Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a virtual panel for employees of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx organization on the topic of elevating personal communications, with a particular focus on women and young professionals. As somebody who has gone through the trials and errors of navigating my way in the professional world and finding confidence in my own voice, I felt particularly honored to be able to speak to a Zoom Room full of those navigating their own paths (and the corresponding roadblocks and second guessing that come with it).
As part of the panel, I was asked to submit my “Five Tips for Elevating your Communications”, which I wrote from my perspective of finding my own personal voice while navigating through my career in my twenties and early-mid thirties:
1. Find your voice.
Just because you are a professional doesn’t mean you can’t let your personality shine through! So much of our communications are based on how we think other people want us to sound, rather than what comes natural to us. Some of my favorite communicators keep me interested in what they have to say because they have their own personality and way of expressing themselves – the best communicators own their voice and own their brand. Anybody who is authentic to themselves will have some detractors, but don’t let others shape your style – even if that means working some Taylor Swift lyrics into an email to a colleague, which I do all too well. (Don’t worry, I don’t do this when writing on behalf of clients. 😊)
2. Lose the “sorry” and the “just.”
Women in particular say “I’m sorry” when communicating with colleagues in a professional setting (and really, in any setting) way too much! “I’m sorry to ask you this, but…,” or “So sorry, but can I add something?” are just a few examples of times we apologize when we have nothing to apologize for. We also tend to use the word “just” too much – “I’m just wondering” or “I just want to add.” Trust in your voice and your words! No need to apologize and no need to minimize your contributions, whether in writing or in person.
3. Take your time.
When speaking publicly, whether presenting or in a meeting, don’t rush through what you have to say because you feel self-conscious or as though you are wasting peoples’ time. Own your words, claim your time, and take your opportunity to share what you have to contribute.
4. …but don’t take more time than you need.
If you have finished making your point, whether in writing or orally, sometimes it’s hard to know when to wrap up. Especially when communicating in-person – if everybody is looking at you and listening to what you have to say, it can be hard to know when to finish making your point or explanation, which leads to repeating yourself or lacking clarity. Once you have shared your point or what you want to share, don’t feel as though you need to keep writing/speaking and let the other person ask for more information if they need it (I personally still struggle with this one, so I feel you if you do too)!
5. Be confident.
Confidence will shine through in all your communications. You are where you are for a reason – because you have talent, expertise, and a valuable perspective to add. Never doubt your contributions or ideas, because when you speak with confidence, others are more likely to believe in what you have to say. Having confidence in your voice, whether written or verbal, impacts so much of our communications (and helps you achieve points 1-4 of this list).
Not only was I happy to share my experiences and tell my stories with others who could identify with them (which I pulled out through the insightful questions from the moderator Wynne Reece of Reece Law – who herself had some valuable experiences to share about her journey of a woman navigating the legal field), but I appreciated advice given by my fellow panelists: Chandra Cooks, marketing director for Mented Cosmetics, spoke about the importance of having confidence in yourself, and that fear is a mind-killer that can pull you off your game. As she put it, “If I was afraid to go in the room, I’d never be in the room.” Rita Patel, vice president of brand management at Target’s corporate office, talked about something I particularly identify with, which is to not try to fit into a mold that isn’t you. Once she started owning her style of doing things and applying that to her work, she felt a change in personal energy that benefitted her at her job.
Finally, if I can leave you with one last piece of advice it would be this: When navigating a new or uncomfortable situation you need to communicate through, rather than asking yourself, “how should I handle this?” try to instead ask yourself, “if my friend or colleague came to me for advice, how would I counsel them to handle this?” We tend to overthink when it comes to our own actions, which causes us to second-guess our decisions or instincts and undermine what is in our best interest. If you’re able to step outside yourself for a moment and gain the clarity of looking at the situation from another perspective, you’re sure to not shortchange your instincts and find your strongest voice.