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Business & Economics

Influential She: Elevate your words rather than your voice to leverage influence

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Influential She

This interview is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh.

Deb Soholt joins us to discuss the High Leverage Practice of Voice, as developed by Soholt's research and work with Mel Schopp. The two women are cofounders of the organization Influential She.

The podcasts mentioned in today's audio conversation can be found by clicking on the links in the below transcript. This transcript has been autogenerated.

Lori Walsh:

You're listening to In The Moment on South Dakota Public Broadcasting. I'm Lori Walsh. Well, how do you use your voice to elicit thinking in others? Are you trying to be the loudest voice in the room or in the digital space, or are you striving to be the most effective?

Today Deb Soholt returns to the program. Along with Mel Schopp, Soholt is the creator and innovator behind Influential She. Today she's with me to talk about the power of the human voice, but not just the voices you'll hear in your ears as you listen to our conversation. We're talking about the high leverage practice of voice as Deb and Mel have defined it in their research and in their work. Deb Soholt welcome back to the program. Thanks for being here.

Deb Soholt:

Hi Lori. Thanks so much for having me.

Lori Walsh:

For folks who are new to this conversation, if they go to influentialshe.com, they'll find this list of high leverage practices and you click down and you explore. And then there are different podcasts where you've interviewed influential women about different topics. I'm curious to know when voice came into the conversation between you and Mel and some of your early conversations about defining it.

Deb Soholt:

Oh, absolutely Lori. Well, Mel and I really sat down and talked about, if we were to talk to our younger selves, what would we say are the most critical elements or practices that if you can mature and develop in those, you could accelerate your influence even faster. And one of them that is key and critical is how you use your voice. And we talked a lot about it's really about how you use your voice in circles that (as you brought up earlier) elicit this thinking in others. It's not just talking, talking, talking, but it's bringing forward your voice and your ideas in a way that other people really hear them. And then it generates them thinking about it and also responding in a way where you end up with this cumulative conversation where we're all better together.

Lori Walsh:

Where do you begin? Because I think any of us who have a mother have heard a woman's voice in our ear saying, I say it all the time and I say it again, nobody listens to me like, why doesn't anybody listen to me? Maybe that's just my mother. I guess what I'm trying to say is that all of us have been frustrated at people not hearing what we say and have wondered, am I doing something wrong because I am not getting the results that I want with my words. So talk about some of those ways that you think you can rethink, how you use your voice and start with this idea.

Deb Soholt:

I think even more than ever right now we're in that space where people are just raising their voices, not raising their words, but just simply raising their voices to get above the noise that's going on. I think sometimes to your point of I'm talking, talking, talking, and you never hear what I'm saying, the first step is to stop and really start to listen to the other person because it's in this deep listening space that then our voice can start to respond and take a different tack where people can actually hear what you're trying to say. So what we first say to people is if you're constantly repeating the same thing and it's not being heard, you have to pivot and change direction. And the best direction is to listen to where the other person is coming from and respond in that space where it can be heard.

Lori Walsh:

And that can be hard to do because listening is work. I mean, I know that in my job constantly, when we're talking about the same topic again and again, you're like, are we just repeating ourselves? And then we stop and we listen. And that is where the meat of this is, that's where the juice is when you squeeze. It's in listening, isn't it? But it's not always easy.

Deb Soholt:

Oh, it is really not easy because so many times we want our opinion out there. We want to say, this is my thinking, this is where I'm at on this topic, but it's really in the response to where the other person is at on this topic that you find a respectful space to start to use your voice in a different way. It is ... this is a part about that maturity. And that's why it was something that through Influential She, we really wanted to get out on the table of how to mature and develop your voice if you really want to accelerate your influence.

Deb Soholt:

So again, that's a decision point as a person. How do I want to take my passion and gift even if just within a family unit or within the community work I'm doing or in my professional job? Well, it is really about doing that hard work of deep listening and disciplining yourself to try it a few times. I'm not going to weigh in first of all, on this subject. I'm going to sit back for a while and really listen deeply to the threads that are happening here. And then I'm going to use my voice in a way that will really be heard. And that is where true influence starts to emerge.

Lori Walsh:

So what comes next after that listening, assuming that you get a little more understanding about the situation through deep listening, what next?

Deb Soholt:

Well, the next is the words that you use. So I think, and again, we're seeing so much in society, the polarization, the judgment words, the black and white, instead of using words that help to open up space for other people to also participate. So if we're saying, you always, I never, I mean, those kinds of words and words do matter, they close off conversation and the ability to use your voice. So it's really about saying, well, what possibility would exist if we thought about it this way? Or what could we think about if we ... so those kinds of words will invite further participation from people and a reframing that really helps to have your voice become much more powerful.

Lori Walsh:

Have you seen this in your own life? Have you had moments that you can say, yes, that was a breakthrough and I worked through it. It wasn't random. I saw the results of a choice that I made.

Deb Soholt:

Oh, absolutely. Both personally and professionally.

Lori Walsh:

Yeah.

Deb Soholt:

And I think that anyone who's being incredibly honest would say, this is a work in progress with all of us all the time, because emotion comes in and many times, even with your closer relationships, you can tend to go astray because you start to just be more comfortable in that relationship and there's more honesty. But I think once I started to understand this more within my own professional work and the work that I did in the political arena (and I know for Mel, this has been the same way) that's where the real gain started to be shown. And I think the reason we wanted to highlight this, the practice of voice, is because of the failures that we personally had in raising our voices, not our words, bringing our voice forward, not being as thoughtful. And what would we want to tell our younger selves? Cool it, step back, listen, choose your words better.

Lori Walsh:

We're going to hear from a couple people that you've talked to on your podcast. Tell me about Christine Hamilton before we hear what she had to say.

Deb Soholt:

Well, Christine is just an incredible rock star. She's a cattle woman. She is the owner of a meat packing plant and is also an owner and on the forefront of with SAB Biotherapeutics in South Dakota, which does incredible research on developing polyclonal antibodies. And she is just such an innovator. But what's so great about Christine is how she uses her voice in multiple circles. And she is really known as a person who does deep listening. And when Christine speaks, you're going to want to listen.

Christine Hamilton:

I think that we cannot separate our voice from our presence and our interests. So whoever we are is what we communicate. And I guess my thought would be just talk about your passion. If you really believe in this, whatever this is at the time and you want it to happen, and it's a good thing, then that is what gives the authenticity, that's what gives the sincerity and that ultimately I believe will lead to success.

Lori Walsh:

I love this part Deb. I'm reading a book right now on the human voice, how it operates and things like, how do you keep from damaging it, that sort of thing. And one of the things that the author is talking about and exploring is this fingerprint that is our voice. And when you damage your voice, you have a much reduced range of emotion that you can express, which also impacts how your voice, in the terms that you've defined it, is heard and how it enlists thought in others. And then Christine says this, and I heard an intersection there of authenticity. When you speak, it's not just the fingerprint of how you're heard audibly through the human ear, but everything that you say says something about who you are as a person. I find that so fascinating.

Deb Soholt:

Well, it is just so true. And I love the part where Christine says, you cannot separate our voice from our presence. So the more that you are authentically connecting with yourself and your passions and what your value systems are that are directly you, the more it's going to be heard by other people. When you try to overlay someone else's understanding or be repetitive of somebody else's voice, the more you move away from your authenticity. And so that becomes a less influential space. So what we keep talking about in Influential She, and that's where you're speaking Lori about, does your voice even work properly? And how is that the mechanism of the energy level within your voice, but how it's connected to authentic you. It really does make a difference on your influence.

Lori Walsh:

Yeah. The nurse in you, and the Influential She leader in you coming together there for a minute! All right, let's talk about Sara Kindvall. Tell me about her before we hear her voice.

Deb Soholt:

Well, Sara Kindvall has really used her voice to punch through in a very courageous way. She was involved in a incredibly dramatic domestic abuse where she almost lost her life. And it resulted in actually someone taking scissors and cutting off part of her chest. She survived that. And then she was able to find a way to use her voice as a vehicle of courage, to start to open up this arena for other people to also speak their truth.

Sara Kindvall:

With the power of voice, I have been sharing my story, and this is a new opening, a new beginning I believe. And a new way for me to share with others that have been through something. It can be many different types of tragedy, trauma, betrayal. If you persevere, you can get through anything.

Lori Walsh:

I love the clarity of her voice. That sounds like a woman who knows of what she speaks. I already believe her because of the way she is talking to you in that 22 second clip. That's powerful.

Deb Soholt:

Exactly, Lori. And you can hear it. You can hear how it's connected to the truth of her. And she is also not raising the volume of her voice, but how incredibly she raised her words. This was a big act of courage for her because to come out and speak of something that difficult and to describe what actually happened to her and to still deliver it with emotion. Because many times you can become very flat. And so that's the other thing about using your voice to elicit thinking, it requires courage. Am I going to speak up? Is this something I feel willing to talk about? But if it's connected to me, what happens to me if I don't? If I shrink at the soul level, I become less of who I have potential to be because all of us have this ingrained need to grow. Using your voice is a part of that growth.

Lori Walsh:

This is not a story she chose for herself. I think a lot of women can relate to that. There are things that happened that you didn't choose, but it's become connected with you. And now what are you going to do with it? Fascinating stuff.

Deb Soholt:

I think we experienced this in all kinds of arenas, whether it's traumatic or something like am I going to speak up in this meeting and am I going to stand up in front of this audience and share this? I'm terrified to talk in front of people, but I feel connected to this passionately and need to use my voice. We would just encourage people to try, because it is about kind of that gumption to say, I have things inside of me. I need to contribute them to the world. How do I bring voice to this? Because it really does matter in how we're moving forward in a positive way together.

Lori Walsh:

Because I have listened deeply and I hear the need for this influence too. It's not just standing up and shouting on your soapbox, it's about listening to what the world needs and realizing where your voice can fit into that. It's really inspirational, Deb.

Deb Soholt:

And I know that you're the host of this show Lori, but you've also been a podcast guest with us on Influential She, and you are one of these people that you talk about starting out, listening to people who loved you and you did deep listening and look at how that is now translated into how you use your voice in this medium of bringing all kinds of good information to the world.

Lori Walsh:

Thank you. And there's a lot of listening that goes into this job again and again and again. It gets easier the more you practice it; I will say that too. It can be very hard at first to stop and pause and say, okay, I guess I need to listen because sometimes it seems like everybody is like, listen! listen! but I just want to be ...

Deb Soholt:

Just listen to me!

Lori Walsh:

Right! But it does get easier, and it gets more efficient, and you learn how to use silence to fill the space of connection and learning. And then when you do speak more people listen.

Deb Soholt:

Absolutely. And you know, Lori, one of the greatest quotes that came from you where you talked about you're never going to be fully ready to use your voice. Be curious, listen deeply, step back, and then your voice will once again show up.

Lori Walsh:

Thank you for that. Well, we'll put links up to the podcast. It's at influentialshe.com if you want to go there directly, but we always put links up on our website as well, so people can find it easily.

Deb and Mel are part of these Monday conversations we have. This one is directed right at women, and it addresses some of those high leverage practices women need and often haven't been supported to develop in the past. Every week we have something on Monday that is really helping people figure out how to be in the world in this really interesting way. And I deeply, deeply appreciate your time, Deb. Thank you.

Deb Soholt:

Thank you so much for having me.