Let’s start with a story by Brendon Burchard as he recounts his days as being a TA back in college:
I love this message. It’s one of my favorite inspirational messages about getting confidence in one’s self. After hearing this story, it’s so easy to understand how developing your voice can boost your self confidence. I know first hand.
Finding Your Voice Helps You Gain Confidence
There was a time where I couldn’t say a word in front of a classroom. In fact, it was hard for me to just read in class.
I was literally afraid of what people thought of me. If I made a goof up in my reading, I believed they’d think “Oh, that’s just John being John. What a screw up!” Little did I think about the kids who really were bad at reading but they didn’t care as much as I did.
Later, in college as I was starting to find myself, I was still petrified of what people thought. This was the new me. The real caring me. Sad to say, the more I cared, the worse I did. In fact, I’d say that Speech class, and the two times that I had to defend my major projects (senior and thesis in grad school) were times where I couldn’t help but be a deer in headlights. I knew my future was riding on it and I didn’t want to screw up. So, like anyone else that is seriously focused on their responsibility, I over compensated and did worse than I would have if I hadn’t had tried to be perfect.
After graduation, I became an algebra instructor a year later. There’s a couple things about that. First, I hadn’t had algebra in 7 years at that point. And second, I was still deathly worried about speaking in front of people. Let alone, a classroom of people. However, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. So I had to deal with this problem.
In the end, teaching algebra for a couple of years taught me how to be myself in front of others. I believe that doing it repeatedly finally made me face my fear and deal with it. Was I the best? No. But was I able to break that “Deer in headlights” look? You bet.
How You Can Find Your Voice
You know, I’m sure there are other ways that people have found their voice over the years. But I just wanted to share with you how I was able to find mine while teaching algebra.
- Accept that you have one. You know, many times I hear people talking about how no one ever showed that they cared about what that person had to say. This was the case in Brendon’s story. Well, John Maxwell has a saying that I think covers a lot of things, not just leadership. He says, “People don’t know how much you know, until they know how much you care”. This saying exactly reflects what Brendon did for his student. Likewise, when I focused on the fact that I had students that needed me to teach them how to do a certain skill to pass a class and the fact that they relied on me to teach them that skill, that’s when I started realizing that not only did I have a voice, but my voice mattered. If I did not realize that they relied on me, I probably would have been a horrible teacher.
- Learn How to Be Present and Listen to the world around you. What do others say that you’re knowledgable about? What do others ask you about all the time? Knowing the answers to these two questions should help you realize that you have a certain subject and subjects that you can teach others about.
- Realize that you know what you know. This was my major hang up. I focused so much on making sure that I knew everything and all the little questions that I wasn’t able to focus on the big picture – that people were comprehending what I was saying. Did people comprehend what I was teaching? It’s ok to not know the answer sometimes if it makes you more understandable. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be to convey your message in a way that resonates. It’s ok if your audience ask questions. It’s called feedback.
- Be Relatable. Speaking of resonating, another part of having an impactful voice is to be authentic. I can tell you that if I was just regurgitating everything that was in the book, I probably wasn’t focusing too much on what the students were asking. So, I had to make sure that I was relatable. While I struggled at times, I found that the more stories or examples I used in class to explain a concept, the more likely the students were to understand what I was talking about. That said, how can you be relatable in your voice? In other words, how can you keep yourself from sounding like a robot?
- Take Your Time. There’s a certain truth about things being rushed. What results have you had when you’ve been rushed? Some say that they do well under pressure. That might be ok with you. Personally, I know I haven’t had as good as results when I’m rushed vs not being rushed. Last week, we released a podcast about being proactive vs being reactive. Those who work reactively are more than likely being rushed to accomplish something. On the other hand, those that are working proactively do so in a more leisurely manner. Either way, when you take your time to get your message out, then you come across as being confident with what you’re saying. This will earn you more listeners.
If you really want to find your voice and figure out why people should be listening to you, try the above. You might not have a class that you can teach, but there are other organizations that will allow you to practice speaking. One of those is Toastmasters. There’s chapters all around the world.
Another idea would be to simply create your own group or meetup. As it grows, you’d know everyone that became part of the group. Or, if you don’t want to wait that long, you can join another one. As you get to know more people in the group, you might not be so afraid of them over time.
If you’re someone who recently was able to find their voice. We’d love to hear from you, too! How’d you do it? What steps did I leave out above that would help someone else build their confidence?