Your voice is your advantage.
In a world that’s been increasingly infiltrated by artificial intelligence – in both good and concerning ways – you have a distinct advantage. You are human.
Although being human has its pitfalls, it has lots of upsides and one of those things is that you have endless opportunities to be original.
That’s because there’s no other you.
Your voice is one of the most powerful instruments you can use to stand out.
The good news is, you do not have to be a literary connoisseur or the most eloquent writer in the world, to have a unique voice. The most important ingredients are your personality and passion. This is something that’s in you already and it can be contagious. So, how do you bring that out?
4 ways to find your voice.
1. Coffee and record
The first – and one of the easiest techniques – is to invite a friend for a coffee and record your conversation – with their permission, of course. It’s important that it’s someone who you can be yourself with.
Now, listen back. Notice how you talk when you’re relaxed and you’re speaking naturally. Okay, there’ll probably be some umms, arrs and errors which you can ignore – but listen to your overall style. Do you notice some trends? Maybe you have some favourite words, speak in shorter sentences, or long and flowing ones. Maybe you sound lively and animated or cool and calm.
With this insight, you can bring these vocal signatures to the things your write and say in other contexts like in a meeting or a pitch.
This exercise will also make you more aware of how you talk so you can work on anything you’re doing that doesn’t sound like you intend. You’ll also pick up on any vocal habits you are not happy with.
You may need to make some tweaks to your voice for each environment – particularly if swearing’s your thing – but try not to be too radical.
Bring more of you to the game.
2. Reflective journaling
The second technique is called reflective journaling. It gives you a safe space to explore your thoughts in your own words.
The privacy of a journal frees you from self-consciousness. No one has to read it – unless you choose to share it – so you’re free to write down what you really think.
If you use reflective journaling regularly, you’ll engage your true voice frequently. This not only brings you into better touch with your natural voice but helps you figure out what you truly feel and believe about things. It can be surprising to discover just how much you edit your thoughts and words in general. Journaling is the antidote to this.
This will both help you bring this voice out more every day and increase how open you are in your communication. You’ll be able to articulate your mind better, bring fresh perspective to your conversations and you’ll be less easily swayed by other people.
3. The 360o voice survey
A third technique that’s also very insightful is what I call the 360o voice survey.
Pick a selection of people who represent the full circle of people you come into contact with. You may choose a blend of family, friends, peers, business contacts and so on. Make sure you feel whoever makes it onto your list is likely to be honest with you. Honesty is much more useful than flattery, bias or unfair criticism.
Now, get in contact with everyone on your list and ask them a simple question:
‘What three words would you use to describe the way I come across when I’m speaking with you?’
Invite them to answer this as honestly as possible. Once you’ve received all words back, look at the trends as these could be good indicators of your overall style.
Looking at these words, what does feel like you and what doesn’t feel like you? Are you presenting yourself one way in one context and one way in another?
You may need to consider things you could do to better align how you truly feel inside with how you come across outside.
Whatever you do, don’t compare yourself with something you think you should be. Do all leaders need to be extroverts, for example? Of course not. I know many successful introverts who inspire people with their deep insights and observations too.
4. Write a letter to your younger self
The fourth exercise can really stir up the inner wisdom that’s woven into everything you say and do. And, I think it’s one of the most interesting.
Create some quiet space where you won’t be disturbed and write a letter to your younger self, sharing some advice you wish you knew back then. There are no rules. It can be as short or as long as you like. You can give advice about every big area of life or keep it to one thing like relationships or money.
In the process, you’ll not only discover some useful insights into your own wisdom but will find yourself speaking from a deep place, a place where your true self resides.
Once you’re done, read back your letter and see your true self and your true voice coming alive on the page. Now you’re in touch with this, bring this to your speaking and writing.
Be unashamedly true to yourself.
Whichever exercises you choose, the most important thing is to then to practice using your true voice so it becomes instinctive.
Doing this may involve a degree of courage. You may also be worried about what people will think of you, especially if you feel you don’t fit the mould expected of you. But the more you are unashamedly true to yourself, the more people will come to both expect and respect your style.
The truth is, we can’t please everyone. Not everyone will agree with what we have to say and not everyone will like us. But we shouldn’t hold ourselves back purely to please others or meet their expectations.
This doesn’t mean we can’t be considerate, intentional and respectful with our words, but that authenticity matters because your true voice is your most powerful.
- We can lose our true selves and our true voices when we write and speak in a way purely designed to please others, meet their expectations or in trying to be someone we think we should be.
- When you try any of the 4 voice-finding exercises, you’ll start to uncover your true voice. There may be some things you want to adjust to be more you, but don’t try to be someone else. Your unique style is special and has value.
- The more you practice using your true voice and speaking with true meaning, the more instinctive it will become. Whatever people say, be proud of your true voice.