You Have a Voice – and it Matters!

Between all of the disconnection and chaos that is happening in the world and the almost daily conversations I’m having with leaders and teams lately, I’ve been thinking about the power of using our voice in productive ways and what holds us back and gets in our way.

Do any of the following sound familiar to you?

  • I’m just 1 person; what difference can I make?
  • If I say the wrong thing, people will judge or reject me.
  • I don’t want to look stupid.
  • I don’t want to upset people and have them not like me.
  • People will think I’m _____ [selfish, being an attention seeker, negative, etc.].

👉We hold ourselves back from contributing, speaking up and showing up authentically out of our (usually unfounded) fears – of what will or won’t happen or what others will think.

👉We hold ourselves back out of fears of the critics – even though we know there will always be critics.

👉We also hold ourselves back out of a fear of saying the wrong things and making a situation worse.

The problem is that when we hold ourselves back for any of these reasons, we are missing out on an opportunity to positively impact others; we’re missing out on an opportunity to show up as our fully authentic selves; and we’re missing out on an opportunity to connect meaningfully with others. So I want to unpack two different aspects to think about the next time you’re finding yourself holding back: the impact we can make on an individual level and the impact we can make on a broader level.


Individual Level Impact: The Value of Speaking Up & Showing Up for Others

Jen Marr is the Founder and CEO of Inspiring Comfort and author of Showing Up: A Comprehensive Guide to Comfort and Connection. Her history of crisis response led to a profound finding that guides her work. We have an incredible gap in human connection between people caring and people actually feeling cared for. She calls this the Emotion Versus Action Gap.

  • Approximately 80% of people they survey feel they usually or always can tell when someone is struggling or in pain.
  • YET… Around the same percentage – 80% that they survey – don’t feel seen when they struggle. 
  • And roughly 75% of people they survey do not feel equipped to know what to say or do for those who are struggling. 

This data holds true for all age groups and all demographics. Think about that for a moment…essentially, we can see others when they struggle but don’t feel like others see us. There are many reasons for this gap ranging from us trying to fix or avoid people who are in pain and struggling to not knowing what to say, not feeling it’s our place to say anything, or not wanting to make things worse. Jen refers to this as the Awkward Zone™.

Now add onto this that 80% of people do not feel seen or cared for in their jobs. It’s no wonder we have a loneliness epidemic (especially among young people) and a mental health crisis happening! And, from a workplace standpoint, Jen’s work points to critical new leadership skills needed to actively show care and support for others to close this gap. Our top core human needs are to feel seen and heard and that we matter. So we can’t have human, effective and thriving workplaces if people aren’t equipped to fully see others.

Last night I saw a brief news report on the historic case where Jennifer Crumbly was found guilty of manslaughter for her son, Ethan’s, mass shooting at Oxford High School. The journalist was interviewing Phoebe Arthur, a 14-year old girl who survived being shot during that horrific event. She said something that struck me and so clearly illustrates this gap and Awkward Zone. Phoebe said that people kind of avoid her and don’t say anything because they probably don’t know what to say; and she said she wishes people would come up to her and say anything – even asking about her experience or how she’s doing. Here she already experienced horrific trauma and now she’s hurting and craving connection, care and support from her peers but feels isolated instead.

People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care. ~John Maxwell

I’m fortunate enough to be completing the Inspiring Comfort Facilitator Certification with Jen and a fabulous cohort of other caring leaders. One of the exercises is powerful and something that any of us can do right now that makes a difference in starting to see others and actively practice care and support. It’s called the 3x3x3 Challenge:

  • 3 minutes per day
  • 3 people
  • 3 months

Essentially what you do is list the people in your life from your family, work team, close circle of support, and others who might need support. Take 3 minutes out of your day to reach out to 3 of those people and do this consistently for 3 months. One of the things that was eye opening for me as I started this challenge was how I was neglecting my circle of support – those people who show up for me when things are tough. I noticed a difference in myself just a couple of weeks into more intentionally and actively finding ways to reach out to people. It’s simple and impactful! 

In a recent Show Up as a Leader podcast episode, Miriam Meima shared a powerful story about being in a Starbucks line that was hectic and taking a minute to actually see the barista and authentically ask how she was doing. That small action brought tears to the barista’s eyes as she conveyed that a rush of 300 people and no one bothered to look her in the eyes or see her. And it profoundly impacted Miriam. Seeing other people benefits us as much as the other person; it’s a huge win-win!

Collective Level Impact: Lessons from Hollywood

It’s award show season in Hollywood, and I’ve witnessed many people using the platform of their acceptance speech to use their voice to inspire, motivate, and call out injustices. Inevitably, they have some people cheering along and have pissed off other people. But they’re not staying silent about the things they care about.

It got me thinking about a conversation I saw last year that P!nk had with Kelly Clarkson while on her talk show. First, anyone who knows me knows that I’m obsessed with P!nk for so many reasons; I think she’s the real deal and a great example of strength and authenticity, not taking herself too seriously, and being a champion for the underdogs. Even if you’re not a P!nk fan, here’s the thing she said that has stuck with me since this show aired…

One of the things that my dad taught me is that my voice matters, and I can make a difference; and I will…one person can change a lot. And I think if we all had a chance to experience each other more, things would be a lot different.

So many people have become apathetic and resigned – thinking they can’t make a difference or that there’s no point in speaking up or taking action. Well, maybe you don’t have a public platform like some of these celebrities, but you have an opportunity to speak up around you, get involved in things, vote and more to have your voice be heard. This is how grassroots organizing happens; one person starts letting their voice be heard and it spreads to a collective voice where momentum can build and change can happen.

As a small, but relevant example, when I started posting the Rosie-in-my-Pocket videos, it was simply an experiment based on clients regularly saying, “Can I just have you in my pocket [in this meeting, to remember these things, etc.]?” Initially I cringed at making it, as it’s vulnerable to put yourself out there like that. I also remember thinking self-limiting thoughts like, “Who am I to put this content out into the world and what difference will this really make?”

But as we leaned into this idea of Thought-Provoking Thursdays to release videos on LinkedIn, the response was affirming; people responded, commented and reshared them – finding value in the reminders and saying it’s what they needed to hear that day. So we made a YouTube playlist of the video archives and started extrapolating the audio for mini podcast episodes, and the response has been humbling and energizing seeing the difference it’s making for people.

The overarching point is that we all have ways in which we can have a broader impact in our lives; we simply have to lean into the opportunities and stop playing it safe and small by silencing ourselves. As Brené Brown regularly says,

Daring leaders who live into their values are never silent about hard things.

Putting This into Practice

Here are some questions I invite you to reflect on and consider and actions to take so you can start using your voice more to make a positive impact in your life:

  • Where are you holding yourself back – at work, in relationships, in your community? What would open up for you if you leveraged your voice more to advocate for what you care about and make a positive impact around you?
  • Try the 3x3x3 challenge. Start intentionally seeing other people and checking in with them in meaningful ways.
  • Focus on getting it right, not being right and see what opportunities emerge for you to let your voice be heard and help others be more fully seen.

Whether you’re showing up as a leader by maximizing your positive impact around you with one person at a time or have an opportunity to do it on a broader, collective level, your voice matters. We change a culture by creating a critical mass of courageous leaders. Don’t let your fears silence you and your contributions. The world needs you!


Stay brave. Stay human. Stay safe. And never dull your sparkle!


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