There’s no better time than just after International Women’s Day to think about what it takes to have your voice heard. Too often, women stay quiet at work because we fear being disliked – and for good reason. The world of work won’t change until we speak up, but that takes courage and skill. So, how we can find our voices at work? We asked top communication and integral coach Aimée Heuzenroeder to share her essential tips.
1. Practice, practice, practice.
Great communicators are made, not born – the best and most compelling speakers out there have made mistakes, battled nerves, gone blank and fluffed their words, just like the rest of us. But they’ve also practiced. And it isn’t just about big speeches: whether you’re making a presentation to your team or simply planning to make a contribution in a regular meeting, take the time to think through what you’re going to say and, if possible, speak it out loud. It’s the best way to build the confidence you need to be heard.
2. Get physical.
Speaking doesn’t just happen from the neck up; it involves your whole body. First, make sure you’re solidly grounded, with your feet firmly planted – take a moment to feel the contact between your feet and the floor, and find your balance. This creates the firm foundation you need for real gravitas and presence (and helps stop nervous fidgeting). Next, sit or stand up beautifully straight, as if you had a thread attached to the top of your head, pulling you up. This opens your diaphragm, improves your breathing and ensures you create a powerful, energetic first impression. (Not convinced that what you do with your body really matters? Check out Amy Cuddy’s brilliantly inspiring TED talk.)
3. Take it slowly.
There are few things more powerful than a slow, steady speaking pace: the faster you are, the less your audience understands. Rushing also makes your breathing more shallow, fueling nerves and resulting in a higher-pitched voice (which, for women, matters more than it should.) Practice speaking into the voice recorder on your phone and then listen back. Even when your pace feels ludicrously slow, you’ll be surprised how fast you sound to others. By slowing down, you show that you value your audience, your message and yourself.
4. Think about your audience.
Your audience could be one person, or it could be an auditorium of hundreds. Either way, take some time to think about the impact you want to have on them. What’s on their minds already? How can you help them understand who you are and what you have to say? How do you want them to feel – Inspired? Reassured? Challenged? Even in the most corporate work environment, communication is about human connection. Thinking about the humans in front of you will help you shape what you say and how you say it, so your words reach them.
5. Re-script your Inner Critic.
Check in with your own negative self-talk. What does your inner critic say when you’re about to speak up (‘You’ll get it wrong and make a fool of yourself’/ ‘You don’t have anything valuable to contribute’ / ‘Nobody cares about your opinion’)? Get clear on what the message is, and re-frame it – not by being over the top (‘I’m the best communicator ever!’), but by gently making your inner narrative more empowering (‘I have expertise, and I have valuable things to say. I’m confident enough to contribute.’) Stick it on a Post-It note. Make it a daily calendar reminder. Keep it front of mind, so the gremlins at the back have to quieten down a little.
And then? Speak up.
For more information on Aimée visit AimeeHeuz.com