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  • Mattie Bohanan

Taking My Voice to New Heights

If you know me in person, you know that I am typically reserved and relatively shy until you get to know me. I have been this way since I was a young child.

For a little background as to why I was this way, I had a speech impediment that few people could understand. My parents were once told that I would have to find a job that didn’t require verbal communication.

I also had separation anxiety from my mother. In preschool, she had to stay in the lunchroom so she could be within reach for when I convinced myself that she was kidnapped, poisoned, or any of the other morbid scenarios I came up with and wholeheartedly believed.

In fifth grade, I started correctly pronouncing the last letter that continued to give me trouble: the infamous “r”. Shortly after that, my separation anxiety became nonexistent. While my family & I initially thought of this as a coincidence, we now realize that once I knew that others could understand me, I felt safe. I wasn’t dependent on my mother’s interpreting skills any longer.

In the flight deck, I know how vital it is to verbalize my insight and observations. But in a conversational and more “lax” setting, I find myself being perfectly content and happy just observing and listening to what other people have to say.

There is a lot of evidence now that this trait of wanting to listen to everyone's opinions is more common to women, and that it can improve decision-making in situations involving more than one person, like in a two-pilot crew situation.

While it may not be a safety issue “at hand” in mere hangar talk, it is important to remember how an individual’s unique perspectives/experience just could be the piece of info that someone else pulls out of their memory bank to save a situation. It is also important to remember that your insight and voice can be heard by a new employer, mentor, friend, etc., and sparks a new relationship.

Because of this, I am challenging myself to become a bolder person in 2022. Not louder, but braver. To speak up. To share my thoughts. To introduce myself. To ask questions and listen. To take up space.

As a pilot, knowledge is key - whether it be first-hand knowledge or second-hand knowledge.

I believe each person has something different to offer, and the best solutions come out of hearing from everybody. By marrying both observation and boldness, the positives from both attributes can create an optimal advantage.

With that being said, we do need to ensure that others who may naturally resort to being reserved aren’t overlooked and missing out on opportunities as those who are more vocal naturally. When we are aware of natural tendencies for different types of cohorts, we can start taking the steps needed to make a community where all are given an equal opportunity to be heard. We cannot miss out on the unique perspectives gained from those who spend more time listening than talking.

I hope that 2022 brings you all blessings and the ability to become the best and most successful version of yourself. For me, being bold is a step in that direction. If you have thoughts on how your resolutions might make you a better pilot, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Happy new year & happy flying!

Mattie is a CFI/CFII and a Graduate Research Assistant at Auburn University, where she is pursuing an M.Ed. in Adult Education. She enjoys drinking her morning coffee, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.


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