Finding Your Voice

A gentleman, let’s call him Thad, emailed me and said he thought he had a speech problem and was embarrassed to talk about it. I asked him to come in so we could meet face to face.

When Thad came into my office, he was tense and very guarded. He shared that he was successful in his real estate career. He asked for an honest assessment and that he could handle whatever I told him.

While I listened, I observed. I heard no speech problem. Thad had a strong Southern accent and he mispronounced a few words, but his grammar, clarity, phrasing, inflection and content were all normal. His rate of speech was a bit slow but not enough to distract or bore the listener.

I shared my observations with him. He began to cry softly as I gave him my feedback. I asked him if someone in his past had told him he was not a good speaker or if he was comparing himself to someone else.

He began to open up. He always felt “damaged” because his parents had placed him in a special needs class in elementary school. When he reached junior high, a teacher asked him “Why are you in a learning disabilities class?” He didn’t know. He was removed from that program and put back into regular education.

Thad was living in fear of what others once believed about him—and what he started to believe about himself.

He needed to hear that he was normal in his speech patterns. I told him that he needed to move forward and put the negative perceptions behind him. The fear he felt was based on lies.

Speech is so incredibly personal. The sound of your voice identifies you and is as personal as your fingerprint. If you are worried about the way you speak, your voice will be lost to you and, therefore, to others. When you don’t have a voice, you struggle with your identity in the world of effective speakers (and I’m not talking about professional presenters but those in your daily interactions at work, home and social settings). When you can’t find your voice, you speak softly, you allow others to talk over you and you avoid talking.

It can be a painful process to find that voice. It requires work, internally and externally. But it can be done. Finding your voice will help open up doors that will allow you to find the success you seek in your life.