How to find your voice at work
If only work were like ‘The Voice’ – important people sitting in large red chairs, with their back to you, really listening to what you have to say (sing). You know you’ve been heard when they turn round, or give you sensitive, well-thought-through feedback! Oh indeed, life would be sweet.
When you can’t get heard
Of course, many of us experience periods in our careers or in certain jobs when we feel we just can’t get our voice heard. Perhaps other colleagues hog the air space. Maybe people use busyness as an excuse for a lack of listening. Perhaps the practice of closed loop feedback (when people acknowledge understanding of what has been said), is well, out of practice where you work!
Never fear, there are always things you can do to find your voice, build confidence and know that you have been understood.
Tips on finding your voice
The first thing to remember is that your voice is more than just what is spoken out loud. We all communicate in a variety of ways – through body language, by what we say, through the written/electronic word and through what we actively do. If you’re finding it hard to get your voice heard, a good starting place to reverse this is to think about how else you might get your point across. For example:
- A punchy, well-constructed memo or email.
- A voice or video note into your work or project team WhatsApp group.
- On video calls, making your silence heard by staying very still or using your body language to signal your feelings (we find placing your hands over your ears works surprisingly well!).
- By taking appropriate action, to actively show your position on something.
With so much remote working and calls over Zoom and Teams, we also suggest you use the technology to your advantage – the little hand you can put up or by typing RTS (Request to Speak) in the message bar. We also like using a table tennis bat – simply, hold it up on your video call until someone acknowledges you have something to say!
Build your confidence
Often the thing that gets in the way of us finding our voice out loud – is that other voice in our head. You know the one we mean – the one telling you ‘no’, saying ‘I can’t do this’. Try reframing your internal conversation as a starter for ten.
Get a journal and write down what that voice in your head is saying about your situation. Get down all the negative words it has to say. Now start a fresh page and write down the positive opposites. So, if you’ve said, “I feel shy and embarrassed about speaking out”, then the opposite might be “I have belief and feel confident about what I want to say”. The simple act of regularly changing the language in your head can help you build more self-belief that you have a right to speak.
Know what you value
Read our blog on understanding your values. When you know what’s important to you – what’s really important to you, you can start to prioritise the times when being heard matters. For example, if you’re dealing with a work issue on inequality, and this is a personal passion, that might be the time to work on your confidence and try those different channels mentioned above.
Don’t assume consuming airtime equals high impact
You might think that people who speak a lot know more or have better answers. It’s simply not true - they just draw their energy from others.
If your energy comes from within, that’s just great. When in conversation, avoid talking to yourself and instead listen carefully to what’s being said. When you do raise that bat, make your contribution count. Introspection is a beautiful gift, and you should be proud of the value it brings.