Inside Voice – Outside Voice

We all possess an inside voice and an outside voice, and each serves a purpose. When we get the two mixed up, we get ourselves in trouble.  First, let me explain exactly what I mean by the two voices.

When most think of an inside voice, they relate it to the actual volume of the voice considered socially acceptable for indoor conversations.  I’m sure each of us can remember when we spoke too loudly, and we were scolded by a parent or teacher: “Please use your inside voice.”  On the other hand, the outside voice is typically defined as the volume of speaking that is considered more appropriate for outside, or louder, conversations.

As we grow older, I don’t think we struggle quite as much in determining the appropriate volume of our voices. I think we struggle with a completely different issue relating to our inside and outside voices.  Rather than volume, we struggle with intent.

In this case, when I speak of an inside voice, I’m referring to the thoughts and feelings we experience internally and are not meant to be heard by others.  These thoughts are ours and ours alone.  Once again, the opposite is found with our outside voice, which refers to the filtered thoughts and feeling we intend others to hear.

Each has its own purpose, but many of us run into a problem when we get the two voices mixed up.  This is especially true for those who speak for a living, like professional speakers, teachers, and quite frankly, anyone who spends more than a few minutes speaking in front of others.

For example, most presenters know not to refer to the mistakes they may be making during a presentation, and not to share them with their audiences.  For instance, an audience doesn’t need to know that your timing is off a bit.  That type of mistake can be handled without anyone knowing about it, and telling an audience only serves to diminish your performance in their eyes.  It’s fine for our inside voice to talk us through certain changes that need to be made, but it’s not okay to get the two voices mixed up, and have that information handed off to our outside voice.  When we do, the audience ends up hearing things like this: “Well, time got away from me a bit, and we’re running a bit behind, so I’m going to need to cut a few things here.”  By mixing up the voices, you now have an audience that is judging you on your timing, and preoccupied with exactly what you may be cutting.

This type of chatter can go on in our brains, and it can clutter our thoughts, particularly during challenging presentations and stressful interactions.  The handoff between our inside and outside voices is lightning fast, and some comments can inadvertently get out.  The longer you are in front of an audience, and the more comfortable you are in front of that audience, the more susceptible you are to mixing the two voices up.

This is not to say that there aren’t certain times when we share our inside voice with others.  Although typically private, our inside voice tends to be honest, and authentic, and it can be a powerful tool to carefully share some of these thoughts with others. The key is to try and make sure those thoughts are positive, and encouraging.  Comments like, “Our timing is excellent today,” or “I’m feeling really good about how we’re progressing as a group,” are inside voice comments that are terrific to be handed to our outside voice, and shared with others.

Maybe the safest way to manage our internal thoughts is to work as hard as we can to keep the internal dialogue positive. By doing that, we can minimize any mistakes we might make with which voice to use.  Being positive with your inside voice, you will also be helping yourself to stay in a good frame of mind.  This isn’t just helpful for those you are communicating with, but for you as well.

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