Updated: Sep 15
The ability to speak what you want and when you want is difficult. The hard parts are knowing when it's appropriate and on top of that, how to say what you need to say.
I've personally experienced this and have put in the work to help myself in these situations.
Now, you might be thinking, it's a modern world and we can say whatever we want to say with zero consequences. Well, sure you might have the capability but the true question is, should you? (That's a whole other discussion itself though.)
In my personal experience, when I was younger, I had no filter. I said what I wanted/ needed to say and said it whenever I wanted to. I spoke out to teachers and coaches who were being unfair and unjust in their treatment of me as well as those around me. I stood up to bullies and had an attitude that what I said didn't matter. But as I got older, my voice became quieted and I had a fear of saying anything when something should have been said.
In the last few years (after getting a certificate in Educational Consulting and then finishing my certification in Life Coaching), I learned that my literal voice doesn't always matter. What truly matters is that I'm listening to what others have to say.
There was a lesson that was taught by Youth Coaching Institute, LLC that said, "We have gotten into a habit of listening in order to respond, but what we have to do is listen in order to listen." Now take that in for a moment. When you're talking to someone, are you being "savvy" and preparing a response in your head before the other person has even finished what they are saying or are you taking in every word being said?
For most of my life, I was the first. I always had a comeback, retort, just about anything because I wanted to be heard. I didn't always care what the other person was saying. I thought that the louder and more boisterous I was, the more likely I would be heard.
You might be wondering how listening helps you actually find your voice, I promise, it does.
When I heard this phrase in our course, I suddenly was thinking about so many miscommunications, raised voices, fights, and more that had been caused because either I or the other person was not actually listening.
For example, this happened between my mom and me: My mom would say something along the lines of, "Can you please put away your computer, we have company coming this weekend?" Now, because of how my mind interprets what she said, I heard: "Can you please put up your computer at least before the company comes?" But what she meant was: Do it now or as soon as possible. Neither of us was saying or listening to what the other person was trying to say.
You might think it was obvious what she meant but everyone's mind hears things differently. So my automatic response was, "Yeah, I will." But when it wasn't done within the unspoken timeframe, it turned into an argument.
What could have helped prevent that argument? There are a couple of options, 1) My mom could have said something more like, "I need you to put up your computer when you have finished using it today so that we can straighten up the rest of the house." 2) I could have responded without an automated response with something more like, "Sure. However, I'm going to be using it for the next few days. So can I leave it out until Thursday so that I don't have to get it out and up it up each time?" The difference between the two options is clarification.
Finding your voice doesn't always mean using a megaphone and yelling things (or maybe it does in your case). Finding your voice means finding clarity in what you say and what you hear.
I now ask for clarification. If my mom were to ask me to put away my computer now in the same exact way, I would now respond by asking for an exact timeline. By doing this, I have given my mom her voice but also received my own because I asked for clarity.
Learning to ask questions and for explanations has allowed me to respond to friends, family, and colleagues in a new way. Instead of talking and just responding, I listen and then think of what it is that needs to be said.
So finding your voice by listening purely comes down to this: If I listen properly, I know what, how, and when to say what needs to be said.