Of all the tools you have to have great impact and influence others, is it possible that your voice is THE most important?
Perhaps you are trying to build a following…or converting fans into customers…or forging your progress on the career ladder.
But whether you’re a business owner or a workplace professional, others need to know and appreciate your VALUE if you are to get the results you want and deserve. For that, you need to find and use your voice.
When we talk about your ‘voice’, we mean something wider than its literal sense – not just what you say out loud, but everything you share, however you share it, to show others who you are.
Your voice is in the words you write, the things you say, the actions you take. It’s in your physiology (which is one reason why we call it body language). Your voice is even right there in the decisions you make.
All these expressions of your voice show other people who you really are.
Without an authentic voice, you’re communicating with the handbrake on
Some of you know already that we’re not big fans of the popular idea: fake it until you make it.
Of course, stretch and grow and reach out of your comfort zone. But as soon as you start to fake anything, life gets harder. Symptoms of a faked voice are many, and they hang out everywhere…from writer’s block to stage fright.
If you’re not communicating in your authentic voice your words won’t flow easily, communicating your value will feel exhausting, and you’ll keep putting it off.
And every time you put off communicating your value, you miss a chance to grow your business or build your career.
Worst of all, when you operate in an inauthentic voice you feed all your internal voices. You know the ones – your inner critic and her unhelpful sisters, all of whom have a field day when you’re trying to sound like someone you’re not.
Find your authentic voice to enjoy greater influence and impact, and with much greater ease.
Finding your authentic voice
But how do you find your authentic voice? Isn’t it just the voice you use when you’re not really thinking about it?
Possibly. But it’s also possible that you’re using a voice you think you should use, perhaps since childhood. Perhaps you’re using a voice that social media says you must use if you want to be an influencer. Perhaps you’re using a voice that has become deeply ingrained as a result of previous jobs.
May I give you a personal example?
I first worked as a journalist when I was 15. Over the years I worked for different newspapers, magazines and journals. Then I became a corporate communications manager and CEO speechwriter. And then, more than 20 years ago, I became a communication consultant and worked with numerous global brands.
Every one of those publications and organisations had something in common – they all had their own tone of voice. A gossip mag writes differently to a business journal; a broadsheet and a tabloid don’t sound the same; a young dot.com has a different tone to an old-school accounting firm.
And so it was my job to identify and then speak / write in the appropriate tone of voice – and it was a job I did well enough to be in constant demand and build a successful communication business for myself.
In fact, many times it has been my privilege to help an organisation actually define their tone of voice for the first time.
But when I came to find my own voice, in partnership with Emma, I struggled.
Over more than three decades I had written hundreds of thousands of words that sounded (intentionally) like someone else; I was a wordsmith chameleon. I could leap with agility from writing an entertaining concert review to crafting a critical business announcement about job losses.
But when I sat down to write a blog in my own name, I suffered writer’s block for the first time in my life. Suddenly I got how you feel when you stare at that cursor, watching it patiently blinking back at you. The absence of words or flow was crippling.
What did my own voice sound like? What words and rhythm would sound naturally like me, and flow easily from my head onto a blank screen?
Even though I’m a highly experienced professional writer, it took me some time to find my style. I read other blogs and felt in awe of how easily people made it sound like they were just chatting with me. Even though I know I can write, I found it hard to trust my words …unsure if they really sounded like me.
In fact, it took the giant leap of co-authoring a book for me to feel truly authentic, because in it I wrote completely from my heart. What a phenomenal lesson that was for me, even after all these years of writing content and copy.
So please know this: you are not alone, and trying to find your authentic voice can be quite a journey. The great news is there are ways you can make that journey as fast and as painless as possible. Here are just five quick and practical techniques (in no particular order, just try them all and see what works for you!)…
- Really listen to yourself. Grab a dictaphone or a voice app, and record yourself – chatting to your family, telling stories. What clues does your natural conversation give you? For example, do you tend to see, hear or feel things? Use those words. Spot the words or phrases you use over and over, and use those patterns to help inject more familiarity to what you say.
- Observe the words and style of the people you are drawn to. If you feel like they’re talking to you and they really resonate with you, they’re probably using language and rhythms that echo your own.
- Stay in your lane. Just because there’s a trend for something, doesn’t mean you have to copy it if it doesn’t feel authentic. Even if every internet influencer is ‘badassing’ their way through a series of F-bombs, you don’t have to. (Unless you want to.)
- Tell personal stories. I finally got comfortable with my authentic voice when I wrote my personal story for a book. If it comes from your heart, how can it be anything but authentic?
- Write endlessly without ever intending to publish. Give yourself permission to write with no pressure to impress or influence anyone else. Try different styles – have fun with it. This will take your copywriting to the next level, and will even tone up the way you talk, too.
Just remember this: your authentic voice is within you. You just need to get it loud and clear enough that you – and the people you need to influence – get what you’re saying.
Check back here next week, because our next teach-in in our series about finding and using your voice is all about how to trust your authentic voice.
See you then – and please invite anyone this support could really help. Thank you.