Updated: Jan 16, 2019
Tired of hesitating or hiding? Sick of feeling like no one wants to hear what you have to say?
Being heard in the world isn’t just about being chatty, witty, outgoing, or finding an audience who is willing to listen – it is about using your unique capacities to authentically interact, communicate, and engage with the world and people around you so that something greater gets created for everyone.
If this sounds like the voice you’d like to have in life, here are 5 essential tips to help get you there:
1. Don’t judge, assume or anticipate
Do you spend time anticipating how others will respond to your words and ideas before you even open your mouth? Do you go into conversations expecting conflicts or problems? Do you judge how interactions with someone will go today based on how it went yesterday, last week, or last year?
Most reasons we have for not speaking are based on judgments of past experiences, assumptions, fears and doubts we picked up or learned from other people and imagined “worst case scenarios” that have nothing to do with reality. If you want to have an easier time speaking up, it’s time to stop anticipating and expecting the words, and do something different.
Here are some different tools to help you approach and engage with others with a much more open and productive mindset:
Treat every conversation as new. Imagine approaching every person and every interaction with a fresh start, every time. Don’t reference past issues or failures, or waste time anticipating new ones. Check in with yourself: do you have expectations and judgments going in? And if so, let them go. Clean the slate and go in with an open mind: “What’s possible with this conversation/person/meeting today?”
Stop seeing opinions, feedback, or ideas in simple terms of good/bad or right/wrong. Instead, what if every perspective is just different? When you take the value judgment out of it, you can begin to see the contribution that every point of view delivered can be. People will also notice and appreciate your willingness to be present and listen to everything they have to say, without pushing your own agenda over the top.
Don’t spend time over-analyzing what you will say ahead of time, or what you said after the fact. If something didn’t go over the way you would like, don’t hang onto it. Give yourself another clean slate and go, “Well, that didn’t go the way I’d expected! What else is possible now?”
2. Be curious and ask questions
Do you make the mistake of thinking that in order for your voice to have value, you need to have the answers and solutions? What if the opposite is actually true? Most often, the questions we are willing to ask are what contribute the most, because questions always open the door to new ideas and unexplored pathways of thinking.
Ask: Who can we talk to and where can we go to get the information required?
Confused, or don’t understand why a decision was made or an action was taken?
Ask: I’m sorry I am confused; can you help me? Can you tell me why you chose/decided on _____?
Is there a conflict or problem people are complaining about?
Ask: If this wasn’t a problem, what possibility or opportunity could it be? What ideas do we have to change this?
Curiosity and questions will keep you and others engaged in creation mode. Stir up innovation and get creative juices flowing daily with these questions:
What else is possible we haven’t considered?
What’s possible today that wasn’t available yesterday?
What could we add to this project/product/service/team that would make things greater?
What questions could we ask that we haven’t asked yet?
3. Stop trying to get it perfect
Do you get tongue-tied trying to find the right words? Do you desire to be heard, but worry that you don’t know enough or are not experienced enough to contribute? In other words - are you waiting until you are perfect, with your perfect voice, to speak at the perfect time, in the perfect way?
Unfortunately, you’ll never be perfect, because perfection is just judgments people use to create an impossible set of standards that can never be achieved. It’s the perfect voice-stifling paradigm!
Here are some questions to help you get out of the serious business of being perfect, and have more fun and ease with sharing your voice:
What am I aware of and what do I know here that others may not? (and it’s often what you think is obvious. It may be obvious to you, but it’s not necessarily to everyone else, so why not speak up and find out?)
What if I were willing to be wrong today, and speak up anyway?
How much fun can I have with this?
4. Know when to be silent
Silence can be an excellent tool for being heard with greater ease. Being silent and observing can give you awareness of body language, communication styles, attitude and requirements of the people around you.
Successful salespeople know that if a customer is doing 90% of the talking, this is ideal because they will tell you exactly what they are looking for and exactly what they need to hear from you to feel certain that your service or product is what they require.
Start using silence to your advantage with these tools:
Consciously allow lulls in the conversation. Let the silence linger just a little longer than usual and observe who speaks up and what they say. Most people find silence uncomfortable and would rather keep talking to fill the gap, giving you more information you can use to engage with them more effectively.
Ask: what questions can I ask here that will get my client/customer/colleague/friend to share their requirements with me?
Ask: What’s going to create more here: speaking up, silence, asking a question, or something else?
5. Tailor your talk for the person or situation
People are willing and able to hear different things at different times. Not everyone is receptive to “straight talk” and may need to be acknowledged or given positive reinforcement before asking them to do or change something, while some prefer directness. Some people need time to process information in small pieces, while others need context of the bigger picture before things “click” and make sense. Adjusting your delivery to suit the person or situation isn’t about stopping yourself or holding back – it is about looking at what you can say and when so that the other person can receive it.
Before approaching someone, try asking:
What can this person hear from me right now?
What approach do I need to take to share this information effectively?
What information do they need to see or hear to feel comfortable in this conversation?
Sometimes having your voice in the world has very little to do with the words you say. If you are willing to function without judgment, be curious, present, and empower yourself and others to always seek greater, your voice will be the stand out, wherever you go.
Laleh Alemzadeh-Hancock is a life and communication coach, management and professional services consultant, and facilitator of several Access Consciousness® special programs including Right Voice for You and Being You. Laleh has inspired and empowered hundreds of thousands of individuals and families including Fortune 500 executives, government agencies, non-profit organizations, athletes and veterans. A lifelong entrepreneur and passionate change-agent, Laleh strives to seek out possibility in every problem and aims to facilitate strategic change and optimal growth for all her clients. Through her organization, Global Wellness for All, Laleh inspires individuals to create wellness in all areas of their life and seek greater success. Follow Laleh on Instagram and Facebook.