Finding your voice allows you to speak with confidence during life-changing moments. Ben Baker’s guest in this episode is Emmanuella Grace, the Founder of Find Your Voice. Emmanuella shares how you need to be willing to wait until people are ready to listen to you, rather than barreling through because they’re speaking over you. Doing so makes you powerful and earns the respect of others in the room. You could have the meekest voice, but if you believe what you have to say is valuable and worth listening to, people WILL listen to you. Tune in and learn how to get people to listen, understand, and value what you have to say!
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Finding Your Voice With Emmanuella Grace
[00:00:06] Welcome back, my wonderful audience. You are amazing. You read every time. You’ll catch up with me on LinkedIn. You let me know what you like, what you don’t like or the guests that you want to hear. I appreciate it all. You can always find me at Ben@YourBrandMarketing.com or Ben Baker on LinkedIn. Come find me.
[00:00:25] On this episode, I have a special guest. I listened to at least 6 or 8 podcasts from other podcasters every single week. My buddy, Billy Samoa Saleebey, had a guest and I was listening to this podcast. I said, “I have to get Emmanuelle on the show. What she’s doing is interesting and relevant to many people that I had to get her on.” Emmanuella Grace from Find Your Voice. Welcome to the show.
[00:01:00] Thanks, Ben. Thanks for having me.
[00:01:04] I was excited when I heard the podcast that you did with Billy. The concept of what you do is exciting. It’s innovative. It’s stuff that people don’t think about but it can change lives. I’d love for you to tell a little story about where you came from, what brought you to Find Your Voice then we can talk about where you are going.
[00:01:30] I was a professional singer until a few years ago. I didn’t come into that role easily. I was told by lots of teachers growing up that, “You can’t sing. You’re voice doesn’t sound very good,” but I had life ambitions of being a Disney Princess from about three years old. I was so certain that I needed to learn how to use my voice. I dedicated my life from a young age to finding teachers that could teach me that and my parents were supportive in that. At sixteen, I left home and went to boarding school so that I could be on-site and study. It was something where I had to get scholarships to get there. I had to get English and history scholarships so that I could go to a school where I could study music and be there and hound teachers.
I had a teacher who had a particular aesthetic bias, who used to tell me that I had a terrible voice and I couldn’t sing but simultaneously had me in an elite group of singers that used to sing at places like the Sydney Opera House and for ABC Radio and used to record. That created a cognitive dissonance in me. It wasn’t until years later I understood that her saying, I couldn’t sing and my voice sounded bad was her saying that her particular aesthetic bias and what I thought sounded good didn’t align. She didn’t like the sound of my voice but it didn’t mean I couldn’t sing. In telling me that I didn’t have a good voice and I couldn’t sing, she was undermining my confidence. As a young person at the time, I was 15, 16, 17, 18, it was having a profound effect on all different parts of my life.
I was getting sick a lot whenever I had a performance coming up and I doubted myself in other things because I was so sure that I liked my voice. I liked creating sound with my voice. Over time, I ended up finding teachers that could see that I was more suited to jazz, blues and musical theater rather than classical music, which is what she had a preference for. The idea that someone’s opinion at a key point in your life being voiced to you could have such a profound effect on how you saw yourself concerned me.
After having quite a successful career as a professional singer, singing on some of the biggest stages in the world like Royal Albert Hall and places like that, I realized that I wanted to coach people in how to use their voice and not just professional singers and actors. There’s a lot of training out there for singers and actors in how to use your voice but there’s nothing out there for the rest of us. That’s where I took what I’d learned and started to pivot that into working with professional people.To go where you want, start at the beginning and build a strategy because there are only so many things you can do in a day. Click To Tweet
My real niche, my happy place with high functioning introverts that have been good at what they do and have climbed the ladder of their careers and ended up in a public role. That can often undermine whole careers. It can undermine how they see themselves and how they’re perceived as professionals. Working with these people brings me a lot of joy because you can see them start to come out of themselves and understand that there’s been a lot of training out there on public speaking and how to use your voice that focuses on making eye contact, turn your hands out, stand up straight but it doesn’t feel natural to these people. It feels like acting.
It comes across as inauthentic and stiff. It doesn’t have to be inauthentic. There are ways to tap into your identity and who you are, where you will naturally start to make eye contact and stand tall because you will have faith in what it is that you’re saying. You’ll have tapped into your true story and belief of who you are and you’ll be able to communicate in a way that’s clear and authentic. It doesn’t have to be effortful. That’s where I’ve landed myself now. It brings me a lot of joy to work with these people predominantly one-on-one but then there are times where, for example, work with bigger groups.
For example, we were talking about the tennis Australia Open, where I trained the umpires. It’s high stakes. They’ve got to stand in a quite uncomfortable position for an hour and a half at a time in the Australian heat or in this weather that we have here. They have to make a call that is very definitive in that moment that is seen across the world. Imagine that you’re a female umpire being challenged by one of these big male tennis players. When you say out, it has to be done with a tone of voice that is irrefutable. They were seeing a lot of their calls being challenged and it was problematic. I sometimes work with groups as well and their happy places are one-on-one with these high-functioning introverts.
[00:06:47] I want to get back with the umpires because that’s a different level. That’s a different thought process to be able to teach people how to use their voice in such a way that there’s that level of confidence when you say out, it’s out. I want to start off with going back to the point of your singing career and how that brought you to your happy place because I find it interesting that you had a singing teacher that their ear was trained for classical music. She was a classically trained musician. She believed in classical music. That was what her ear is trained for. That’s what she liked and she had a very certain view of what a classical singer should sound like.
She determined for whatever reason that wasn’t you but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a voice. I heard that translates well to the business world because there are lots of different ways to communicate. There are lots of different ways to get yourself known and understood and valued. I want to find out how do you work well with one-on-one people to be able to have somebody who isn’t that confident, who is not seen as being the go-to person, the introvert to help them find their voice because those are the people that get passed over for promotions. Those are the people that are not seen as the people with authority, the go-to, the trusted individuals, the people that get the raises and whatever. How do we help those people find their voice in a way that’s going to give them the confidence to be able to make sure that they get what they deserve in the world?
[00:08:43] Where I start with people is by forgetting the voice. Alexander Technique is one of the underpinning trainings that I use. There’s a principle in that if you focus on the problem, all you’re doing is focusing on the problem. If you focus on a solution then all the things that you’re capable of and good at will grow. Positive psychology is the same. Another one of the underpinning fundaments of what I do. We start with where do you want to go with all of this? Quite often, people have this idea of they want a promotion or want to be seen a particular way but they haven’t broken it down into a strategy of how they are going to get there.
We start right at the very start, “If this is where you want to go, what needs to happen to get either?” There are only so many things that you can do in a day and be focused on. We’ll choose 3 to 5 things in the next month, that can stack on that in the next year and in the next five years, and that’ll lead you to your dream but if you’re trying to do more than that, you’re doing too much. If you can stay focused on those things that are close to your heart, true to you, you’re not dividing your attention, you’re not paying attention to anything else, you keep coming back to this intention, what it does is focus their energy in a way where when they do speak, it’s sincere, earnest, it hits, it has power.
It has a way of landing that connects with its audience because they’re not dividing their attention. They’re certain of where they’re going and what’s important to them and they let everything else go. It’s a good place to start because I often think with introverts, we have this big internal narrative that’s happening. It’s hard to address everything we want to address at the moment so we can often end up off-track. The first place where we lose our audiences is by not staying on point. By knowing what’s important to us and having a clear understanding of what’s important to us, where that’s going to lead us, speaking to that and leaving everything else to go. It makes a message so much clearer.
[00:11:02] There is the vocal technique. There are things that go along with that but it’s more focusing on the psychological. Is that where it is? It’s understanding where people are, where they want to go and building that bridge.
[00:11:21] I’ve spent many years training voices. I had a growing concern that there were these demographics of people I was working with that were incredibly earnest and sincere. They were being passed over by last opportunities because it didn’t matter how much I trained their voice when at the moment they needed to speak up they were remaining silent. It doesn’t matter how well-trained your voices are if you’re not using them in those moments that are life-changing.
[00:11:57] That’s profound. It gets down to the essence of it. Our world is set up in a way that a lot of people are afraid to raise their hands. They’re afraid to be seen as less than, stupid, unknowing, not having the right answers at the right time. Whether they do or they don’t, they’re afraid of not saying the right thing at the right time so they say nothing.
Our challenges as people, as leaders, as people within society is to understand that each one of us has value, a voice and has something that makes us important, valuable and smart within our own right. We need to work together to be able to understand, “What are the things that make me valuable?” How do you help people with that? In its essence, it’s building somebody’s confidence and trust in themselves.
[00:13:06] It’s interesting you say people are scared to raise their hand. It makes me think of a quote that I’m probably going to completely bungle but it’s good. It’s something like, “Raise your voice, not your hands. It’s the rain that makes the flowers grow, not the thunder.” The point is there’s incredible power in raising your voice. We live in a world where there’s a lot of noise out there now. There’s a lot of content, people with opinions and people we’re indignation has become the new way of conveying an idea strongly.
Everyone’s so indignant, upset, angry and that carries a type of brute power. If you can tell your story in a way that is grounded, earnest and sincere and you connect with your people, that’s going to have a lot more power than this angry, scatter spray of indignation and fury that might impact some people. If anything, it’ll add to the noise. You’ve got to think about what you want from your message. Do you want it to land or do you want to add to the noise that’s out there?
Often, a lot of the time, when people are speaking, they’re doing it because they want to be heard. They’re not thinking about their audience at all. Great communication is a balance between listening and making a sound. If you look at music, if it were just sound the whole time, we’d lose interest. Our brain is wired to observe a pattern and tune out. If you’re angry all the time, if you’re shouting all the time, after a while, your audience will tune out. What you need to do is learn the dynamics of urban flow, give and take, listening and communicating. Truly connecting with your audience is a balance of those two things. Great leaders listen as well as speak.
[00:15:17] I think of music and jazz. Jazz is a great conversation. If jazz musicians are not listening to each other, jazz doesn’t happen because it’s the ebb and flow. It’s the back and forth, the listening and speaking and understanding that your point of view is no less important than mine and mine is no more important than yours. That’s where we as a world need to look. To realize that, rising above the noise. We need to rise above the noise, learn how to speak eloquently softly and surely be able to allow people to truly hear what we’re saying instead of shouting from the rooftop.It doesn't matter how well-trained your voice is if you're not using it during life-changing moments. Click To Tweet
[00:16:10] That’s where voice, tone and body language become important. Also, understanding the power of things like now that we’re no longer having conversations on video, understanding your position in a room. I was working with one person who’s in the political sphere in Australia, who’d been hired to represent the interests of children. He’s a man that has incredible gravitas but he was concerned because he was softly spoken. His voice wasn’t cutting through in a very noisy industry or arena. We did work on being mindful of the fact that often he would look down before he spoke rather than make eye contact.
There are ways where if you’re at a boardroom table, if you’re not feeling confident in yourself, you’ll tend to see yourself out of the way as opposed to right in the middle of the table or right at the head of the table. You might slouch back in your chair as opposed to sitting up straight. When you’re ready to speak, leaning forward and resting your arm there and gesturing with your body and your face and your eye contact that, “I’m ready to speak now.” Waiting for your turn, being willing to say, “I’m going to say something now.” Waiting until people are listening rather than barreling through because the people are speaking over you. They do not hear you anyway.
This is where understanding why you’re speaking is important. Understanding what you want from speaking is important because if it’s only for you to feel like you’ve got the words out of your mouth, mission accomplished. If you want to be heard then it needs to be, “I’m going to offer my contribution now. When you’re ready to listen, I’ll speak.”
[00:17:51] That’s commanding. You never raised your voice and you are able to get the entire attention of a room by saying, “When you’re ready to listen, I’m willing to tell you what I need to tell you.” Once you’ve earned that know, like and trust, earn that respect within the room, that’s extremely powerful. All of a sudden, you’re right, you could be the meekest sounding voice in the room, but once you’ve commanded that room, once you get people to realize that what you have to say is valuable, you don’t have to shout it from the rooftops. In fact, the quieter you can be, probably the more powerful you are.
[00:18:35] It comes down to your energy as well. We touched on it about one of the ways to combat noise is with things like meditation, where you have to have yourself psychologically sound. Animals know not to listen to people that shout at them, just once, not more. Kids are the same. If you want your dog to stop, you say, “Stop. Sit. Roll over.” Animals understand inherently something that as humans we’re not necessarily cognizant of, which is that when people are emotionally stable, their voices aren’t high and tight. They’re low and resonant.
If you need to be taken seriously, be conscious of shifting into that low resonant voice, practice it. It might not come naturally to you. It’s something that has to be practiced. I don’t get on stage and expect to give my best performance ever. Under pressure, under scrutiny, without having done years and hours of practice and work on that. Where people often fall over is without the training and music or sport is similar. You don’t necessarily have the understanding that a great performance and mastery of yourself takes time. It takes work.
[00:20:03] It takes dedication.
[00:20:04] A very deliberate intention. You must know where you’re going with this from the start. I don’t start practicing without having chosen the piece first. I know what that piece needs to sound like at the end of when I’ve mastered it. From the minute I engage with that piece, that vision is in my head where I’m taking this.
[00:20:24] As what you were saying for, its goal in mind. “I know where I’m going. I know the direction that I want to go. I know the thread of this conversation. I know what I want my objectives to be.” If you have that end goal in mind, you can construct a conversation, a speech, a piece of music that will take you to where you need to be. That’s important to be able to sit there and say, “This is where I am. This is where I’m going. How do I get there?”
[00:21:01] It’s interesting you mentioned jazz music. Simultaneously, that’s free and improvised but the musicians know how to be free in the moment because they’ve done years of rehearsal. An oratory example of that would be Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. The man spent years speaking to audiences. If you watch the full video of that speech, he doesn’t kick into I Have a Dream until about fifteen minutes in. He’s speaking. It’s a rehearsed speech. He can see he’s not connecting with people. You see him shift gears. He startles little bit and it’s less than perfect but the gravity of him suddenly becoming earnest and authentic and connecting with those people and showing, “I’ve heard you. I feel your pain. I’m here with you,” rather than a rehearsed speech shifts the energy into what’s one of the most iconic speeches of all time.
[00:22:09] With that, it’s being able to read a room, understanding who’s in the room because like Martin Luther King, like most great orders, you speak to the people that are in the room. I know when I’m doing a keynote at different parts of the world, the thought process is the same within the speech but the speech is delivered differently depending on who’s the audience I’m speaking to and what I want them to achieve at the end of the speech. You need to know your audience. It’s important not only to understand where you’re going but to understand how your audience will resonate with what you’re trying to get them to achieve. How do you help people with that?
[00:23:01] Something that often comes up in sessions with people is, “How do I deal with the people that don’t want to hear what I’ve got to say? How do I deal with rejection?” That’s what we’re scared of. That’s what stops us from speaking up a lot of the time. We’re scared of failure, rejection and that people won’t hear us. There are two concepts that I’ll introduce. One is that at any given time, your audience, you can divide into three. There’ll be the people that love you that are nodding along that get what you’re saying. They relate to you. There’ll be the people that are on the fence and they’ll be the people that are not interested. They’re not your people.
If you focus naturally, we’re going to focus on the people that are negative because that draws more attention but the problem with that is you’re neglecting the other 2/3 of your audience. If you focus on the people that get you, they’re your people. You’re speaking to them. There’s a simpatico. There’s a connection there. The people that are on the fence will be drawn into that energy. You’re more likely to end up with more of the audience with you. Focus on the people that are reciprocating and where there’s a connection. Let the others go. They’re not your people. That’s okay.
This is where knowing your audience is important. You have a choice as a performer and speaker. If you are, let’s say, a blues musician and you go to a folk venue. If they don’t get your music, that’s on you because you know that you’re a blues musician. You know that’s a folk of the venue so you have a choice.
[00:24:43] You shouldn’t have been there, to begin with.
[00:24:47] Change your venue, go somewhere else, take your goods elsewhere or you can meet the audience where they’re at. After building a rapport, you might be able to convince them but that’s going to take work from you. That’s going to take you meeting them where they’re at.Focus on the people who have a connection with you and let the others go. Click To Tweet
[00:25:04] That’s important for people to focus on. I love the fact that you sit there. You broke the audience into three parts. That audience, as there are people that are with you, people are on the fence and there are people for whatever reason whatsoever are not going to get what you have to say.
We need to stop focusing on the negative. All of us focus on the negative at some point in our lives. A lot of us, more than that. If we can focus, these are the people that we could help. This is how we can help them. This is how we can get them to be true champions of our brand. You’re right. They will probably bring more people along with them. They’re the people that probably have an influence on the people that are on the fence. All of a sudden, 2/3 of the audience is in your ballpark because you’ve focused on the people that are in your court and let them turn around and sway the people that are sitting on the fence.
When you’re dealing with that, when you’re teaching people how to do that, how to read a room. Let’s take a look at a small boardroom type-setting? How would you get people, if you’re in a situation where you didn’t know most of the people in the room, to begin with, be able to read the room quick enough to understand where your allies are and where your allies aren’t?
[00:26:36] Eye contact and smiling is a good place to start. This is where body language becomes important. Why we’re all so fatigued by COVID and all these video chats is that we lost a lot of the feedback that we need to be able to read a room and to feel affirmed and feel a connection to each other. It’s not there on video and that’s a huge loss. Even though it’s a huge gain, technologically, we can work from home more often and things like that but then you can’t underestimate how powerful body language is. You need to get your head straight before you walk into that room because your headspace is going to show up in how you’re moving your body in the looseness of your limbs but the uprightness of your voice in the way that you can smile easily or tightly. The way that you will make eye contact and not be scared to linger.
These are all things that inherently show you’re confident. If other people can reciprocate that, you know you’ve got an ally without ever having said a word. Research shows that tall people are perceived as more powerful and knowledgeable. People with low voices are also perceived as more trustworthy. These are things that are easy to hack. You don’t have to be tall and be the tallest guy in the room. You can stand like you believe you’re tall. You can speak with gravitas and with a voice that is measured and that has pace and resonance. Without having to say a lot, you’ve already conveyed that you have gravitas.
[00:28:20] Two questions then I’m going to let you go because this has been fascinating but I want to be conscious of your time. Number one is, what’s the one thing that I haven’t asked you that it would be essential for people to understand to be able to help them find their voice?
[00:28:49] I was meditating on the importance of listening. I realized that there’s one thing if I can leave it with your audience that unanimously the people that I work with find helpful. It’s the idea of the three-second breath. What I teach people is, “Before you say anything, breathe in through your nose. When you release, that’s the time to speak. Count to three in your head as you breathe in.” What I realized while I was meditating is that what my singing training teaches me is that the power in a breath is not the intake. It’s how you let it go. Often, when they feel like they’re nervous, they’re focusing on trying to breathe in and trying to get air, trying to get it in. What they don’t understand is the way the lungs work is that what you need to do is let go of that breath.
It’s like the more you can breathe out and relax, the air will come in, the air will flow itself. If you breathe out, that first intake will give you everything you need before you speak. I was thinking about Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah. Are you familiar with the recording? Right at the start of it, this long out-breath. “I heard there was a secret,” but that breath that’s been captured in the recording is so powerful.
For people to understand that breaths should be free and not labored and take those three seconds before you speak before you let the sound come out of you, that would give you a lot of gravity when you do speak because you’ve taken that moment. It also gives you the headspace to regroup. However, he did the situation however high states it might be. It’ll give you that moment to gather yourself. That will show up as resonance in your voice because your body and larynx will relax, it will drop down, your throat will open. Physiologically, your body will create an ideal space for your body to make a sound that is resonant and has gravity.
[00:31:23] That is such amazing that I never thought about it because you hear a lot of singers before they start singing, exhale. At least some of the good ones. I never thought of that before. It’s going to be something that I’m going to try moving forward. One last question. I want to thank you, first of all, for being such an amazing guest. Thanks to Billy for introducing us. That’s been a real treat for me.
[00:31:54] It’s my pleasure.
[00:31:56] The last question is what I ask everybody. The question is when you leave a meeting, you get in your car and you drive away, what’s the one thing you want people to think about you when you’re not in the room?
[00:32:15] I hope they feel heard. That’s more important than anything I can say to them.
[00:32:26] We’ll leave it with that because the world needs people to feel heard. We need people to be listened, to understood and valued. Emmanuella, thank you very much for everything that you’ve said. Thank you for your wisdom and for your time.
[00:32:43] Thanks, Ben. It’s been a joy.
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About Emmanuella Grace
Emmanuella Grace is a coach, speaker, and facilitator in the skills to communicate with confidence, and poise.
With decades of worldwide performance and coaching experience, Emmanuella has helped thousands of people to find their voice.
As a professional singer Emmanuella performed on some of the world’s largest stages from Royal Albert Hall and the Barbican in London to Sydney Opera House and Hamer Hall in Australia.
As the founder of Find Your Voice, Emmanuella’s training and experience uniquely encompasses the fields of professional musicianship (MMus Performance Teaching – University of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, BMus Hon – Kingston University, London, Undergraduate Jazz and Music Theatre – Griffith University Queensland Conservatorium of Music) and psychology (PostGradDip Psychology – University of New England).
Emmanuella has been engaged with a myriad of exciting projects. From working with vulnerable youth and consulting for health care organisations to training leadership and communication for PwC, and umpires for The Australian Open.