The King’s Speech and Finding Your Voice

There are a couple of things I got out of watching The King’s Speech. The first is how ridiculous the MPAA can be. Did this movie really deserve an R rating because it exceeded its quota of f-words? The second, and most important thing, is the importance of finding your own voice.

This movie, like Helen Mirren’s The Queen, showed how the British Monarchy had to adapt to changing times. A new media — radio — required a new type of monarch. It was no longer enough for a king just to have his hereditary title. He needed to earn the respect and trust of his subjects. He needed to communicate. He needed to have his own voice.

Part of George VI’s challenge was to unlearn the things he was taught. He had to overcome his father’s criticisms and his brother’s ridicule. He needed to bridge the gulf of tradition and rank that separated him from the people he needed to speak to. This is why George VI’s friendship with Lionel was so important to his development as a speaker. By learning to relate to a “commoner” as a fellow human being (especially someone from Australia, one of the “colonies”), he was able to speak to all of his subjects of different classes and cultures around the British Empire.

This sense of personal connection is why people are so fascinated by the British Royal Family today. There is the pomp and history, but we also sense that they are essentially a family like ours. They have all the conflicts and dysfunctions, triumphs and tragedies of any other family. We felt sorrow for William and Harry when they lost their mother, even though they are princes. And today, we can feel joy for William now that he is about to marry.

So, what does the story of Prince William’s great-grandfather mean for us? To be an effective communicator, we have to find our own voice. We have to be authentic and speak the truth about ourselves and the situations we face. We also have to find a style that is comfortable for us, instead of forcing ourselves to conform to someone else’s expectations. More importantly, we need to understand the people we communicate with. How do we reach them? What are their hopes and fears, and how do we address them? Remember one of Stephen Covey’s habits, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” By doing so, George VI became the leader and communicator England needed at a time it desperately needed one. It’s a lesson all of us should learn.