Interview with Emma Wainer for the Women in STEM, Reimagined masterclass.
This week’s guest is an expert on speaking, specifically speaking authentically. To lend expert analysis on the topic, I interview speech and language therapist Emma Wainer.
Emma focuses on not what we say but how we say it.
How do you speak with an authentic voice?
How do you engage and relate while staying true to yourself?
First of all, Emma shares that the word authentic is slightly problematic. “It can sound disingenuous.” That’s because when we say authentic, we mean the voice that’s genuinely you, and that is something that most of us have lost touch with.
We all have authenticity when we are children. We are incredibly connected when we are children. When you listen to a child speak, it’s easy to understand their message, and it’s easy for them to express themselves.
That is, up to age seven. At age seven, something starts to change. “It probably has to do with how you are brought up,” Emma shares. “We are told ‘you can’t say that; it’s rude’, or ‘shhh not so loud.’” And at around age seven, we start to internalize those ideas. This is especially noticeable when we reach our teenage years and we begin to calcify those ideas.
Maybe you got positive input from your caretakers and your voice is still true to you, but that is not the case for most of us. For example, Emma shares the statistic that 73% of adults would rather die than speak in public. We no longer need authority figures to censor us, like when we were children; instead, we censor ourselves.
In our adult life, we try to be nice and likable, and so we stop speaking with our authentic voice. In university and then at work, we learn more rules for how we are supposed to communicate. We end up talking in the way we think others want to perceive us. It is unconscious; however, it still holds us back.
What we need, in order to be authentic is to regain that childlike freedom to express ourselves, to be “fully able to use your voice in all its glorious ways,” as Emma puts it. Authentic speaking, whether for an audience of one or thousands.
Why be authentic?
The more authentic you can be, the greater the chance that message has to land.
“If we only have one way of speaking, our message will only land in a particular way” Emma states. She compares conforming communication and authenticity as the difference between a garden, in all it’s colorful vibrance and a line drawing of the same garden. The line drawing has it’s own beauty, but it cannot come close to the pure, natural beauty of the garden.
In case the word authentic feels trite to you, consider using “genuine” or “sincere”. Because when you are genuine and sincere, you are cognizant of the impact of your words, however you gain the benefit of flexibility that sticking to someone else’s script doesn’t allow you.
How can I know when I’m using my authentic voice?
To answer that question, it is sometimes easier to start by recognizing an inauthentic voice. “It can feel thin” Emma shares. “It’s like it’s not coming out of the body, but instead just the head. It almost sounds querulous, and lacks gravitas. Not in the sense of being serious, but in lacking authority.” The inauthentic voice has no variety, and you need variety so people don’t stop listening.
An authentic voice sounds like it’s coming out of the body. “There’s richness and resonance,” Emma explains. You have a lot more flexibility and you’re breathing better. It’s easy, light, and you can talk for a long time. You can change pace and joke, and psychologically you are more present. You respond better and hear better.
“It is more important to build a connection than to be convincing,” states Emma. When you are communicating authentically, you are in your zone of genius. The truth is, especially in sales, we have very little control of the outcome. So instead, Emma suggests focusing on what you can control: the performance.
How do you rediscover your authentic voice?
Rediscovering your authentic voice is possible. It all starts with removing those limiting beliefs we were taught. Emma compares it to an old fashioned glass lantern. When the candle is lit, it has the great ability to shine a light. Back when you were a child, you had a clean glass and your light shone well. As you aged and learned all the limiting beliefs, it’s like dirty fingerprints were put all over the glass. Dispelling those limiting beliefs is to start cleaning up that glass.
Missed Women in STEM, Reimagined?
Emma Wainer. Emma has 15 plus years’ experience in coaching communication skills in the private and public sectors. She is able to draw on skills developed in clinical practice as a Speech and Language Therapist, in Sales and Marketing in Global Pharmaceuticals, from being Director of Operations at an Event Management Company and crucially, from her MA in Voice Studies from Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, providing her corporate clients with cohesive and relevant training and coaching.
Dr. Nicole Tschierske is a positive psychology coach who helps women in STEM get noticed in their company so they attract their next opportunity with total ease.
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