I spent a long time in the corporate world learning how to present myself in a way that would help me have greater impact when I spoke up in meetings, or needed to challenge people in really senior positions (such as politicians). As part of my personal development, I was sent on courses led by professional actors to learn acting techniques to help me with this. I learnt some really valuable things, such as how to use my breath to punctuate my sentences when I was talking and how to make my body as big as it could be to take up more space and therefore increase my status when I walked into a room.
It’s not easy to describe in a blog post but believe me when I say it is really useful stuff to learn when you are a diminutive-sized younger woman in a senior role. Finessing this corporate veneer undoubtedly helped me to progress up the career ladder as I wrote in my book Ladder Climbing in High Heels but now I am self-employed, I find that people don’t want to see that glossy, uber-professional Kate - they want to see and get to know the real person.
Unlearning those corporate ways is harder than I thought it would be. For instance, when I gave an informal talk to a group of women and prepared handouts to give to them! Actually, we had a laugh about it and it has become something that I can now talk about as part of my mission to help women lead their lives with a leadership mindset – to communicate with your authentic voice and ditch all of the things and ways you think you ‘should’ be.
Being authentic is when our actions and words are aligned with our beliefs and values. We are not being what we think we should be, or what we have been told to be – we are being ourselves. So, to communicate authentically, you need to know yourself and what you stand for - then not be afraid to talk about it.
Here are my top 10 tips for finding your authentic voice:
1. Connect with yourself and really get to know what you believe in and stand for. Know what you are passionate about, what makes you tick and talk about it.
2. Accept yourself for who you are and don’t try to be someone or something that you aren’t to fit in with anyone else. It can be tempting to try and sound smart in certain situations, or to go along with the views of a crowd even if you disagree. These eat away at your authenticity.
3. Be vulnerable and real. The human experience is one of contrast – we all have ups and downs, we all face adversity and things that have shaped who we are. Don’t be afraid to talk about these to people, it might surprise you how other people share similar stories.
4. Value what you have to say – your voice matters as much as anyone else’s. Perhaps you grew up in a household where children were seen and not heard, or you were drowned out by overpowering siblings who stole the limelight and this has made you less inclined to speak up in situations. Practise some self-love and recognise the value of your contribution.
5. Stop people pleasing. Perhaps you are a natural people pleaser and worry about sharing your views in-case they aren’t shared by others or may be judged in some way. Unless you are likely to cause a major offence, it is ok to have a different opinion and you shouldn’t be afraid to share it to keep others happy.
6. Be interested, not interesting. This is a great saying that reminds us all of the power of listening in our communication. If you are focusing on being interesting and having something ‘valuable’ to say, chances are that you aren’t focused on really listening to what is being said. Rather than listening to respond, listen to understand and you will find that people warm to you.
7. Fear less. If you are worried about being authentic in-case you don’t get the job or people won’t like you then please stop. Don’t let your inner mean girl take over and prevent you from being you.
8. Stick to the facts. Don’t generalise or make sweeping statements such as ‘everyone thinks this’ because it can undermine your personal power.
9. Do what you say you will do. There is nothing worse than committing yourself to something you know you won’t, can’t, or don’t want to do. Be kind to yourself and only commit to, and say what you know you will actually do, because you want to.
10. Tell the truth – if you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to say so. We have all been there when you know someone isn’t telling the truth and there’s nothing more inauthentic so give it up.
Finally, I will leave you with a quote from Dr Phil: “Be your authentic self. Your authentic self is who you are when you have no fear of judgment, or before the world starts pushing you around and telling you who you’re supposed to be. Your fictional self is who you are when you have a social mask on to please everyone else. Give yourself permission to be your authentic self.”
For more tips like this, check out my book: Don’t Dim to Fit In – a guide for exceptional women to live life with a leadership mindset - because it's your time and you're ready to shine!