In a conversation last night, we spoke of dialogue. I pointed out that dialogue is only possible if a person speaks their own voice. How can it be that anyone does not have their own voice?
One’s voice is there and obvious when born. Like the baby itself, it requires nurturing. This nurturing comes from listening, responding, and meeting the baby’s needs as best the parent can. This requires understanding the cries and sounds.
This is the initial voice of the baby, and understanding this voice presents a challenge to the parent. Crying means something, and it is the parent’s responsibility to respond. Is it food or cleaning? The answer is what gives voice to the infant.
So, why is one’s voice pushed back into the recesses of their being? Most people suppress their voices because they are not heard, listened to, and therefore not understood. Too many people grow up in an environment of monologue. Words are spoken in a hierarchy, and the level playing field is non-existent. This is how too many grow up. And, sadly this is true in most relationships.
In my workshops, when I made a point, I would ask my audience to express their thoughts and feelings about what I just said or to choose not to. If they wished to remain silent, I thanked them and moved to the next person.
I sought their voice, not their agreement. It takes time, but when someone did speak out, I listened and confirmed them by telling them what I heard them say.
After a few workshops, more members of the group speak out. When this happens, others are prone to join in, and the group begins to get involved.
As the environment becomes safer, more voices emerge, and their voices get stronger. For the leader and me, this is a wonderful moment. People are finding the power to be themselves.As an important aside, in many cases, the workplace became a safer place than their own homes to use their voice. At least they will not lose it again at work!