If you’re like me, and teenaged “musical appreciation” meant blissing out to ear-splitting rock ‘n’ roll while sitting between the largest possible speakers, you need to see It Might Get Loud (2008). It’s an intense and ever-so-awesome documentary featuring guitar wizards Jimmie Page, The Edge and Jack White. (Thanks to my son Jesse for watching this with me!)
But if watching three male lead guitarists noodle and shred at maximum volume isn’t your thing, no need to watch this documentary. Let’s just use its title as inspiration.
“It might get loud.” Sounds rough, manly, in-your-face obnoxious. But wait—we all need to get loud! Or at least louder. Or at least, to have a voice. Those of us who grew up feeling that we weren’t supposed to express ourselves can use some help in this area.
Silence is not always golden
While some of us appear to have no trouble being loud—loud enough to give American tourists a bad name worldwide—many of my clients (mostly women) still struggle with getting words out, and with enough volume to be heard.
Why so quiet? It’s very rarely an anatomical issue—most of us come installed with pretty much the same set of pipes. It’s more often due to cultural pressures to be quiet, to self-censor, to feel that your words aren’t worth listening to, or to dislike the sound of your own voice.
The thing is, after years of holding back, it’s hard to get loud even when you want to. I had one client who was so quiet I could barely hear her from four feet away in my very calm office. She had advanced to a leadership position in her org, but no one could hear her in meetings. And yet speaking up had become a professional requirement.
How to pump up the jam
The question is, how do you turn up the volume after years of muting your own trumpet?
Start with self-talk. Examine your stories and assumptions about people who are loud and quiet, and about you being loud and quiet. You’re not going to turn into one of “those” people just by raising your voice once in a while.
Know your rights. Remember, freedom of expression is so important it’s in our First Amendment!
Start with your belly. Not your chest and not your throat. Watch and learn from legendary singers like Patsy Cline and Adele: they let their stomachs inflate like big balloons, then contract their abdominal muscles while singing to give them a springboard for that big stereophonic sound. Work your core, people!
Practice making noise in other situations. I had one client practice while walking her dog in the woods—she’d really belt it out at times, and feel what it took to get her commands all the way to her miscreant puppy. Another client—my very, very quiet one—took bagpipe lessons! This was amazing for her core and her breathing, and also for acclimating to the idea that it was her making all that racket. Yell out at sports games, do karaoke, play loud games with your kids, and sing in the car (don’t know how I’d travel any other way).
Pay attention. You likely do at least a couple of the above noisy things already. What you want to add is the awareness: notice that it’s you making noise, and that it’s okay—the sky is not falling, no one’s looking at you funny (at least not too funny), no body parts are coming off, and the cops aren’t coming. Pay attention to how you produce this noise: what body parts are involved? How do you feel when you’re making noise? Notice that it can be very fun, very empowering. Remember these physical and emotional sensations, and translate them into getting loud in more structured and more professional situations.
Create opportunities to be loud, so you can pipe up when you need to. If you’re naturally on the quiet side, chances are that getting what feels like “noisy” will mean that you’ve found just enough volume to be heard. You won’t turn into the embarrassing American tourist (I’ll write soon about the power of silence and listening)—but you’ll be able to exercise your right to be heard, to have a voice, to share your stories and your joy.
So go on: get loud, get heard, and enjoy!