The 3 Stages We Go Through as Women When We Use Our Voice with Carol Cox: Podcast Ep. 319


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We’re kicking off Women’s History Month here in the U.S. in the month of March. 

Of course, we champion and advocate for women every month and every week :-), but I do have some special episodes for you this month, starting with today’s.

Last fall, I delivered a keynote address and as I was working on that talk, I was really thinking about what happens as women when we use our voices and the transformative power it can have. 

That’s what I’m going to share with you in today’s episode, including:

  • What I hear from women about public speaking
  • The 3 stages we go through when we use our voice
  • Why many women stop at stage 1
  • How I got stuck in stage 2
  • What happens at stage 3
  • 3 things we can do at the individual, collective, and structural level for ourselves and others

About Us: The Speaking Your Brand podcast is hosted by Carol Cox. At Speaking Your Brand, we help women entrepreneurs and professionals clarify their brand message and story, create their signature talks, and develop their thought leadership platforms. Our mission is to get more women in positions of influence and power because it’s through women’s stories, voices, and visibility that we challenge the status quo and change existing systems. Check out our coaching programs at


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319-SYB-The_3_Stages_When_We_Use_Our_Voice.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

319-SYB-The_3_Stages_When_We_Use_Our_Voice.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

If you've ever wondered why you've struggled with using your voice, you're going to appreciate this episode of the Speaking Your Brand podcast as we kick off Women's History Month. More and more women are making an impact by starting businesses, running for office and speaking up for what matters. With my background as a political analyst, entrepreneur and speaker, I interview and coach purpose driven women to shape their brands, grow their companies and become recognized as influencers in their field. This is speaking your brand, your place to learn how to persuasively communicate your message to your audience. Hi and welcome to Speaking Your Brand podcast. I'm your host, Carol Cox. We're kicking off Women's History Month here in the US in the month of March. Of course, here speaking your brand, we champion and advocate for women every month and every week. But I do have some special episodes for you this month, starting with today's. Last fall, I delivered a keynote address, and as I was working on that talk, I was really thinking about what happens as women when we use our voices, why we oftentimes struggle, and the transform of power it can have. So that's what I'm going to share with you in today's episode. Enrollment for our Thought Leader Academy is open right now for our next start date of March 14th. You can get all of the details and sign up by going to speaking your

Again, that's speaking your Now let's get on with the show. I hear from women all the time who tell me that they've shied away from speaking or from pitching to speak at events and conferences because they didn't think they were good enough, that they didn't have enough experience speaking or that they didn't think they were experts enough in their topic. And then they come back to me later and they tell me things like, I could so easily do a talk at the conference I just attended and I realized I could have for years that I'm just as good as the speakers up there. Or they tell me I'm always hesitant because I think my material isn't rocket science. But then I go to events and see the majority of speakers sharing basic stuff and then they say their delivery isn't that good either. And I'm thinking to myself, I could do that, but then I get nervous again. Now, it would be easy to chalk up these women's thoughts and lack of actions to their own individual shortcomings. But there's something much deeper keeping them, keeping us from grabbing the mic and taking the stage. When you think of a public speaker who comes to mind, a charismatic figure holding court on stage to his enthralled audience of hundreds or thousands, a politician trying to persuade voters with his carefully crafted stump speech.

An executive hoping to rally his employees at the organization's annual conference. Now, you can probably picture that public speaker in your mind. As I described each one, and I intentionally used male pronouns for it because that tends to be the image we have of public speakers. And it's no surprise that that is the image that we have for centuries and really for millennia, women were silenced. They were not seen as or were allowed to be public speakers until the early 20th century. So just over 100 years ago, when the suffragettes who took to the streets and the podiums to make the case for the right to vote for women, well, for white women at least. Women were rarely allowed to address the public, and when they did, they could be arrested or at the very least heckled off the stage. No surprise then, that our model for public speaking is coded as male. From the voice timbers. We prefer to hear deep and low to the image we have of who deserves to be on stage, whether it's a panel at a tech conference or a presidential debate. Because by its very nature, the act of public speaking conveys authority, credibility, influence and power. It can change and has changed the world. Remember the mythical story of the sirens? Who would sing songs to lure sailors as they went by? In Homer's odyssey, Odysseus famously ties himself to the boat mast and instructs his boatman to close their eyes as they pass so that they don't get lured by the song of the sirens and meet their demise.

Now we have to ask why were women's voices portrayed as destructive? Not because men were impervious to desire. That's on them, but because when women speak up and are heard, they can disrupt the social and political order. And that's our mission here at Speaking your brand to challenge the status quo and break the rules around public speaking. Who does it, how it's done, where it's done, and why it's done. Now there are consequences when women break the rules, as we have seen throughout history and into the present day, which is burned at the stake. Hester Prynne having to wear that scarlet letter A, the suffragists beaten and arrested for wanting the right to vote. We even see it with our present day elected officials, many women who are harassed and threatened and denigrated because they have a public voice. However, we have to persevere. It's not always easy, but it is transformative to use your voice. Now, I was a woman with a public presence and a public voice, and I wasn't prepared. And I should have been because I have a master's degree in history with a focus on women's history. So I knew about all of this history, and yet I wasn't prepared. Now, I've shared this story in the podcast before about how when I was elected chairperson of the local Democratic Party back when I was 30 years old, I had a groundswell of support of the people who championed me to run and supported me when I did.

And when I was elected to office, I had a grand vision of what I thought was possible and the people around me completely supported it. We ran women for office. We raised money to help support their campaigns. We created TV commercial and ran it. And I became a media spokesperson for the party. When the Orlando news station started calling me to ask me to come on TV. Everything was great until it wasn't because about a year into my tenure, all of a sudden the people who had supported me no longer did. I became a woman with too much of a public presence and too much of a public voice. And they didn't like it. They started ganging up on me and bullying me. And I really felt so incredibly alone and incredibly vulnerable. I didn't have any other support system then. Those very same people. And I had to make a decision about what to do next. And even though I like to think of myself as this confident, empowered woman who could stand up for them, I didn't at the time. I didn't have the resiliency and I didn't have that support system to make that possible.

So I ended up finishing my term as chair that year and not running for re-election and not running for Congress as had been talked about. I realize now, looking back that there are so many lessons I take from it, and I've shared those different lessons in other podcasts, and I'll include links to those other podcast episodes in the show notes. But I realize now there are three stages we go through as women when we use our voices. The first stage I call Promise. Here we're excited, maybe a little bit nervous, but mostly excited to put ourselves out there. We have our messages. We have ideas that we want to share, and for the most part, they're positive and we get a lot of cheerleading around it. We get a lot of people giving us praise and validating what we're doing by putting ourselves out there. And this can go on for quite a while. But I see that a lot of women stay in this first stage of promise for way too long or for their entire careers. The reason they stay here is because it's really comfortable. It also has to do with people pleasing and perfectionism, because oftentimes, and I'll include me in this, we're afraid to challenge the status quo. We're afraid to ruffle feathers. We're afraid to say things about our industry or about the way things are done in our community or in society, because we know that there may be some backlash associated with that.

But here's the thing. If we don't push those boundaries, if we don't ever face any resistance to the messages and ideas we're putting out there, there's no real change or growth going on. Not only change in the industry and the business and the community that we want, but really no real change or growth for us personally. So if we manage to get past the first stage of promise, so we start pushing those boundaries, having a little bit of a sharper edge to our message. What oftentimes happens is we go into that second stage called peril. This is where we face that criticism and that backlash like I did when I was chairperson of the Democratic Party. And as uncomfortable as the second stage is, you can think of this second stage of peril as the dark night of the soul. You feel really alone. You feel really vulnerable, and you're not sure that it's even worth it. But this stage is so incredibly necessary. Just don't get stuck here for too long. I was stuck here for about seven years, which I feel like was a long time. But as they say, you know, your journey is your journey. So that, I guess, was the amount of time that I needed. You may get stuck here for a month or for a year or for a ten years or for 20 years.

It's all okay. Just recognize that if you're in this stage, it is normal to feel like this and to know that there are ways, especially having a strong support system, to help lift you out of that. And the way out, in addition to that support system, is to use your voice and to tell your story. As Malala said, when the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful. Speaking activates your self and it activates others. This is why public speaking is so incredibly powerful for authority, influence, credibility and power, and also for personal transformation. So think to yourself, Who am I now in this second stage of parallel, I've put myself out there. Maybe I've gotten some criticism and backlash. Maybe I have retreated myself. Maybe there hasn't been a lot of criticism and backlash externally, but maybe it's more internally in your own mind. So think about who are you now? What do you care about and what impact do you want to have? And once you start using your voice again, especially telling your story and digging deep, that's where you go to the third stage that I call power. This is where you emerge transformed, stronger than before. You understand yourself so much better. And this is where I feel you truly become confident and empowered.

You're much more willing to take up space. You're much more willing to use your voice. And here is where your authentic self gets created around your story, your why, and what matters to you. This is where true leadership and legacy comes from. So that first stage is promise. That second stage is peril, and that third stage is power. Now, as I mentioned, I got stuck at that second stage because I didn't realize there was a third stage to get to. I just thought I was stuck there. It took me many years to find my voice and confidence again, and there were key things that I needed to do. I had a talk about it and make it bigger than me. Make it bigger than just my own personal experience. Now, you may not have had my experience, but you may have had a time when you put yourself out there and faced resistance, criticism, backlash, rejection, whether it was external or internal. And whenever I think about this, I think about Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic. It's one of my favorite books. I've read it several times, and it's because she talks about ideas and that ideas look for messengers, and that is the messenger of an idea. We can either accept it or reject it. And if we reject the idea that reject that creative spark, the idea is going to move on to someone else.

But it's really up to us to accept it. And she tells the story of her and another novelist named Ann Patchett and how they basically Elizabeth Gilbert transmitted just like through I don't know how through the ether transmitted this idea for a novel that she had to. Ann Patchett, who ended up taking it and writing the novel called State of Wonder. And it wasn't plagiarism. It wasn't like Elizabeth Gilbert directly told Ann Patchett what the idea was. It said that these ideas are out there and they're looking for the right messenger. Ideas aren't meant for us to hide or hoard or inhibit. Ideas need to be activated and shared. And we need you to be the messenger for the idea and the story that is yours to activate and tell. This is why I talk about these four layers of thought leadership. The first layer is your expertise. The second layer is your big idea. So what is this big idea that you want to share? The third layer is your personal story. Your personal experiences. And that fourth layer is the emotional courage to share it as the messenger for your idea. You integrate your story into it, and here's how to do that. The first step is at the individual level. You claim your insights, your credentials and your expertise. Whether you're new or established in your career, you have insights you can share with your audience, and they need to hear them from you as the messenger.

Last year, I spoke at an event for women professionals, and afterwards a young woman came up to me and said she was feeling nervous about a speech she had to deliver the following month. Her parents owned a car dealership and she was following in their footsteps and working in the family business. She was taking a training program from the National Automobile Dealers Association, and not surprisingly, she was one of only four women in her class of 50. She was also a decade younger, she told me, than most of the men in the class. Yet they had elected her president of the class, which meant she was to deliver the graduation speech. So she told me, I'm only 25 and I don't have nearly the experience that they do. I don't know what I can tell them that they don't already know. So I looked at her and I suggested to her that her youth was exactly her advantage because it gave her a fresh perspective in an industry that desperately needs a shakeup. And so when she heard that, she excitedly replied to me, Oh my gosh, you're right. People my age don't want to go through the old process of buying a car. They want to know the price up front and they want to shop from an app to many dealerships don't get this.

And they're losing customers. She was the perfect messenger for this message. And I think about the clients that we worked with, many of whom you've heard here on the podcast, like Doctor Christina Madison, Jackie Roby, Katie Anderson, and how much they are the messengers for their message and their story. So I want you to think about what insights can you share with your audience from your vantage point? What does your audience need to hear that they may be missing out on? The threads in your life and career have led you to this point, and that's where your voice is needed. The second step you can take is at the collective level. Share your own stories and experiences. Storytelling that is real and deep is at the heart of this new model of public speaking. When you share a personal story, especially one that feels vulnerable, your audience feels like they're not alone. You validate their own experiences. As the author, Sue Monk Kidd has said, The deeper we go into our own experience, the more we hit the universal experience. And this reminds me of my client, Tammy Lalli, whose TED Talk has over 2 million views. She knew she had a vitally important story to share about her family's tragic struggle with money. Shame. Now, she could have stood on the red dot on that TEDx stage and given the audience a lecture about being financially responsible and tips on saving money.

But we both knew that wasn't going to have the impact she wanted, and it wasn't her deepest truth. Instead, she shared the story of the distressing phone call from her brother, their meeting at Starbucks, to talk about his finances and her vacillating desire to help him and lecture him. As a commenter wrote on the page of the video of her talk. Quote, As I started this TED talk, I was only partly listening to the video. Then you said his voice frightened me and my gut wrenched. I could hear my pain in your voice. I then stopped my busy work and sat down and watched you and cried because you spoke a truth I have felt, but never could verbalize. That's the power of digging deep and using your voice to validate the experiences of others. This idea of sharing personal experiences in a group so that others could see that they're not the only ones is what led to collective understanding and collective action in the civil rights movement in the 1960s, the feminist movement in the 1970s and the MeToo movement and Black Lives Matter movement more recently. Whether your story impacts one person or sparks a movement, it all matters. So think about what's a personal story you can share with your audience that is your deepest truth. The third step you can take is at the structural level, choose women's voices to listen to the voices we literally hear every day, especially if those in leadership positions affect how we internalize the authority and expertise of men and women.

When the news, podcasts and audiobooks we listen to are mostly by men, when the nonfiction books on business and marketing and tech and finance we read are mostly by men. When the influencers we follow in spaces like tech, finance and politics are mostly men, we come to see men by default as being inherently more authoritative than women. The idea of seeing women, including women of all colors in positions where there haven't been that many needs to be coupled with hearing women's voices and what they're saying. So I want you to audit what you listen to and who you follow and start adding in more women's voices. And thank you so much for listening to this women's voice on the Speaking Your Brand podcast. Now, why does all of this matter? Women are half the population, but our ideas don't have the same influence and transformation and ideas shape our world from politics and policy to business and media to tech. And now this burgeoning age of artificial intelligence AI that we're getting into. Which is why I've been talking about AI so much on this podcast, but because it's truly going to shape our world and we need to make sure that women are at the decision making tables for this.

I also think about the women who have been protesting in Iran since last September when Masha Amini was killed in police custody. Next week's episode is going to be with my guest, Dr. Bibi Perez. And we're going to specifically talk about what has been going on with the women's revolution in Iran. So definitely stay tuned for that one. At a collective level, ideas and public speaking can transform a society. From the suffragettes to the civil rights movement to MeToo to what's happening in Iran. But you don't need to spark a national or a global movement to have an impact. You can make change in your industry and you serve as a role model for those around you at an individual level. Your ideas and public speaking transform you. I'm here today because I went through all three stages promise to peril to power. I continue to go on TV to talk about politics and elections, even to this day. I've learned not to read the comments, though. And I founded this business speaking your brand and created this podcast. And I speak you can do the same. By doing so, You're creating your authentic self, your confidence, leadership and legacy. So my question to you is, how are you going to use your voice to change the world? And you might just change yourself along the way. Until next time, thanks for listening.

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