In my work with leaders, a very common theme is the desire to enhance communication. This feeling often emerges from their own awareness and desire to improve the ability to have meaningful conversations with others
In essence, it involves finding their voice.
Finding that voice is not as easy as just speaking up. Nor is it staying quiet, or deciding that a conversation can wait. And most certainly it is not the act of simply connecting the brain to the tongue and letting it go to work.
Speaking is, actually, the last thing you do in the steps to find your voice.
So how do we find those steps? In coaching, we use inquiry to help the client discover the actions that might work for them. It’s a process of awareness-building and is dependent upon each person’s experience, capabilities and perspective – effectively, the client’s “reality” in relationship to others.
For example, I once worked with a senior executive who was frustrated with the performance of his subordinates. In our sessions, he would carefully delineate shortcomings and lack of action by those on his team.
I would ask, “Well what words did you use when you spoke with that person?”
His response: “I didn’t – I’m planning on speaking with him next week.”
To which I would ask, “I’m curious why you haven’t spoken to him yet, especially if you have concerns.”
And after a long pause: “Well, I couldn’t find the right words.”
My client is not alone. Finding the right words might well be the first thing that can cause us to get “stuck” in finding our voice.
Here are some steps that might help you find yours:
- First, do the work in your own head and your own heart. Build awareness about what you feel you need to say to anyone. Explore any reluctance or “resistance” that you might feel and embrace that resistance with curiosity. It might be that you haven’t fully formed your thoughts or it might be that you are concerned with how your words will affect the other person. The deep work is initially just inside of you. I call it “finding your center,” before moving to action.
- Second, ask yourself, am I reacting or responding? A reaction is an initial feeling and can be emotional. We can sense our own emotional state if we become aware of our own triggers. Reacting doesn’t serve us in texting, emailing, or the spoken word. Responding, on the other hand, need not take days, but the power of a pause to give yourself the opportunity to carefully craft your ideas before you let them loose on another can make the difference in how the dialogue continues to unfold.
- Third, explore the timing. The immediacy of communication is often as important as the words you say. If someone does a brilliant job on a project, an immediate word of encouragement or appreciation helps build success. So, too, with coaching “in the moment.” We all struggle with pointing out areas of potential growth for others, talking ourselves into holding off until some distant “annual review.” But waiting only builds resistance within us. Why not carefully consider your words, and then deliver them when the ideas are still fresh? With intention and choice, you can deliver them with kindness, dignity, and respect.
- Fourth, be willing to take the time to establish common ground with the other person. Join with them through curiosity, appreciative inquiry, active listening, and appropriate pauses – I like to use the acronym CLIP. By doing that, you give them the gift of yourself.
- Finally, always be willing to learn from your conversations – sometimes they just don’t go over the way you thought they would. We can always get better at finding our voice.
Finding your voice is a lifelong process and is unique for each of us. I invite you to find out what works for you and build on it!