“I’m not asking much, just a token really, a trifle! What I want from you is – your voice.” -Ursula the Sea Witch
Do you remember watching the classic Disney movie The Little Mermaid and seeing Princess Ariel give up her voice to become human? While it may have seemed like a good trade at the time, she quickly realized she gave up a precious part of not just communication, but her soul. Watching her flounder to express herself, go on a first date, and let the man she loves know he’s been brainwashed by a monster was frustrating for the viewers.
While we may not be squaring off for a battle with a sea witch (unless your mother-in-law is coming to town), 2020 has absolutely been dramatic and difficult. So in a year that feels like the fight between good and evil, how can you win at the most important thing: your voice?
During this COVID era, the lines have been blurred between work life and home life. Case and point? The many people wearing business shirts on top and pajamas on the bottom during their video calls!
As Sebastian the crab so wisely said, “The human world? It’s a mess!”
Adjusting to this new normal has been chaotic for the best of us. One of the biggest challenges has been discovering who we are as professionals when traditional work situations have changed so much. Finding your voice in business and the workplace is much more than just speaking up. It goes to the very core of who you are as a professional.
The journey to finding your voice and making it strong takes bravery.
It takes heart. It takes guts.
Part of finding your voice is realizing who you don’t want to be. There may be issues you want to take a stand on, and others that you don’t. What can you let go? Maneuvering through all of the issues and opinions of others can be stressful. How many people have you unfollowed this year on social media? Think of why you made that decision to disengage from those poor, unfortunate souls. Those people were using their voices in ways that isolated you from them. How do you want to portray your values without losing friends or clients?
Are you realizing your voice may not be as strong as you think it is? Patience, grasshopper.
Representing your true self isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes reflection and soul searching. Like Ariel struggling to stand and walk for the first time, it takes time to find your legs. She had to take baby steps, and so will you.
For some people, being authentic is easy. It has so much to do with knowing who you are, and who you feel comfortable being. For almost everyone else, it’s going to take deeper exploration and questioning. To have a strong voice, you have to do the work ahead of time to gain confidence. The journey should be one of personal and spiritual growth.
- Am I listening to my inner voice?
- Am I being truthful with myself?
- Am I connecting with myself?
- Am I letting myself be influenced by others?
- Am I walking my own path?
Take the time to reflect on your goals and hopes. Do you feel connected with yourself? If you’re out of step with your own voice, now is the time to discover why. Be gentle. Be truthful. Reassess what’s important to you and what you stand for. Part of being a dynamic person is evolving. In this year where changes happened constantly, you can allow yourself to change and develop into a stronger person.
How to own your voice in business is only possible when you like who you are outside of work.
It is a process to become the person you want to be. We all strive to be likeable, relatable, and most of all, authentic. Being truthful and honest are priceless personality traits. They contribute to the right tone of voice, a tone that’s inclusive, compassionate, and strong.
When your own voice is established, you’re prepared to build a better brand voice. Whether your brand is yourself (we’re looking at you, influencers!) or your company, a consistent brand voice will help reflect the personality and culture of your business. A brand voice should position your company as an authority in the field. By having consistent, intelligent messaging, your expertise will shine through. What is your voice, and what can you do to enhance it?
Some of the key aspects of having a strong voice are to:
- Know when to speak up
- Know when to listen
- Be approachable and genuine
- Be confident and assertive without being abrasive
- Express yourself strongly and respectfully
- Stand by your values
Who do you see who’s doing an admirable job sharing their voice? Are there companies you appreciate hearing from? What are they doing that resonates with you? Top performers can offer ideas and strategies for your own brand. Utilize them like a muse: how do they inspire you and encourage you to promote your own brand or products? What creative ways do they use to open and encourage communication with their audience? Look at how they handle tricky situations, like negative reviews or comments. Are they able to express themselves well in the face of criticism? The companies and individuals who are the most respected and followed have distinctive, engaging, and relatable brand personalities.
Finding who you are as a professional means asking how to brand yourself. The reality of today’s workplace consists of casual clothes and dogs barking to go for a walk. Even your background expresses your personality and voice. How does that become your brand? Your home is a new way of working, and viewers are getting an intimate glimpse into your personal life. Do you have things on the wall that you may not want others to see? Is your space a mess and looks disheveled? Or do you have a professional-looking area that showcases your dedication to work, even under these less than ideal location circumstances? When these things represent you, it all matters. Make sure that they fit the image you’re working towards.
Your voice is a tool of immense power. It can do harm, it can build relationships, and it can make or break your goals based on how you use it. Ariel learned the power of her voice and was able to reach her dreams. Whatever steps you take to own your voice and whatever your end goal, the journey to find power in your voice will be enlightening, encouraging, and exciting!