effectively and remain respectful of the fact that it’s a jungle out there for anyone looking for a job.

Trend #4: Telepresence for globally distributed teams will continue to grow. Telepresence is a wonderful tool for creating a sense of connection across the miles. However, every time someone sees you on the TP monitor, they are comparing you to the news broadcaster they saw on television the night before. This is not conscious, but it is real! After all, there’s that frame around your image! If you don’t measure up, your brand is in jeopardy. When you sit in a TP room, take the time to look at your desk and the environment that is visible to others; remove messy paper, coffee cups you aren’t using, stray pens and books, extra chairs, and any other clutter. On video, the best colors to wear are periwinkle blue and deep coral without busy patterns. Get some shirts or sweaters in those colors for those special TP sessions. Avoid white. If you are the only one sitting at a large TP table, make yourself “large and in charge” by sitting centered but at a slight angle to the camera, with your arms open and elbows away from your sides. Take up as much space as you can. Do not place your laptop between you and your audience (in any meeting). Finally, look at the camera, not the screen, as much as possible so that, to the other person, you appear to be looking at them.

Trend #5: Technology married with Social Media will now be EVERYWHERE, but we’ll think of it less as technology and more as an appliance, like a toaster. One of the main considerations of this trend is that your “social ID” will be used everywhere you go, making statements about who you are and what you do just as if you were telling people such things aloud. Be sure you know how to be safe in this new world, but also make sure that ID represents you well. Consider the picture that shows up on Google+ or in your friends’ contact list. Does it look like you, or if it is a symbol or a logo, does it translate well to the web? How do you use this technology? Is your use in alignment with your personal brand and/or intention?

In the end, Meghan challenges us to stay passionate and continue to collaborate as we move ahead into 2013.  I say it this way: in 2013 businesses are more like choruses than soloists, but choirs are made up of great individual voices. This year is the year we recognize that we are better together. Let yours ring out while appreciating the voices around you.

Comments?  Please share yours.



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