Heather Hansen

Use Your Voice to Win

She was a wonderful doctor, but a terrible public speaker. One on one, person to person, she was kind, strong, confident and clear. But when she had to stand in front of a group to share a message, her voice would shake. It didn’t stop her from fulfilling her destiny though. She was meant to be a doctor. It was all she ever wanted, and she’d worked hard to earn that distinction. She didn’t take her practice lightly, and her patients loved her quiet strength and her compassion. It was her calling to serve one patient at a time, and she could do that without ever having to speak in front of a crowd. But then she was sued. 

Suddenly, she had to speak in front of a jury of twelve people. Not only did she have to speak, but she had to help those people understand what she’d done for this patient and why she’d done it. She had to use her voice to win. And when the stakes were high, her tensions joined them. High stakes and rattled nerves made her shake even more. She looked to me for help. She wanted a miracle, some trick that would allow her to speak loudly and clearly. She wanted magic. I wasn’t a magician.

I was her lawyer, her advocate, and her counselor. I’d speak for her as much as I could, arguing our position with all of the skill and experience I had to bear.  But her voice was the one the jury needed to hear. Together, we found a way that she could overcome her fear and tell her story to the jury. Two questions gave her the answers she needed, so that she could use her voice to achieve victory. 

1-What was her foundation? If a house is built on sand and it shakes, it falls. But if a house is built on solid ground, shaking doesn’t matter. She could survive the shaking with a strong foundation. Since a foundation comes from below, this doctor looked below her voice and found her gut. She did a gut check, asking herself if what she was saying was true. It was, and that became her foundation. Then she looked higher, and found her heart. She still cared for her patient, even after being sued. When she spoke, she would do so with kindness. Now she felt ready to use her voice. With the strength of truth and kindness as her foundation, the shaking stilled. 

2-So what? I told her that her voice might shake. Mine did at times, and it still does. The stakes are high in the courtroom, and your voice knows it. But so what? A shaky voice still shares its message. Jurors don’t like liars. They don’t like doctors who don’t care. They don’t like grandstanding, or arrogance. But they don’t mind shaky voices. I’ve never lost a case because my voice was shaking, and I’ve never had a client lose a jury because of a shaky voice. If her voice was shaking, so what?  She had to use it anyway. 

She walked up to the witness stand, turned to the jury, and told her story, truthfully and kindly. She was shaky, but she kept speaking. Her voice won that trial.

Your voice can win your trials.  When you’re facing a situation where you need to speak, listen first. Your gut and your heart have something to say, and there you have your foundation. Now use your voice. If it’s shaking, so what? Let it shake, knowing you have your foundation there to support you. Just because your voice is soft and shaky, doesn’t mean your message isn’t loud and clear. Use your voice, and share your message. That’s all the magic you need. 

Heather Hansen

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