Deb Sofield


Raise Your Words Not Your Voice

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Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.

Did you know that most people don’t learn many new words, read many books or stop and think about why their Public Speaking Skills are important? This is interesting tome since those are the three things I think about all the time.

As a speaker I am always interested in words, not only for the meaning, but also for the interpretation. How do others hear certain words and how do they react to the word? And What about those words that have no meaning to them? I had an occasion to sit next to someone who was book smart for many months. They would use words I had never heard so I’d secretly write down the word (as I thought it might be spelled) and then go home and look it up. Then I added it to my list of words for the week.

One of the reasons I did this is because I know the value of words. I know how we say things and the tone we use conveys a multitude of messages. I saw the chance to learn and grow as an education for which I didn’t have to pay. Especially in my line of work, it would pay dividends for a lifetime if I would pay attention and listen and learn.

I came across a quote by the poet Rumi and he says this: “Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder…”

What a nice way to think about our words and tone and tenor of our speaking voice.

In my work as interview and presentations coach, I come across all sorts of dialects, drawls, and diction. In a funny way this parallels my favorite TV show Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.

When you think about your voice and the words you use, how do others hear you (and please tell me you have thought about this) you need to also consider raising your words or growing your vocabulary to increase your value.

And not only increasing your vocabulary for business sake, but also for your life and those you love and care for…

The Bible says a soft answer turns away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger. That is perfect with our thought for today – it’s the rain not the thunder that makes the flower grow.

This was a hard lesson for me to learn when I was younger as I was all about the thunder. As the youngest of 5 and the only girl, I worked hard to be heard. Although I am all about thunder, the reality is that is not professional and rarely does it accomplish what you think it will. In many cases it is just the opposite because thunder usually falls on deaf ears-it becomes only noise and not words we hear or value.

Some friends and I owned an advertising agency many years ago when I was starting out in business I remember my dad had to drop something by my office and as he was waiting for me to get off the phone to speak to me – he overheard me raise my voice and yell at a supplier because something had gone wrong… he didn’t say anything but later that night when I got home my mom called me and asked about my day… I didn’t think much of it until she got around to asking about my yelling – to which I told her I probably yell 10x a day at supplies and printers and the mating squirrels that made so much noise outside, I explained that no one listens or hears and then we’re held accountable to the client for missed deadlines – business was stressful I told her. Well it seems my yelling upset my dad (who by the way is very quiet) because he had never heard me raise my voice so he was quite surprised at my volume and upset at my audacity…and that I would speak that way in a business setting… to which I was reminded that “We don’t do that in our family – that is not how I was brought up and nothing is so stressful that I cannot maintain my calm and demeanor as a lady and a professional – and never let my father hear me do that again”….

What a great reminder that I needed to raise my words not my voice…because it is rain that grows flowers, not thunder and although I am all about thunder – the reality is it is not professional, and rarely does it accomplish what you think it will… in many cases it is just the opposite because thunder usually falls on deaf ears…and becomes only noise and not words we hear or value.

The WSJ use to run a weekly column by Erin McKean called Week in Words – a field guide to unusual words in this week’s WSJ…. I loved the column and would clip it every week. Ms. McKean is a lexicographer and that is my new word for the week.

Which I learned is primarily the art or craft of compiling, writing, and editing dictionaries. Who knew people did this for a living… and I for one am glad they do.

Why because words matter – meanings of words matter and how you use your words matters… whether you think so or not.

I mention this because as you and I grow in knowledge it’s a great practice to build on the blocks of what we already know.

There is no doubt that thunder is more my nature and I tend to use my outside voice most of the time…partly because many of friends don’t hear so well and partly because I don’t think people listen, so I’ll have the loudest voice in the room.

In keeping with my theme for today – how can I help you raise your words? Just an aside I’ve had to encourage some of my guests from giving their word for the week when 1. They couldn’t pronounce it 2. They looked it up in a dictionary and had never use the word in a sentence because it was not a word in their working vocabulary and 3. They mistakenly thought a hard word was a better choice vs. a word that might have fallen out of favor or not one you hear very often.

I try not to be the word police but sometimes as you well know I do harass them when it’s a word that is not well known.

Ok so back to how can we raise our words? Reading books, magazines, newspapers, and online blogs is the best way… I can remember when I learned the word flummoxed – meaning to bewilder; confound; confuse…. I had never heard that word before and had to look it up and believe it or not within a week I saw that word flummoxed in a newspaper article – now maybe since it was a new word it popped out at me or maybe my new word stuck… Now when I am out speaking I always ask my audience to give me a new word that they have learned this week, month, year – come on people really you haven’t learned a new word… and then I give my favorite word – flummoxed – and inevitably someone will email me later and say they just saw the word in a magazine…how exciting…

Now let me remind you most famous saying are not made up of words you don’t know or understand, and they have withstood the test of time….

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Let us resolve tonight that young Americans will always … find there is a city of hope in a country that is free…. And let us resolve they will say of our day and our generation, we did keep the faith with our God, that we did act worthy of ourselves, that we did protect and pass on lovingly that shining city on a hill.

I could go on and on about words – simple words put together that moved a nation to freedom, to safety to life…now think what it could do for you – your family and your job…

Remember – Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder…

Deb Sofield

Deb Sofield is a Keynote Speaker, Author of the book, Speak without Fear – Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say and Encouragement For Your Life ~ Tough Love Memos to Help You Fight Your Battles and Change the World, Radio Talk Show Host in the Salem Network, Podcaster and President of her own Executive Speech Coaching Co., which trains women and men for success in speaking, crisis communications, presentation skills, media and message development in the U.S. and abroad.

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