Finding your voice and helping others to find theirs

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One of the most touching things that I learned in my life came from two of Steven Coveys books. The first one was The 7 habits of highly effective people, and the second was the 8th rule. The first was suggested to me when I was growing up by one of my mentors.

What does finding your voice mean? It means looking at your values and experiences and speaking to them as authentically as you understand them. Maybe in more simple words. Being honest with where you are at, and being brave with sharing what you feel and think.

This is never easy to do. People often don’t want to hear your experience or they don’t value what you have to say.  They believe often that the know more about the subject and they can’t learn anything from you. Or they believe that your view is biased and can’t be trusted.

The challenge then is to speak when people don’t want to listen. Part of what makes protests and other public discourse so painful is that other people don’t wish to understand and listen. They only want to talk. One of the 7 habits is speak first to understand, then be understood. That means you first understand the other person and then help them understand you. This has worked very well for me in the past.

Of course not everyone wants to listen when it comes time to listen to your side, but with time some people will listen to you. Eventually if they don’t listen to you, you don’t speak and you find another place/people who will listen to you.

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Now by listening to others you help other people find their voice. One of the most meaningful compliments I got from a coworker is someone who said that I helped her find her voice and share her concerns with her manager. I was so proud and happy that my listening had a beneficial effect for her and the department. We help people tremendously when we can listen to them and engage honestly with them.

Not everyone is ready to listen and to share. That is ok. A few people would rather die than listen. That is their unfortunate choice.