There are people who come to me for help because they love speaking and want to get better at it.
There are people who come to me for help because they are terrified of speaking, because they are desperately uncomfortable being heard and raising their voice, or because their shyness has started to get in the way of their work.
Invariably at some point, the fearful or reluctant to-be speakers express the same reservation: “But I’m just not an outspoken person!” (Or, as often as not, “but I’m not outspoken like you!”*)
Here’s the flaw in that statement: they’ve equated being outspoken with speaking out.
Take a moment and bring to mind someone you consider outspoken. The most likely image is someone bubbly, boisterous, and probably a bit larger-than-life. You may love them or hate them, but they are impossible to ignore. They usually have bags of energy and say what’s on their mind, damn the consequences – and for some bizarre reason they can get away with it.
Now think of someone you’ve seen speak out. They are absolutely impassioned about their message and what they have to say,** but that’s where the similarities end. Some people think of a person with a soft voice and demeanour. Others conjure up an image of someone with fire blazing in their eyes who simply couldn’t keep quiet any longer. Others still think of a person who stood up with a carefully prepared message, notes in hand; maybe the paper trembled. Sometimes the speaker has a raised voice, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes their words are strong and powerful, sometimes they are hesitant and tremulous. In all cases, though, their message is heard. Their message is important.
Speaking out is about delivering an important message.
It requires you to open your heart. It requires you to open your mouth.
But it does not require you to be outspoken.
*I find the “I’m not outspoken like you” comment hilarious, probably because I have to muster up a pretty considerable amount of courage to don an ‘outspoken’ mantle. It is exhausting work.
**That’s what makes speaking out so courageous; the message is so important that it becomes bigger than the speaker’s fear. But this is a topic for another day.