Early in my career, I worked in the television industry for over 10 years in New York City. I served as a correspondent and producer for major outlets including NBC and PBS.
During that time, I developed the “reporter voice” that you’ve probably heard pretty much 100% of reporters on television or radio use.
You know—that affected, fake voice that sounds more like an automation than a real-life human?
I can’t tell you how many times family and friends would say to me, “Why do you talk like that when you’re on TV?”
I never really had a response. I thought that’s how reporters were supposed to talk.
Here’s the truth. Talk to a reporter when they’re not on camera and they sound nothing like they do on TV. Nothing.
In fact, on TV, they’re rarely themselves. They’re playing the role of reporter and doing their best to speak with and convey authority.
Been there, done that.
When I began my work as a leadership speaker, I noticed that my “reporter voice” followed me on stage and when talking to clients. That fake, whack voice.
It had to stop. And finally, for the most part, it has.
Now when I’m on stage, I’m finally starting to feel and speak more like me. You know, the dude you would talk to in line at Starbucks.
So why did I do it for all those years? And why do so many reporters and speakers continue to talk in that contrived voice?
Sure, it’s easy to blame it on the job. But I’ve found that the real reason is more surprising: when you’re putting yourself out there, it’s hard to be the real you.
Some of the toughest advice to act on is, “just be yourself.”
Whenever I’d hear that, I’d wonder, “Myself?! Who the hell is that? I’m still trying to figure that out.”
As I get older, I’m slowly but surely getting rid of my fake voice. Why? Because that stuff is too much work. It’s exhausting being someone else.
Finally, I’m finding it easier just to be me. It’s still not exactly a breeze, but it’s easier.
This means that these days, odds are that when I speak, you’ll hear my twang and end up asking me if I’m from down south. (No, I’m from Michigan, thank you.)
It means you’ll hear more slang come out of my mouth.
It means you may even hear me throw out the occasional expletive. Why? Because I swear now and then.
And more than ever, if you ask me a question that I don’t know the answer to, I’ll actually respond, “I don’t know.”
So, where does your “fake voice” show up in life? Do you have one?
What does being “just you” a little bit more every day look like in work and in life?
My advice? Be you. The good. The bad. The raw. The unpolished. The vulnerable.
Others may not fully get you, and that’s ok—as long as you get you.
Because, hey, that other stuff? It’s too much work.
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