There’s always a handful of people in an organisation, who say very little either in social situations or meetings. Someone without a voice. But what if there was a way to give them the confidence to speak and be heard?
One of my private singing clients was incredibly shy and came to me wanting to ‘be able to speak in meetings’. He needed to find his voice.
Many people find the thought of someone hearing them singing quite embarrassing or frightening – how often have you heard people say ‘I can’t sing’!? or ‘You don’t want to listen to me, I’ll make it rain.’ Many people are told these things in childhood (this annoys me greatly, but I’ll save that for another post) and it stays with them.
Who says you sing like a strangled cat? Who has the right to tell you you’re out of tune? These comments although intended to be amusing can damage a person’s self esteem and bring them to fear their own voice.
So is there a way to give it back?
Time and time again we hear of the fabulous benefits singing has on our mental health. There have been studies showing that when we sing, we feel better but did you know that these effects are amplified massively when we sing together?!
Last year I worked with several large companies and their staff to promote wellbeing in their offices through singing together.
Some formed temporary choirs for the Christmas period and sang together to raise money for charity, some had one-off workshops. Hillarys signed up to a regular meet up to sustain that good feeling! There was a common theme running through all of the experiences I had with them – that I brought people together and gave them the confidence to use their voices in front of people they didn’t know and to benefit from it. Some singers told me they suffered terrible social anxieties and yet they found the strength to come along to choir and mix with others. One lady told me she hadn’t felt that good in years – this was a great step forwards for her in terms of building relationships with others and feeling that she had something worth while to say. She was able to use her voice.
Friendships within the choir were formed or cemented. People spoke to people they didn’t usually have the chance to mix with. After our Christmas singing, the staff at Hillarys went out for drinks – I left hour later and they were all still singing! This sense of creating something vocally together, this shared goal really brought people together and created a harmony, not just in their singing, but in their office relationships.
My Royal Mail Christmas Singers were a much smaller group but I could feel the level of care and friendship between us. One of the lads bought doughnuts for everyone when we rehearsed one lunchtime as an extra to try and win the Royal Mail’s Christmas song competition. When we sang on the shop floor on December 20th, all 150 staff members stopped what they were doing to listen to the voices of their colleagues! (Many videos were shared, much laughter was had and the joy could be felt everywhere).
Creating an opportunity to sing at work is about so much more than the singing. It’s about creating a community of people sharing an experience and being able to share it with others. It’s about harmony.
As we are still in a state of semi-lockdown, singing physically together isn’t possible. The very act of singing is a risky business regarding COVID 19 and yet, we can still find a way around this problem! NHS Digital in Leeds used Zoom with me to rehearse our song. We met twice and still managed to create a sense of belonging and being heard even though we were singing on mute. I was able to take virtual recordings from them and create a choir piece online for them which I’m sure they will treasure and enjoy for a long time, remembering the time in lockdown when they recorded a song together, even though they were apart.
And does my original shy client who simply wanted a voice speak up more now? Of course he does. Next step, karaoke!
There are plenty of ways to bring singing into the workplace either face-to-face or virtually. Would your HR department see the benefit?