At home, I have a voice. I am the eldest of four children, and although my voice is not the loudest, it is definitely heard. I am opinionated, I am vocal and I am not shy. However, when I left home and went to university everything changed. I was in a lecture room with 200 people and although I was opinionated, I was incredibly shy. For 3 year I did not raise my hand, voice my opinion or contribute to class discussions once. And then I began my honors degree.
I arrived on the first day of my honors program and walked into a room of 10 people. From 200 to 10 was scary. Suddenly I wasn’t just a number, I had a name and a recognizable face I had to contribute to the class discussions.
For two weeks I barely spoke while the class debated, discussed, laughed and gave their opinions. One day, after class, one of the lecturers in the department confronted me and told me I needed to speak up and voice my opinions during lessons.
I was furious at first because I was shy and she was forcing me out of my comfort zone. About two weeks later, I found I was not shy, just in a habit of keeping quiet. Suddenly, my classes became enjoyable. I looked forward to the discussions and debates we had. I laughed and talked to people during, after and between classes and found I actually liked the people I worked with. A discovery I never would have made if I hadn’t kept calm and used my voice.
Your voice is your most valuable tool, speak up! Let people know what you are interested in, what inspires you and what motivates you. Your voice allows you to build relationships, negotiate career opportunities and influence people. Don’t waste it.
Here are a few tips on how to use your voice in the most effective, positive and successful way:
It goes without saying that you need to communicate. If you are shy, don’t expect to change overnight. Little by little you need to start speaking up, and eventually, you will master the art of communication. Be authentic, create a connection and always speak directly in your dealings with people.
Nobody likes the person who doesn’t let anybody else speak. Share your opinions, but remember they are not the only opinions.
It’s okay to be wrong. Learn from others rather than becoming defensive of your opinions. Stand for what you believe in, but remain humble in your vocalization of your beliefs. You don’t have to agree with anybody, but respecting what others have to say is essential in effectively using your voice.
Being humble does not mean you can’t be confident. You can and should strive to be both. Say how you feel, express yourself and push yourself out of your comfort zone if you want magic to happen. It might take time, but it worked for me, and I promise it will work for you.
Nobody wants to talk to someone who has a negative approach to life. There are hard times and we need to be sensitive and aware of them, but do not let them rule your life. Your strength of mind is stronger than anything, and if you believe you can lead a positive life, you can and you will. Positivity draws people in. You will be more likely to convince someone, influence someone or get something from someone if your approach to life, work, and people is positive.
This can mean various things depending on your audience, but essentially it means making people feel comfortable. When people feel comfortable, they begin to open up and true connections are made. Let your own guard down and you just might invite someone else to do the same.
Too often we forget that the most important part of communicating is listening. Don’t just listen to reply, listen to learn. I have found that my perspective on a novel changes about 10 times in one class. Initially, I arrive with a formulated strong-willed opinion, only to have it dashed within 5 minutes of listening to my colleagues. Listening is learning, and learning allows us to develop and grow.
If you are struggling to find your voice, remember:
“Challenges are what life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful” – Joshua J. Marine
Overcome your fear, and use your voice to make your life meaningful