On Trial without a Voice

Recently I had to go to tribunal. Rather cleverly, the system is such that you witness a hearing before being sent to a conciliation room to endeavour to sort out your issue. I think the idea is that you’re sufficiently motivated to avoid going through a hearing yourself – not least of all because it is done with an audience of about 15 strangers.

What struck me about the hearing we watched, was that the “respondent” was clearly extremely daunted by the process and unable to say anything for herself. When she did try to speak, she faltered and her sentence trailed off into a faint murmur. While it seemed unlikely that there was much she could say in her defence, it was disheartening to see someone so completely verbally incapacitated.

When I run The Speaking Formula weekends, the focus of the communication training is around presentation skills, running meetings and participating in workplace discussions or meetings. The strategies that the participants learn in those workshops are about equipping themselves to speak up and voice their opinions so as to demonstrate their professional capacity.

This incident at the tribunal brought home to me something that the participants often say after the weekend workshops – it’s not only about learning the skills, but about shifting the psychology to understanding that you have a RIGHT to a voice. The lady whom I witnessed flailing at the tribunal was so completely disempowered. How differently she might have felt if she had at least had the skills to verbalise her side of the story. How differently she might have handled things leading up to the tribunal if she had the confidence to speak up. How different our world can be when we find our voice.

And in case you’re wondering, communication won out in our case and we left with a very satisfactory resolution.

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