When Your Voice is Silenced
Has there been a time in your life when you felt you lost your voice, or you had no voice, or your voice was not listened to? Your voice was silenced. At such times, it seems your voice does not count. As a consequence of feeling discounted, there is a sense of also being invisible. You might say you feel even powerless.
I’ve felt like that in some meetings; in some face-to-face situations, with certain people, even in personal relationships, when I felt my voice didn’t matter. My contribution wasn’t important. My thoughts and feelings were dismissed or were patronised.
I’ve also been in conversations when I did not honor the voice of the person I was with. My behavior signaled their voice did not matter, and they, too felt discounted, unimportant, invisible. It happens in groups, in teams, in social gatherings. As an example, in networking or community gatherings, the person you are speaking with has no eye contact with you and no animation in their face, until they spot someone they do want to engage with, and you're abandoned.
Being silenced can occur when you're in company and you're telling a story, then suddenly you're interrupted by a person with a story of their own because they believe they have a more interesting story that trumps yours. There is a big difference between being interested and being interesting.
While the shrill voices seem to be getting shriller, what might we offer to redress the balance and bring some of the quieter, gentler or lost voices into the conversation?
Might an Appreciative Voice be an Antidote?
I want to offer some reflections on how cultivating an appreciative voice not only strengthens you and expands your world, it also strengthens others and expands their worlds.
This topic comes to me following my participation at the AI Homecoming David Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at Champlain College in Burlington VT, co-hosted by the Center and The Taos Institute.
Over three days, we workshopped together. We shared stories, asked questions, inquired into each other’s experiences, listened to, and discovered a host of innovations that practitioners and researchers are bringing into, and growing the practice of Appreciative Inquiry all over the world. We listened to voices that had been at the edge and in the center; those that are new and young, and those that are wise and seasoned.
As we experience the worldview of Appreciative Inquiry we are able to be deeply appreciative with ourselves and each other. Our practice is to come from “inquiry” which opens us to intimacies and vulnerabilities because we consciously create a safe space to be in conversation and contemplation with others.
What is Life Giving about Appreciative Voice?
In a nutshell, the appreciative voice seeks to include and understand . “Appreciative” is valuing, so a voice that is appreciative comes from an intention of seeking to value what it will hear; it continues to inquire and is curious about learning more. An appreciative voice is present to listen respectfully. It is grounded and spacious, and non-judging.
An appreciative voice provides safety for others to speak their truths. It is invitational and watchful. An appreciative voice is unhurried and patient. It can reframe situations to be helpful and resourceful. It is flexible. The appreciative voice is inclusive. It acknowledges diversity and identifies opportunities to offer possibilities to hold the space for transformational shifts to emerge.
The appreciative voice seeks to make meaning of the world in dialogue and in relationship with others. The appreciative voice can expand knowledge, and build potential shared understanding.
For sure, the appreciative voice helps participants develop their own thoughts and feelings in a way that helps them see themselves in new ways.
A question that lingers is:
What happens when we refrain from using our appreciative voice?
My grandmother stressed to me: “It’s better to say nothing at all that say something negative or hurtful.” And that has been my default operating system. Yet, in our society today my sense is that by being silent is not always the most helpful way, because if we choose to keep silent and not exercise our appreciative voice, we are not serving ourselves or others, and therefore not able to make any positive difference.
In using our appreciative voice, by framing our opinions as inquiry, we open up the space for dialogue and learning, providing the opportunity for more voices to be heard. As Mo McKenna shared in her interview: We do no harm in asking people what’s working for them. In asking what works for them, we are using our appreciative voice and open up the possibility for building understanding.
Appreciative Voice Guided by Principles
The appreciative voice is guided by principles that result in practices. If you're keen to learn more, please tune into my podcast, Personal Reflections on Appeciative Voice – PS72.