We live in arguably the most expressive era ever. We write over 2 million blog posts every day (including this one). Every minute, we upload 300 hours of video to YouTube. There are 77.6 million active Instagram users in the United States. There is no shortage of means for us to make ourselves heard.
A Babbling Era
Being expressive is core to being human. Each of us has inherent dignity, which means our voice matters. It should make us angry when someone’s voice is silenced, marginalized, minimized, or mocked.
However, some of us downplay what we have to say. We don’t speak up even though we know our perspective or idea would make a difference.
For others of us, speaking up isn’t a problem. The words flow fast, hard, and without much coherence or thought. There’s sound, but not a discernible or understandable message.
It reminds me of watching my kids. Like any of us, neither of them came out of the womb with developed vocal cords. Discovering they had a voice was a process. It started with gurgles and sounds, followed by mimicking what my wife or I would say. And then came the babbling stage, where words, both real and made-up, were uttered nonstop throughout the entire day. The babbling stage should also be known as the “bang my head against the wall” stage.
It’s easy to stay in the babbling phase throughout life. It’s also dangerous too, especially in the social media age. As my Thin Difference teammate Zach Morgan noted, “Social media will always have a much longer memory than you do.” What you share will stick around, whether it is a finely worded exposition or a babbling, incoherent, or ugly mess.
Finding and Refining Your Voice
Your voice matters. But, if you want to be heard well, you must refine your voice, which takes work. So, take a moment to think about what you want to communicate. What do you want to be known for? Whether you know it or not, you are sending a message to those around you. Beyond the words you use, there is also a tone and attitude that you project that is either helping or hindering what you want to say to the world.
I want to control, to the best of my ability, the messages I send. I’ve learned that this takes incredible discipline. If we want to refine and develop our voice continually, I think it requires three things:
Clarity: Have I done the hard work to make what I want to say as clear, simple, and understandable as possible? Instead of babbling, have I chosen my words carefully, done multiple drafts, hit the delete button when it seems muddy and stayed silent when it doesn’t help? The best communicators work diligently to be clear.
Connection: Do I care enough about my audience (or the person on the receiving end of my message) to know and connect with them – their feelings, hopes, and dreams? Am I willing to adapt my language to them, instead of forcing them to try to decipher the terms I use? The best communicators refine their voice to the way their audience speaks.
Consistency: Our voice isn’t a one-time shout. It’s a consistent feed, a long-earned reputation, and what we’re known for. Some of us wonder why those close in our lives don’t know that we love them, even though we’ve only told them once over the past year. Our main message winds up being what we speak most about, whether we intended that to be our main message or not.
How Refined is Your Voice?
If an independent auditor intercepted all of the messages you were sending (to your friends, your family, your co-workers, over Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook), how would they describe your voice? What words would they use to describe your tone? What would they say is the main message?
Chances are that you, like me, need to do some voice refining. In some places, we might need to speak up more. In other areas, we need to talk less or with more clarity, connection, and consistency. Either way, it’s worth thinking about, because getting this right is so important.
Don’t settle for babbling. Your voice and perspective are too important to be missed. How you convey what you want to say matters.