A few weeks ago, I shared a story about a revelation that helped me find my voice. After that revelation, I was volted with inspiration to change. Without change, can anyone be successful?
Maya Angelou is the epitome of someone who changed and decided to own her voice. After experiencing a traumatic incident at age eight, Maya Angelou fearfully vowed never to speak again. She kept that vow for five years, speaking only to her older brother. At age 13, a teacher and family friend encouraged her to speak again. That was her floodgate. Maya Angelou became a dancer, an educator, an author, a powerful poet, an actress, a playwright, an activist, a motivational speaker, a producer, a director, and the winner of several prestigious awards. She once said this about timidity:
Timidity makes a person modest. It makes him or her say, ‘I'm not
worthy of being written up in the record of deeds in heaven or on earth.’
Timidity keeps people from their good. They are afraid to say, ‘Yes, I
Imagine if Maya Angelou had stayed quiet.
I’m choosing not to stay quiet. I choose to own my voice.
I want to share with you some tips that I am following. These tips can help whether you want to improve the quality of your voice, how often you speak, or the level of confidence you have while speaking in stressful situations.
Tip 1: Seek feedback.
Ask people you trust if they perceive that you own your voice. My Full Potential Coach gave me incredible feedback I’d never expected to hear. While I figured that in conversation, if I could hear myself, others should be able to hear me, my coach observed that I sounded as though I were talking only to myself. This let me know I should work on the volume of my voice.
Caroline Goyder shared these next few tips in her TED Talk, “The Surprising Secret to Speaking with Confidence”:
Tip 2: Practice.
Think of your voice as an instrument. Just as you’d practice the piano to improve your skill, you can practice speaking to improve your voice. Practice talking aloud to yourself, to a friend, or to a speaking-voice coach. Singing can help also. I sang in college and recently joined the choir at my church.
Tip 3: Use your diaphragm.
Your diaphragm is a muscle in your lower rib cage that is crucial to respiration. Breathing from there helps you be calmer and more confident in stressful situations. Speaking from there will help your voice sound louder and stronger.
Tip 4: Breathe.
Inhale, think confidently, and speak on your exhale.
Amy Cuddy shared this last tip in her TED Talk, “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are”:
Tip 5: Power-Pose.
A power-pose is a posture that is associated with people of power. Think of a CEO or Wonder Woman. Cuddy’s study suggested that not only does our posture affect how others think and feel about us; it affects how we think and feel about ourselves. Do a power-pose for at least two minutes in the restroom or anywhere private before a stressful situation. Open your arms wide, separate your feet, or prop them up, instead of touching your neck, slumping your shoulders, or touching your elbows.
Some say, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Cuddy says, “Fake it ‘til you BECOME it.”
So, instead of dreading the words, “I can’t hear you,” make them hear you. Be bold, and own your voice.
About the Author
Kimberly is a senior associate in construction services at HORNE LLP. She is a servant leader who is passionate about building the Wise Firm—a culture where we create a sense of belonging for ourselves and for others.