The Shockingly Simple Secret to Finding Your Voice

The Shockingly Simple Secret to Finding Your VoiceI’ve said from the start that my entrepreneurial mission is to help you find your own unique brand of smart, authentic communication.

In other words, I want to help you find your voice.

YOUR. voice.

Not mine, dressed in drag, not your favorite online superstar’s, dressed in….a kitty costume.

YOUR voice. 100% authentic. Alllll you, baby. Nothing else will do.

There’s a lot I could (and will eventually) share when it comes to voice, authenticity, copycatting, and the like. (These are some of my favorite juicy hot topics!) But I’ve gotta tackle ’em one at a time.

In today’s sermon post, I’ll tell you why finding your voice is absolutely critical to the success of your business. Then, once you understand why it’s so ridiculously important, I’ll tell you the shockingly simple secret to finding it.

What is “voice,” really?

The word “voice” gets thrown around a lot in the world of words. So let’s get clear on what we’re talking about here.

When I say “voice,” I mean your own unique style of communicating. The distinctive manner in which you share your thoughts and ideas with the world.

Key word: Distinctive.

And why is it so stinkin’ important?

When potential clients or customers visit your site, they want to know what it’s reeeeally like to work with you. (And they deserve to know.) In most cases, this is their only chance to hear you before they hire you.

You’ve got to be consistent, friend!

I’ve been really intentional about “consistent authenticity” for as long as I can remember. So whether you overhear me catching up with a girlfriend, or leading a VIP tour for the admiral of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, you’ll hear the same personality.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t adapt to your audience. In terms of actual content, that’s a must. But in terms of personality? No way, Jose.

Whether you’re talking to your dream clients or your grandma, you have GOT to be yourself. Nothing else will do. (Tweet that!)

If you’re sending mixed signals because you’re trying too hard to sound like someone else, you’re setting yourself (and your potential clients) up for a potentially confusing, disappointing, and/or awwwkward situation.

It’s like a sneaky bait-and-switch operation. Like you’re a social chameleon. Feels slimy. And nobody likes to feel slimy.

That’s why authenticity is important.

Now onto my next point…

You are cool.

Be honest. Do you feel like there’s a “cool” way to write and a “not cool” way to write?

Yeah. You gotta shake that.

You know what makes writing “cool”? Authenticity(Tweet that!)

So what if you don’t have an over-the-top personality? The world can only handle so many of those before it explodes!* (*Hyperbole.)

Maybe you’re laid back. Introverted. A bit straightforward, or maybe a little goofy. That’s OKAY. Wonderful. Refreshing, even. And your right people will absolutely LOVE that about you. They need to hear what you’ve got to say in the way that only you can say it.

Cool people don’t think they’re cool. They’re confident being exactly who they are, and the world appreciates them for that.

So. One more time, with gusto: You are plenty cool. 

Copycats, however, are not.

I could write an entire blog post (or made-for-TV movie) on the topic of copycatting, which to me, is a cutesy word for cheating. And unlike you, it’s not cool. As the saying goes:

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else.” – Judy Garland (Tweet that!)

I realize a lot of experts (and non-experts) say you should “copy” people whose styles you admire. When it comes to formatting – bold, italics, white space, headings, headline formulas, and the like, I totally agree. No biggie.

When it comes to word choices and personality however, I wholeheartedly disagree.

On what planet does it make sense to copy someone else’s personality to attract the right people to YOUR business?

If witty one-liners don’t come naturally to you, don’t try so hard to use ’em. You don’t need ’em!

If you love a particular turn of phrase you saw in someone else’s content, but it’s not something YOU would actually say in everyday conversation, stay away from it.

Here’s a fun analogy in honor of my upcoming 10-year high school reunion: Copying “the cool girl’s” language is no different than copying her first day of school outfit. You’re not foolin’ anybody. You look like a second-rate version of somebody else, and that is anything but cool.

There’s a dangerously fine line between being inspired by someone and straight up imitating her. And I think on an instinctive level, most of us can feel the difference.

So don’t be a copycat, homie. You’re way cooler than that!

The Secret to Finding Your Voice

Mkay. Are you with me now? Do you realize how important it is to BE YOURSELF, in each and every interaction? Ready to find YOUR amazingly unique voice?

GOOD. Let’s get to the secret already!

Over the course of the summer, I’ve led over 100 sessions with bright entrepreneurs across the world. I can’t even count how many of them told me, “I’m having a hard time finding my voice.”

Wanna know what I tell them? (It’s the big secret.)

The shockingly simple secret to finding your voice is…

….

…..

….

…..

….Listen to yourself!

 

Truly. It’s that simple.

You’ve already got a voice. You know, the one you use to chat with your best friend? The one you use when working with clients? Yep. That one.

You don’t need to borrow someone else’s. To try someone else’s “style” on for size.

You’ve got an entire arsenal of stories, phrases, and words that you already use to color your world. And they’re amazingly unique. Use them!

Here are some tangible examples of what I mean by “listen to yourself”:

  • Write your copy, then read it OUT LOUD. If it doesn’t sound natural coming out of your mouth, change it.
  • Try recording it first, THEN writing it. (If you do that, though, be sure to cut it down a bit to make it more concise!) A number of my clients have actually had huge success with this method.
  • Read it to a friend. One who isn’t afraid to keep it real with you. You see – what you may like to think sounds like you, may not sound like you at all. And if she’s really a good friend, she’ll tell you that.

The point is – your voice is already in there. It may be getting lost on the way to your fingertips, but it’s in there.

Keep talking, keep listening, and keep writing. You WILL find it. And once you find it, there’s no way you’re gonna lose it again.

Share time!

If this post hit home with you, please share it with your friends and followers. (I’ve got a lovely array of buttons and social media outlets for you to choose from!)

Let’s talk about it.

This is a touchy subject. Everybody has her own thoughts on that “dangerously fine line” I mentioned earlier. I think we can all agree on this, however: Authentic communication is hugely important to the success in business (and life). It’s a topic worth discussing.

In the comments below, I’d love to know:

What holds you back from injecting your personality into your writing?

BONUS: If you were a pull-string talking toy, what would your key catchphrases be – the things your fam ‘n’ friends could probably recite FOR you by now? Plant a few of these in your copy next week, and see how it feels!

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LET’S TALK ABOUT IT.

  1. Tiffany Jansen

    I love this topic! It’s been the theme of several posts over on my site and something I work a lot on for my biz (writing for clients and publications).

    I think copycatting and plagiarizing (in writing) are starting to get mixed together in a lot of people’s minds. Plagiarizing is taking others’ work word-for-word and passing it off as your own. And that’s not the copycatting a lot of experts are condoning.

    I describe it to my clients like this… I’ve got a 19-month-old and she’s talking up a storm. But the words she’s using, her intonation, everything she says is from me, my husband, and those she encounters most frequently. She’s copycatting what she hears. That’s how she’s learning to speak.

    And no matter what it is, when we’re learning, we do so by copying the behaviors of others. Ball players learn from coaches and mentors. Actors learn from watching the greatest stage, film, and television performers. As you learn and grow, you’re able to apply your own way of doing things.

    We all have voices, but the awesome thing is, these voices are an amalgamation of our surroundings and influences, our friends and hobbies, our families and locations. Our voices are the stories of our lives and experiences. And it’s constantly changing. That’s just so exciting to me.

    I know I’m aging myself here, but copycatting others is like the cursive writing exercises we did in early grade school. We used our pencils to follow the swirls of dashes that create the letters of the alphabet. Nobody still writes like that as an adult. We added our own embellishments each time we put pen to paper until we developed our own individual signatures.

    Instead of thinking of copycatting as stealing, I like to think of it as a starting point. As guidelines. Spend sometime coloring in someone else’s lines to get the feel and flow. And as you gain experience and confidence, get a blank sheet of paper, baby, and start freestylin’!

    GREAT post! (And I’m a huuuuuuge Judy fan! For as long as I can remember. This is one of my favorite quotes of hers and I love that you included it!)

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      YES – absolutely get that, Tiffany! Great points here.

      When it comes to format, structure, etc., I totally get copycatting. Everything’s derivative, and when you find a formula that works, no need to reinvent the wheel.

      HOWEV – my point is more about the artificial distinction between a speaking voice and a writing voice. To me, if your goal is to be authentic, they really should be one and the same. And if that’s the case, the key to finding your writing voice is listening to your speaking voice.

      People seem to think there’s a certain way you’ve gotta write (usually with a bunch of wit and LOL-factor), but that’s overrated! And when people are using “the phrase of the week,” you can tell it’s awk. Authenticity wins every. time.

      As the great Dr. Seuss wrote, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

      Thanks for sharing your expertise, lady!

  2. Shana LaFore

    Brilliant, Nikki! This is so very true. I definitely find my self in the “trying on for size” mode at times, especially when I’ve been hanging around (virtual or otherwise) with people I respect. So easy when I’m knee deep in research and wading through all the inspirational people, programs, blogs out there. I have to close everything down, walk away and come back later to revamp with fresh eyes. It remind me of the Italian method of teaching the arts. My design profs in Florence would have us copy the master’s works tirelessly until we perfected the way to draw particular images, textures and materials, until it became a second language. Only then would they give us an assignment to create something from scratch. You’re so right it’s a fine line. Great post!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Perfect idea, Shana! Closing out all other influences to “stay pure” and true to your voice is fabulous advice.

      P.S. So excited to see your biz taking off. I knew those creative types would LOVE you!!

  3. Lana Shlafer

    Love this post NIkki – you have such a gift for writing with heart and wit! What really hit home with me is that your solution/secret is so simple: LISTEN to yourself. I am in the business of helping people listen to their inner voice and it is so amazing to see them come into an authentic acknowledgement of themselves and then beam it out to the world. I love writing and really resonate with all of your suggestions!
    Lana (www.lanashlafer.com)

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Thanks for the note, Lana! Happy this one resonated with you.

      We get so caught up in LIFE and everything going on around us that we really forget to just be still and listen. That’s why we gotta remind each other to stop and tune in every now and then ;)

  4. Katie

    This has been such a struggle for me so I appreciate you addressing it. I am someone who communicates best through writing and is often quite silent in person. That is my ultimate struggle because I don’t feel like I have much of an actual voice, but I can write like the dickens. The problem is that I like writing, grammar and not so much in a conversational style. I’m having a hard time writing like I talk, because to me those two things are vastly different.

    Thank you for the suggestion of recording my thoughts then writing them. I’m going to try that and I bet I will uncover my catch phrases and my voice.

    You are so inspiring!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      It’s so normal to see your writing and speaking voices as two different entities, Katie! That’s why this is such a struggle for so many people. And THAT’S why I’m on a crusade to offer a different perspective.

      I’m here to say they can (and SHOULD BE!) one and the same. So glad you get it!

  5. Robin Ray Green

    Nikki! This was the perfect day for me to read your post. Are you sure you didn’t write it just for me? Today I’m doing the rehearsal for my first live in-person class tomorrow. I really needed this reminder to use my authentic voice and just be myself. I love hearing speakers that are super witty and funny and while I’d love to have that talent — I don’t. But I do have passion, knowledge and the ability to take a lot of information and distill the most important points. I love connecting with people where they’re at and helping them reach for new heights! It’s funny how we can over complicate things when being authentically yourself is as simple as just being you, the you that your family and friends see and love everyday. Thanks for another great post!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Okay, Robin, you got me. It was for you :)

      You are going to be GREAT tomorrow! No one can be you like you can. They’re in for a treat.

      Let us know how it goes!

  6. Silvia Bianco

    Hey Nikki. I love your voice and style. It’s a perfect example of what you write about here. I’ve been writing to my list for almost 10 years now and what I hear over and over again is that my writing is like I’m sitting there talking to them. But it wasn’t always like that. It became that when I stopped trying to sound “professional” and started trusting and writing from my heart. Over the years my confidence that what my heart was telling me was exactly what I needed to share with others grew. Often, as I sit at my computer to write a blog post (not the recipes…they’re always worked on in advance) I have no idea what I’ll say and what ends up in the post is often a big surprise to me. I simply listen to what comes and pass it on. So, in a sense, it becomes a meditation.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Beautiful, Silvia!

      You *know* you’ve found your voice when people tell you they can hear you talking to them :)

      Thanks for sharing!

  7. Rhea

    Swearing stops me from writing with the phrases I normally use. I swear like a sailor in real life, but for some projects I dumb it down a bit to sound a little more intelligent to avoid the wrath of the many people who think swearing is a sign of stupidity. But then there’s those projects where I can use my own voice completely. Love them! Have to go under a pseudonym for that though.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      HA! As part of the Navy family, I can appreciate that sentiment ;)

      Definitely important to know your audience and adapt accordingly. Clearly you “get” that filtering four-letter words doesn’t have to mean filtering your personality!

      1. Rhea

        it’s true. I can infuse personality into stuff without swearing too. It’s just the icing.

  8. michellesears

    Thanks for the great advice Nikki. I’m going to try your suggestions. I know my site doesn’t come across how I would like it to. My voice is WAY different then my writing. My writing is dry and boring but I’m not. lol

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Let me know how it goes, Michelle! People who only get the chance to encounter you in writing absolutely deserve to know how NOT boring you are ;)

  9. Aleishia James

    Love, love, love this one, Nikki! This has been a source of conversation lately and an important subject in a society that encourages individuality through imitation. I appreciate voices that speak to uniqueness and the impact that holds. I have been so inspired by this subject that my first newsletter will be on authenticity and how to understand your authentic self. Mahalo Babe!

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      “…a society that encourages individuality through imitation”

      This is such an amazingly interesting topic, isn’t it, Aleishia!?

      Can’t wait to read your first newsletter :)

  10. Elise

    What holds me back? At times I feel as though “I’m preaching” (I’m adamant about conscious consumerism) and not many folks want to be “preached to”. So I’m trying to find a gentler voice …
    I’m almost there :)
    Elise

  11. katie

    This is really helpful to me right now! I’m writing guided meditations and am struggling at times with how much personality to let through because I don’t want the meditations to feel dry, or “stock”. I think if I get in the habit of sitting down to record myself instead of sitting at the keyboard to type, something more organic and juicy should come from it. Thank you Nikki!

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