Generational Theory – understanding yourself, working together

“There’s no such thing as a bad voice; there are only voices with blocks in them” – Patsy Rodenburg, Voice and Speech Coach.

Recently at Bespoken, I’ve had reason to draw on generational theory to help my clients understand causes of blocks in their voices. Have you come across generational theory? In brief, it’s “a theory that attempts to explain how different generations develop different value systems, and the impact that this has on how younger and older people interact with the world around them and with each other.”  but you can read an excellent article from TomorrowToday about it if you want more details. It’s well worth the read.

To give you an example, if an older client is battling with his voice, it could be for a variety of reasons. But if the last section of a speech or presentation is suffering from what appeared to be vocal fatigue, there can be a less obvious cause. A person from The Silent Generation (1920’s-1945) is one where children were seen and not heard, an incredible hard-working generation but one thatDaVinci would rather ‘get on with it’ than talk about it. If you’re not expected to be heard at the crucial time when your voice and speech is developing, it’s very difficult to take command vocally of the space in which you are speaking for a sustained amount of time. You would experience impatience from your adult listeners. Armed with this knowledge, my student client can now reclaim that space, knowing that he will be heard and listened to.

Another example where vocal blocks can be explained in some part by generational theory exists among Millennials (1989-2000’s). “Researchers at Cambridge University have found that more than 8,000,000 people have an anxiety disorder in the UK and women are nearly twice as likely to experience anxiety as men. And if happen to be a woman and under 35, you’re particularly prone to anxiety.”- BBC iPlayer – Woman’s Hour – Laura Mvula: Generation Anxiety. Wow! So if I’m coaching any millennial female, this will be on my radar. Public speaking and interviews are already nerve-racking experiences, without the addition of a mental health challenge. In this case, it’s about providing a technical framework that will help manage anxiety. It’s about reclaiming the space, reclaiming our voice and speaking out.

Reading the article may also add insight to your audience profile for a presentation or an interview panel. As regards the latter, these will become your managers and colleagues so it may help to understand a little of how they think in the light of generational theory. But as emphasised by the article’s author, it’s a sociological theory, which “can be a very helpful additional “layer” or “lens” of analysis of people’s behaviour drivers”.


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