My Journey From Silent & Shy to Communication Wizard
She is PAINFULLY shy.
That’s how people described me. As a child, this particular pain overwhelmed me at times. Some called me a crybaby for my sensitivity.
I often felt out of place in a family full of extroverts, jokesters, storytellers and back-slapping salesmen. I envied their confidence. I was in awe of how easy bold, energized communication seemed for those around me. Lucky for me, like most introverts I also was a terrific listener and a keen observer.
As a student I enjoyed written assignments, but I agonized, sweated and trembled through oral reports.
I kept a notebook of poetry and a diary with a lock and key that protected my youthful insights.
In high school I stretched far outside my comfort zone when I joined the drama club. Then, on a dare, I entered and won a competition to serve as the marching band’s drum major in my junior and senior years.
My first grade photo shows how uncomfortable I felt when facing any attention, even that of the camera. In high school I challenged myself to stretch past my shyness. I didn’t expect to WIN the competition to be drum major. Any bravery revealed in my confident smile and pose covered feelings of fear and awkwardness. Have you had times when you’ve felt a mix of emotions when stepping outside your comfort zone?
When I was 21, I took a cross-country road trip on a shoestring budget. On a memorable visit to the Grand Canyon, I faced my fear of heights by joining a trail ride that meandered down a steep canyon wall. My mule, the surefooted Barbara, stayed on the outer edge of the trail unfazed by the drop-off just inches away. "Why do they walk so close to the edge?" I asked.
Our guide responded, "When you walk close to the edge, you get a better view."
I returned home determined to seek better views in my life.
As I showed up and spoke up, each fear turned out to be a smaller, more beatable foe than my overactive imagination had created. I was beginning to find my voice.
In my late twenties I took a job in sales. Several times I almost quit due to the stress of rejection from making cold calls, the pressure of delivering sales presentations and the challenges of leading an ever-growing, diverse sales force.
I was learning how to show up in my own life by pushing through fear and reframing nervousness as excitement.
I wondered whether communication fluency was a talent bestowed at birth. If so, I knew that I had received none. Still, I held onto hope that communication was comprised of skills I’d be able to acquire.
Reading, listening and observing were not enough to build my confidence. I'd need to face the fears that caused me to withdraw, to shrink and to avoid challenges. Fear had silenced me, and I wanted to be heard!
I discovered how little I really understood about communication and its mysteries. I could talk, for sure. Yet, in stressful situations, words got caught in my throat. I found myself stuck, silent and frustrated.
I wanted to figure this out.
I noticed that almost everything I read about communication seemed written for extroverts—making it difficult for me to relate. Fortunately, I had plenty of real-life examples and influential teachers. I watched and studied effective and successful communicators, learned as much as I could on my own and began to connect as a coach and trainer at work, helping my team build their skills.
One day I realized I’d grown a bit more comfortable being seen and heard; a national award named me Sales Manager of the Year.
Then, another dream beckoned—going back to school. I wanted to explore communication from many more angles—I went for it. I was still anxious and unsure when speaking in front of classes or answering professors’ questions, yet I had learned how to avoid being overwhelmed by this nervous energy.
I realized that I was falling in love—with communication. As I experienced the ease communication confidence brought to every part of my life, I set out to learn as much as I could about the art, science and skill known as communication.
When I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1992, I began working as a freelance journalist for several publications. I also worked as a writer and editor for hire, for community violence prevention initiatives, organizations’ annual reports and for local and statewide initiatives and partnerships.
As my communication confidence grew, I received requests to share what I’d learned with others. In 1993, I began speaking on issues related to my Senior research study on violence prevention through public policy.
Soon I was asked to develop training programs on diversity, communication and violence prevention for businesses and healthcare organizations.
This led to the creation of what would eventually be called Wizard Inc., where I could share all that I had discovered about the magic of communication.
I taught professional development courses from 1995-2012 for the School of Professional and Continuing Studies at the University of Richmond. In 2010 I was honored with their Most Valuable Professor (MVP) award.
I served as the 2005-06 President of the Virginia Chapter of the National Speakers Association (NSA-VA) and the following year developed a business mentoring program for members. In 2011, I became the fourth member in the chapter’s history to receive the Legacy Founder’s Award and a lifetime honorary membership.
Through this journey, I found my voice. Today, words rest on the tip of my tongue, poised for any moment when I want to be heard. The power of unshakeable Communication Confidence propels me through every speaking, training, interview or coaching scenario.
Strategic approaches take shape for my clients, providing them with communication-based solutions. As chief communication strategist for Wizard Inc. I’m known as The Communication Wizard.
Yet, it’s not about me. I want you to know that since I was able to overcome being a scared, silent, shy, people pleaser, you can too.
I’d love to hear about your communication journey.
Since I was able to transform my communication, I know this is within reach for you. I’ve helped thousands of clients, students and audience members begin the process of transforming their communication.
Let me know how the resources provided here can better meet your communication needs, starting with The Wizard WIRE and Positive Power Lines.
Begin today to communicate the way you want the world to be. Nothing happens without communication. With it, every solution is within the sound of your voice.