I’m taking a break from my travel blogging to offer today’s regular blog post. It’s not a holiday in Germany, but Bill is home today, because it is a US holiday on post. He made us breakfast– what we usually eat on Saturdays– and walked Noyzi, who was just reunited with his collar last night.
When Bill picked up Noyzi on Sunday, he forgot to retrieve his collar, which the folks at the Hundepension had removed while he was staying there. I think Noyzi likes wearing his collar. Sometimes, he reminds me a lot of our first rescue, a blue eye beagle husky mix named CuCullain (CC), who also loved wearing his collar and hearing it jingle.
CC was very well behaved, and had a temperament much like Noyzi’s. Sweet, but slightly aloof at times, and more prey driven than pack oriented… And, just like CC, he hangs out with me all day, quietly lying at my feet, but rarely making any demands. Unfortunately, we only had CC for 16 months, as he contracted a very rare and fatal mycobacterial infection (Mycobacterium Avian). Sometimes, I think CC has come back through Noyzi, although Noyzi is also very much his own dog.
Anyway, as we were eating breakfast, I played a video I made on the ship. I put it on the first travel blog post I wrote this morning. Bill grimaced as he listened to it. He said, “I don’t like the sound of my own voice.”
I sympathize. I don’t like listening to myself speak, either. And I earned minors in both speech and communications when I was in college, worked in radio broadcasting, and am a singer. I don’t even particularly enjoy my singing voice, although other people claim to like it. I don’t mind hearing myself as I talk or sing, because it sounds different when you’re listening to your voice in your own head. When you hear a recording of your voice, you hear yourself as others hear you, and it can be disorienting.
But in Bill’s case, it goes beyond that disorienting feeling of hearing a recording of his own voice. For as long as I’ve known him, Bill has said he doesn’t like the sound of his own voice. The first time I ever heard him speak was over the crackling connection of 2000 era VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). Back then, I didn’t think he had a particularly offensive voice, but I distinctly remember him confessing that he didn’t like hearing himself speak. He says he still feels the same way 23 years later.
As I got to know Bill better, I noticed I often had to ask him to speak up. He later told me it was because when he was a child, he was often encouraged to “use his indoor voice” and squelch that natural instinct children tend to have to be loud. I don’t mind a man who is conscious of being too loud in public. But sometimes, it pays to be assertive and speak up… and out. There are many reasons I think that learning this skill is a good thing.
First and foremost, speaking up is a way to bolster one’s own self-esteem. When you speak up, and speak clearly, you are letting people know that they should listen to you. Mumbling quietly may be less offensive to others, but it also has the potential to send the signal that you don’t think very highly of yourself. It might make some people think that you aren’t assertive and won’t stick up for your own interests. That’s how you end up rubbing elbows with people like Ex, Bill’s “war buddy” boss who was later very publicly fired for abusing troops, or our former landlady.
Secondly, speaking up and sounding more assertive makes other people, like bosses and colleagues, think you’re more competent. And that can lead to more success in the workplace, as long as you’re not too outspoken or obnoxious (like I tend to be). It’s not that I don’t think Bill is competent. He totally is, and his coworkers know it. But a slightly more confident and clear tone to his voice certainly wouldn’t hurt. I think it would also make him feel better about himself. He has a lot to say, and most of what he says is well worth hearing.
Bill has been working with a Jungian therapist for the past couple of years. It’s been a life changing experience for him as he learns new things and discovers truths about himself. So this morning, I suggested that maybe some speech therapy or even simple exercises– mindfulness– about his speech habits, might be another avenue for him to explore. It might be another way to grow. He might learn to like the sound of his own voice more, and that will lead to an improved self-image.
I also know from personal experience that public speaking is a great skill to have and, if you’re a bit of an exhibitionist, like I am, it’s also a lot of fun. Bill is not an exhibitionist, and does have to speak in public for his job sometimes. I know it’s not something he naturally enjoys. But– augmenting the voice and realizing that you have something valuable to say can lead to audience appreciation, which is a wonderful thing. I know. I’ve experienced it, and it can be like a drug. 😉
On a more selfish note, if Bill learned to speak up, and speak clearly, it would make it less necessary for me to ask him to repeat himself when he uses his “indoor voice”. I don’t think I need a hearing aid yet, but I often have to ask him to speak up when we talk to each other. It wouldn’t require much… just a slightly more confident air, and the psychological realization that in general, people DO want to communicate. And the more confident a person sounds, the easier it is to communicate effectively.
Most of all, I want him to erase those old destructive “tapes” that go through his head, telling him that he’s a bother to others, that he isn’t worth listening to, and that he shouldn’t be strong and assertive. I don’t think that was the original intent of the adults who told him when he was a child that he should pipe down… but I do think he somehow internalized the message that his natural proclivity to make noise was upsetting or displeasing to others. As he grew up, he never quite deleted the message that he shouldn’t speak up sometimes. Squelching one’s inclination to speak up isn’t useful to an adult (unless they’re on a luxury cruise ship complaining about their “bum” adult children for everyone else to hear 😀 ).
As we learned on our recent trip, most Americans don’t have a problem with speaking up and speaking out. Far too many of us are way too loud in public spaces. Bill is not one of those people. I love listening to him, and I want him to like hearing himself more. Of course, it’s up to him to decide if this idea is worth pursuing. I will always love him, either way. I just think he might find it an interesting and useful avenue to explore.
I also think learning to speak up is a great way to ward off narcissistic creeps who try to take advantage of “nice guys”. It’s not a bad thing to want to be liked by others, but sometimes that desire can be detrimental. Narcissists love people who are quiet, don’t rock the boat, and are reluctant to speak up and be heard. So, if anything, being less shy about speaking, and more comfortable turning up the volume a little, might be good for warding off the many assholes in our midst.