Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Missing Voice

Have you heard yourself speak? It is quite disorientating. The voice in our head sounds different. Played back, we are able to see ourselves in a different light. We can pick up the excessive use of particular phrases (awesome, nice, effectively, as I was saying, basically, you know) or 'pause words'. Uh/ Um/ Er/ are parts of speech, not parts of our usual writing. They are crutches for the heat of the moment. When we are in conversation, we speak from the gut. It's a dance. We pick up on body language. We send out body language. We get wired up by what the other person is saying. Wired up by what they aren't saying. Emotions are deeply wound into what is being communicated.

Reasons tend to come after the fact. We build out supporting evidence for the way we feel about things. Unless we slow things right down, and methodically unwind all the ways we look at the world. Question them. Seek alternatives. Even then our emotions will fight back. Jonathan Haidt talks about 'training our Elephant'. The Rider may think they are in control, but the Elephant will do whatever they want in times of crisis. The only way we change the source of our views is by slow, patient, training. By playing what we are saying back.

Listening to Elephants

To understand what others are saying, we can't just listen to their voice. You have to spend time with someone to understand their context. Catch a glimpse of the feelings underlying the responses. I believe we only really listen to people who we believe are mostly on our side. Our Elephants don't do strangers. The dance of ideas needs to include 'the benefit of the doubt' for movement to happen.

Sometimes the missing voice is beneath the one you thought you heard.


This post is part of a tandem series with seven other writers. We each write using the same title and publish at the same time. I discovered Nick Frost (@Nick_Frost) when he last did one of these series with a friend of mine. My favourite piece is 'Magic Words' and the art of swearing. He imagines JK Rowling thinking 'it's time they learn in life there's no substitute for a swear word - even for those capable of wielding actual magic.' Here is his interpretation of 'The Missing Voice'.

 --- Brett - Candice - Dave - Ashley - Megan ---
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