Thursday, March 11, 2010

Finding My Voice (and Boosting Confidence Muscles)

When I was 23, and working as an executive assistant at a high profile consulting firm, I remember my boss used to chuckle over what he called my "phone voice." At the time, I had no idea that I was speaking any differently over the phone, but in retrospect, I was certainly putting on a show.

The funny part is, about half of the people with whom I spoke each day were hot-blooded Latino men, and I apparently put on this thin, sultry, phone voice... making some of them swoon over my, "Hablo Kelly... como puedo auydarle?" Now, it is so obvious why I felt I had to hide behind this persona... I was not yet comfortable in my skin and I felt I had to be somebody else... someone softer, more demure, and at the same time, bolder and savvier. Yet, that thin, high voice really only conveyed one thing: weakness.

Sometimes I still overhear women using what I now call "the phone voice." When a woman answers the phone and her voice suddenly goes up about three octaves, I get this sort of knee-jerk reaction. I want to take her by the shoulders, shake her, and say, "Deepen your voice! Don't be phony! Be yourself!"

Of course, it's not just about the intonation and sound of the voice that irks me. It's that sound of uncertainty, fear, and lack of confidence. And I only am bothered by it because I can relate to it... I have been there. And I often wonder, "Do men have a 'phone' voice? Do they feel they have to be someone they are not, and pander to the listener? Or is this something uniquely female. I just do not know...

I do know, however, that what has helped me find my "voice" is surrounding myself with confident, strong, inspiring women. My co-workers, friends, and the women in my family are some of the most self-assured, beautiful, and smart women I know. The more I surround myself with these women, the easier it is for me to speak my mind, to be myself, and to learn more about my dreams and ambitions.

As a result, I lost the thinness in my voice, and speak straight from the gut.... making a deeper, richer, more authentic sound and message. In doing so, I convey a much clearer picture of the woman I am, and the woman I am supposed to become.

Among the many women who have inspired me over the year is Ana Ottman, a DC entrepreneur who has formed a business around helping women find their voices. Ana left the world of lobbying to launch her own life coaching business, and has recently re-branded herself as "Red Dress Studios," a business that "helps women entrepreneurs build their confidence muscles."

Ana is launching her new brand tomorrow, and you should join her virtual launch party to learn from Ana, and possibly win one of the "door" prize giveaways. For more info, check out the Red Dress Launch Party registration.