Monday, April 1, 2013

How to Respect Your Voice - Especially in the Digital Age!

We live in a time when 'the good news is' - everyone has a voice!  We live in a time when 'the bad news is' - everyone has a voice! It is incredibly freeing and exciting to be able to state our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to a vast audience with just the click of a tab or key.  At the same time, whenever we do so, we not only open ourselves up for constructive comment or criticism or perhaps even affirmation, but often we  put ourselves at risk for judgment, evaluation, and incredible injury. How then, do we respect our voices especially in the digital age?

Many times our voice is disrespected because we are not as selective and discerning as we need to be in our disclosures. First, we must value the content of what we have to say. And, we must respect the way we deliver our words and to whom we deliver them.  Yes, we need to take ownership of our words and demonstrate that we value our voice.  In order to practice this, start implementing a strategic guiding principle - containing your experiences.

As you consider your life experiences, begin making deliberate choices about what you will share. Contain your experiences that are sensitive, private, or hold emotional value for you. For matters that carry deep significance with them, keep your 'circle of confidence' small by sharing your words with only those who are worthy of your voice.  I realize that this concept is completely contrary to current waves of communication (Facebook,Twitter, etc.), but remember, the more people you share your voice with, the higher the risk of injury or re-injury, and the more you give away, the more vulnerable your voice becomes!

Once you have embraced this idea of 'containment', complete the following exercise. On a piece of paper, make two columns:  Worthy of  My Voice    /    Unworthy of My Voice.  Take your time and think over individual people, groups, circles, followers, etc. to whom you disclose your experiences. As you carefully think about how these recipients have responded to you and how those responses have hurt or helped you (or have been respectful or disrespectful in any way to you) write down those recipients' names or identities in the appropriate column. This can be difficult, so take your time.  Be honest with yourself. Who has proven worthy of your voice?  Who has not?

For those who are worthy - good news! Your disclosures have proven safe with them.  At the same time, it is often healthy to be selective, even within this trusted group. There are times when it is wise to keep our disclosures concise and contained.  When we rattle on and on, even to those in whom we trust our narratives, at times others tire of our stories and even from us. Also, remember to be careful not to disclose too much information (or any at all) when you are in an emotionally charged state - angry, depressed, etc. Later, you might regret what you shared or the tone used in your disclosure. Take some time to move past the emotions or at least get some perspective before revealing sensitive issues.  For those who consider to be worthy of your voice, you know them best; trust in the connection you have with them and in the conversational cues you glean from them!

For those who we have now realized are  not worthy - again good news!  We do not necessarily need to cut them out of our lives; we simply will make deliberate decisions about containment of our experiences. Some individuals will choose to stop sharing of any personal information or of emotional value, or they will significantly cut back on the degree of disclosure. Other individuals practice a common communication strategy of preparing and practicing generic statements ahead of time. These polite yet impersonal statements protect your voice while allowing you the freedom of participating in the venues of communication that you love! You will have to be the judge; review your history with the recipients and move forward giving trust only where it has been earned and honored.

As you can see, respecting our voices starts with us!  When I am in doubt as the degree of sharing or if I even want to disclose something, I often hear this voice inside my head saying, "Once I put my words out there, I have absolutely no control what anyone does with them." It's a great self-check! And in this amazing digital age, I can respect my voice by making deliberate and healthy disclosures!  

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