Permission to use your voice

Black and white photo taken from behind young man with hand up in  classroom.

There’s a big ‘If only’ that powers my writing: If only people trusted their authentic voice to make a real difference.
Brian Baker trusted his voice. We met when I was a country TV reporter and he was the only policeman assigned to cover a stretch of highway notorious for horrific car crashes. 
Brian was being called out at all hours, seven days a week. For years he’d been appealing for a second officer to help shoulder the grim responsibilities, but he was getting nowhere. In desperation, he called the station where I worked and asked to tell his story. 
When we sat down for the interview, Brian was honest and emotional as he described being the only policeman on call. Broken nights meant he was often tired and snappy with his children. He could be pulled away just as the family sat down to dinner or set off for a picnic. And they could never take a break during the school holidays when the highway was at its busiest and most deadly. 
Brian knew there was a risk in speaking out, but he also believed the potential reward was worth it. Turned out he was right. Soon after the story aired a second police officer was appointed, and Brian got to take his family on holiday. He wrote to thank me and the cameraman, Marc.

‘For the first time in ten years, I am able to have leave during school holidays. I truly believe that the publicity… has resulted in the additional man being attached and in the formation of the Rescue Squad.’

Although Brian credited us for the successful outcome, it was actually because he let people see the person behind the badge. 

I’ve interviewed plenty of police officers and most of them sound exactly the same. They speak with the bland, official voice of their profession. Brian didn’t. He let the audience see a real person with real concerns and it encouraged them to make a connection with him. Importantly, he lost none of his professionalism – which is what many fear will happen if they open up. 

Could you do what Brian did?
Time and again I meet people in business who are reluctant to tell their own stories, reluctant even to put their photo on their website. They are afraid it will devalue their work or their professionalism. They want their work to speak for itself. But unfortunately, it doesn’t. We can’t make connections with facts; we make connections through emotions. 
In every field, at every level, there are people who allow us to get to know them, who share things through their authentic voice. It doesn’t mean we think less of them for it. Quite the opposite – we feel privileged to make a connection with them.
Brian Baker gave himself permission to use his authentic voice in trying to make a difference for himself, his family, and the people of Nabiac. 
What do you need to give yourself permission to use your authentic voice to make a difference?

Image: Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash

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