Find your voice, be heard, have your say and share your ideas. In an earlier article I offered some basic ideas for how to achieve a positive impact. A key part of personal impact is being able to express yourself with confidence and clarity; here are some tips on how to find your voice and be heard, even in those situations where we may feel uncomfortable and challenged.
Find your voice – have you lost it?!
There are times when we may lose our voice, it is important to know when such times may arise. For example, in a meeting or a conversation it may be when you feel that:
- some-one responds sharply, perhaps aggressively, to your viewpoint;
- you are being ‘put on the spot;’
- you are unsure of what you are saying or not feeling fully prepared;
- others do not value your views or think ‘that is a stupid question.’
Lost your voice – where does it go?
In the above situations, or similar, we tend to ‘go in’ on ourselves, literally and metaphorically. Have you noticed how your body shifts at such times? Shoulders drop, you pull in your arms; it is as if, being uncomfortable, you are seeking to make yourself physically smaller. The shifts may be so small that you barely notice them but it does happen.
It actually adds to your feelings of low confidence; you are on the edge of that vicious circle of decreasing confidence, and the volume goes up on those inner negative messages.
Physically you have less lung capacity, less breath and so your voice is weaker. Consequently, you speak (if at all) more quietly, higher and possibly with a quiver in your voice.
Changes in your voice and body act as signals. Others may pick up on these and use them to their advantage; some unscrupulous colleagues may manipulate the situation to their advantage, so beware of the signals you give.
Find your voice – it’s in there!
In my article on personal impact I introduced the 3 S’s – SHAPE UP: SPEAK UP and STEP UP. Each will help you to find your voice.
SHAPE UP: keep your feet grounded and your body relaxed. Some simple exercises as you get out of the car or walk down the corridor can help you to stand upright with a relaxed posture.
SPEAK UP: take a deep breath before you speak and relax your spine. Aim to keep your voice lower and speak at a slower pace. Using pauses in your speech can help you to keep a slower pace and to emphasise key points.
STEP UP: as you speak, maintain eye contact, if in a meeting then look around and particularly engage with those who support your view. Smile, they will smile back.
Find your voice – dump the critic!
Vital to finding your voice and maintaining a positive personal impact is to dump that inner critic. Notice those negative messages you give yourself and work at replacing them with positive, reinforcing messages that will encourage you to SHAPE UP, SPEAK UP AND STEUP UP.
You can find your voice, just give it the space and let it out.