We all hide. Even the most brazen of us sometimes don’t want to be fully seen (or, as the case may be, heard). So let’s just acknowledge that normal occurrence.
It’s natural to “pull your punches”, or commit less than 100% to what you are saying, if there is any modicum of doubt around your content, or how you think it will be perceived.
For most people reading this, the issue is likely to be more related to your thoughts and feelings around speaking up, as opposed to concern about the actual content of what you are saying.
What will they think of me? Do they agree? Am I going to look foolish? Am I right, but they won’t see it? Does something about my tone/affect/style color their opinion of what I am saying? If so, is that a good or bad thing?
Why do we hide?
In middle school I had a wonderful chorus teacher, Mrs. Gossage. She would say, “If you make a mistake, make it loud enough for me to hear it!”. She encouraged us to “sing out” and commit to our choices, even if we were off the mark.
What a lovely teaching. A lot of folks weren’t so lucky.
You might have been told to keep quiet as a child. Not to bother people, or, perhaps more significantly, not to bring up difficult topics to be discussed.
Or maybe someone told you that you “can’t sing”. (This, by the way, is never true. I align with author and coach Patsy Rotenburg who quotes an unnamed gospel singer saying, “God doesn’t mind a bum note.” I also give Rodenburg a hat tip for the title of this post, as she wrote a great book called The Right to Speak).
Perhaps you were told you should just listen and not speak; you should be seen and not heard; speak when spoken to; don’t make waves. Rarely are children (especially females, but not solely) encouraged to be as vocal as they wish.
The question becomes, how has being silenced impacted my ability and desire to express myself vocally? In an age of written communication (emails, texts, posts, etc), speech is in need of a life preserver.
What are we hiding?
We are hiding our sweet, soft, vulnerable inner selves. We are hiding from anything we perceive as criticism, harshness, attack, or dismissal.
How would it feel not to hide when you talk?
How do we hide?
An obvious way we hide is by not saying anything at all. Just wait for someone else to say it, or until we are asked.
When we do speak, we might choose language that hedges our bets. Instead of a statement, we could turn it to a question. Or we might choose words that connote less certainty than we feel or know.
Vocally, we can hide by being quiet. Or mumbling. While this can have a positive effect in some instances, causing people to lean in to hear it for example, it often comes across as a lack of certainty or power. Even if that is not at all the case.
We might also hide by using a vocal quality that sounds soft, unsure, or even injured. “Vocal fry” has been in the press a bit in recent years (think Kardashian), and this sounds creaky or scratchy.
This creaky quality typically comes from talking without enough breath to cause the vocal cords to vibrate fully. (See my post “Talking from the diaphragm” is BS for more info about how to use breath in a way that creates a strong sound. Or better yet, download my booklet “So, you want to talk from the diaphragm?” for a deeper lesson about this magic.)
We hear acoustic signals in different ways. A strong acoustic signal lands in the ears differently than crackly one.
When does it matter?
To be clear, I am not denigrating fry, as many young people (especially women) use vocal fry these days. It is almost “trendy”. If it ain’t broke, don’t fit it. sometimes that might be the perfect way to use your voice.
Some people hear this voice quality and feel comfortable and relaxed; others perceive it as holding back.
The point here is:
Is the way you are speaking serving you? Are you being heard/perceived/understood in the way you wish?
If the answer is “no”, then I am here to tell you the good news: you can make some simple changes in the way you use your voice that will impact how other people hear you.
How to speak fearlessly
The first component is the mental and emotional desire to be heard. Heard in this moment, by these people. It’s shocking how often we have unconscious conflicting desires around this. You might think you want to be heard, but if you also harbor a lot of fear around negative effects of people knowing what you have to say…. well you can see the issue.
Next, we need adequate breath (airflow) to create healthy vocal fold vibration, as discussed above.
Optimal vocal placement is another component. Do you talk in your throat so no one can hear you? Or do you send your voice to the front of your face for all to hear?
The combination of committing to what you are saying + optimal vocal technique = a strong, confident, compelling, authoritative voice.
What you have to say matters. It has value. It’s important. You have a right to speak. Claim it.
If you want to learn to speak without hiding, or anything else about speaking or voice, get in touch to schedule a session.