Finding your voice
What do you have to say?
Sometimes we are at a loss for words, even those of us who are quite outspoken and communicative. We can struggle at times to find something meaningful to impart.
When are we meant to speak and when should we stay silent?
Personally, I prefer to offer my input when I think I actually have something meaningful to say to add to a conversation. Not that I always need to be brilliant, but if an important thought emerges then I’m typically inclined to share it. For me, dialogue and talking out loud actually support my creative process by sparking my imagination and understanding. Though this isn’t the case for everyone.
There is something to be said about getting out there – showing up and being consistent and of course speaking your truth – in relationships and work as much as in marketing. If you have a unique point of view and want to be seen and heard, then you need to engage in the conversation. That being said, with so much content everywhere, it can get to be too much. TMI (too much information) can be overwhelming because it makes it harder to find the signal amidst all the noise.
The Challenge of Authentic Communication
Authenticity is an important key to showing up fully and making an impact. We need to align our words, thoughts and actions because the most effective communication clearly articulates what you want to say, why it matters, when it will happen, which outcomes should result and who it is meant for.
Sometimes what we actually say is less important than how and when we say it. Saying the right thing at the wrong time will fall flat and saying something important inauthentically will register as disingenuous and not connect. Overlooking the internal preparation on what you want to say and ignoring the external planning around how best to communicate will limit your success.
THE INTROVERT / EXTROVERT DILEMMA
I often see two situations that present communication challenges. First, when we worry too much what other people think, then don’t say anything. This is a common issue for introverts, perfectionists and people pleasers who put others’ needs ahead of their own and try to make themselves small.
This has an obvious downside that if you don’t speak up, then no one will know what you think. They can’t benefit from your wisdom and sadly, you might get dismissed. This can happen in loud aggressive cultures or families where the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If you work in a place that values assertiveness, a quieter and more reflective style will be devalued – you may not be seen as a leader within the organization, running the risk of being passed over for promotions and top jobs.
On the other extreme are the chatty Cathies and Clarks – those folks who always weigh in on everything because they need to share their thoughts and think they have something important to say. While these extroverts may be smart and savvy, they can also take up a lot of space, sucking all the air out of the room with their large egos and need to dominate others. Often this happens without their realizing it.
You can imagine the downside here is a manager speaking over or taking credit for other people’s ideas or inadvertently stealing the thunder from others. Blowhards and attention grabbers can get a reputation for always having to weigh in, even when their opinion isn’t helpful. This style is risky for those who can’t read the room and when advantaged groups take up more space than they should overshadowing other voices that should be contributing. Always needing to be in the spotlight is an ego play that demonstrates a lack of sensitivity or awareness to group dynamics.
All of us may fall into both of these buckets from time to time, though it’s likely we have a natural tendency (our “go to”) style because of our personality, temperament, and work role. For instance, while I needed to be outspoken in my corporate roles, that style often wasn’t as effective in interpersonal relationships. Word to the wise, being bossy doesn’t always win you points, though there are certainly arguments to be made for finding our inner B*tch from time to time.
CAN YOU LEAN INTO A NEW WAY OF BEING?
- For the louder EXTROVERTS: Can you create space for others to participate and weigh in? Consider becoming an ally to support others whose voices have historically been ignored and practice being a sacred witness (aka holding space) for others to speak out. Your thoughtfulness will be appreciated, and you just might learn something by listening more and speaking less.
- For the quieter INTROVERTS: How might you stretch yourself to speak up? Try to push your edge and let people hear your point of view. By sharing your perspective, you let people get to know more about what you bring to the table. You likely have a lot more to say than you’re letting on, so don’t keep it all inside. Your wisdom is meant to be shared.
In either case, it may feel awkward and unnatural at first as you go against the grain of your typical behaviors, however the benefits of learning how to regulate and modulate our communication style give us significant advantages. First of all, it keeps people guessing, so you won’t get pegged for being a one note player – it gives you range.
I’m not much of a golfer, but I would assume your odds increase if you can play both the rough and put smoothly. You will become an all-around better player at whatever game you approach. Second, others are likely to lean in to hear what you have to say and pay attention because your insights will be valued more. Finally, you will develop your leadership and interpersonal skills, not to mention your confidence as you start picking up on more of the subtle cues around you.
I have found it worthwhile to reflect on what I want to say and what things are appropriate to share or not. We all have to find our words and our way. My desire is to always show up fully in my truth.
If you want to enhance your communications and speak more confidently, please reach out to connect. While we sometimes need to fake it until we make it, my suggestion is to find your inner truth so you can shout or whisper it out to the world in whatever way feels appropriate.
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