Find Your Voice

8 25 14 microphoneI was a quiet child. Remember how they used to say, “be seen and not heard?” That was pretty much me! Although I do recall getting in trouble in grammar school for talking in class! What was I thinking? However, I don’t think students get in trouble for talking in class anymore, they are texting each other!

Which leads to a question, are children learning how to communicate in the true sense of the word? Are they learning how to speak and listen and get a message across, face to face? What does the future hold for the communication skills of this generation? That could be another blog, but today I address the adults.

How are YOUR communication skills?

It is commonly said that the fear of public speaking is the number one fear in the world. You don’t have to have the goal of being a motivational, platform speaker, but in today’s world, you should have the confidence to answer your boss coherently at staff meetings or make a toast at your sister’s wedding.

I have a theory that this fear stems from a source that is unique for each person. There is a reason for that fear, and it takes some introspection to get to the root of that fear. It usually goes back to childhood. I believe that in general we feel that the audience staring at us is somehow better than us. We deny our own self-worth.

Once I figured out where my fear came from, I experienced a breakthrough. I was afraid of speaking in front of a group because in grammar school the other students teased me. Today they call it “bullying.” Why did they tease me? Essentially because I was “the smart kid,” the “teacher’s pet,” or now what they might call “nerd” or “geek.”

OK, so now I’m thinking: if I am the smart one, then why should I care what they think about me? Light bulb moment!

But just like a garden, it takes some watering and nurturing of this confidence in order for it to grow. I found that supportive and nurturing environment with an organization called  Toastmasters International.

There are Toastmasters chapters, or clubs as we call them, in 126 countries around the world. This past weekend our World Convention culminated in a speech competition for the World Championship of Public Speaking. These are grand and glorious conventions. The speakers at Finals level are phenomenal! But it all starts at club level, a “speech laboratory” where one can practice, get feedback and grow as much as you want to. Your development is up to you.

Are you lacking self-confidence? Do you wish to be a better speaker and leader? My manager wrote on my performance appraisal 25 years ago that I had to join Toastmasters. It was one of the best things I’ve done in my life. Now, I am coaching and mentoring speakers who are aiming for that World Championship. One of them said they’d like to see me on that stage. Hmm, why not?

Don’t wait for your boss to make that move to push you towards personal development. Take some steps to find your voice. Determine the cause of your fears. Find a supportive environment to vanquish those fears.

Find your voice, because it’s those who can use their voice who change the world.

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