While women still struggle with the outdated reputation of being accommodating, in today's world, you have to be willing to express your thoughts--even when they are controversial or could be judged more harshly than the opinions of men.
As women entrepreneurs, we must find our own way of expressing ourselves as unique individuals with our own styles, personalities, and experiences. Ultimately, how you communicate who you are and your place in the world is how the world will relate to you.
People will get a better sense of your reliability, credibility, consistency, and trustworthiness the more they experience your unique voice and learn what you stand for and what your values are. You have the power to shape your own image, but you have to find and embrace the voice that is completely yours.
The good news is entrepreneurship among women is on the rise in the U.S.--the number of businesses owned by women grew by almost 75 percent between 1997 and 2015. The challenge for women entrepreneurs now is to be seen as unique individuals to stand out from the crowd.
Finding Your True Voice
It might sound intimidating at first, but finding your true voice is easier than you think.
1. Surround yourself with your tribe. How you say what you have to share creates its own resonance, and it will find the right audience. Not everyone will be in sync with your style, but those who are will love it and want more. Those are the people you want to surround yourself with: your tribe.
At the site dedicated to my work as a trusted adviser, I describe the traits of those who I most resonate with, with whom I choose to co-create and collaborate. People who match these characteristics are my tribe members. These guidelines help prospects self-select, and--if it's a match--it makes sense to explore possibilities together.
To find your tribe, attend relevant industry events, have meaningful conversations, and look to add value to your partners' and colleagues' lives. Over time, you'll build partnerships within a network of the right people with the right mindsets.
2. Challenge yourself to express yourself in different ways. I do this multiple times a day--in conversations with current and prospective clients, with team members and peers, when I'm conducting a podcast interview, writing an article like this one, or crafting an email--I'm always trying to reword my message to make sure it is communicated clearly.
One way to do this is to test different ways of finding agreement on a point. For instance, you could say, "Are you picking up what I'm laying down?" or "Does that make sense?"
Do this in your own way; infuse your phrasing with your unique style.
3. Draw on your own stories. Experts are great, but nothing is as powerfully "you" as your own stories, analogies, and metaphors.
You're far more credible and interesting if you share your own life experiences in your own words, with your own intonation and energy. Sharing something that happened to you personally translates into authenticity, presence, and relatability--and people are drawn to that.
Have you noticed that Jerry Seinfeld is a master at this? He's famous for starting a comedy routine with, "You know how when..." Apply this technique when you're speaking or writing to create instant connection and rapport. As you tell stories, be authentic, establish a common thread, and inspire others to take action.
Embracing the Power of You
Once you've identified your voice, it's time to start embracing it. Every time you write--and I mean every time: email, memos, anything you plan to publish--make sure to stay true to that voice.
As you get more comfortable and confident with self-expression, the right words will come more easily. I'm especially comfortable with writing as a modality for self-expression simply because I've done it so often and for so long throughout my career.
Others are more comfortable using their voice in speaking, and the same concept applies there. Whether in voicemail messages, during key meetings, in casual conversation with team members, when conducting an interview as a host (or being interviewed as a guest), or delivering an important presentation to a larger audience--use every opportunity to practice and embrace your true voice.
I've become more comfortable using my voice in speaking by hosting my own podcast. I interview guests several times a month and have been doing so for well over five years now. In these "fireside chats" I create casual, comfortable conversation with my guests on all manner of topics relevant to them. It flows effortlessly after years of practice and honing my approach and style.
Embracing your own unique voice not only diminishes fear and insecurity, but it can also lead to greater opportunities. Women entrepreneurs who develop the skill of self-expression will find it far easier to break down systemic barriers and open doors that may have otherwise remained locked.
Again, when you're comfortable expressing yourself in your own unique voice, it becomes easier to speak your position, share your stance, and own and express your truth. Nothing's more powerful.