Like breaking glass accompanied by nails on a chalkboard, this lovely girl at Sephora talked to me while I bought $358 of hope in a jar (actually three jars of faux lifting and smoothing bamboo sap based gunk from Amore Pacific for my face).  She was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and screeched like tires on dry asphalt when she opened her mouth.

Her words so badly hurt my ears; I backed away like she had a gun. I ran to a register line, clutching my attempt to reduce redness and improve collagen production via what I hope is a renewable source from the rainforest so I’m not denying the flying monkeys and man-sized insects their rightful place on earth.

But the aural nightmare continued in the name of excellent service by this well-trained Sephora employee. She walked to an open register, screeched some syllables that somehow indicated she would ring up my purchases. I slunk over to the register and got guillotined by the sharp blade of her shrill, piercing shriek, “Let me get you some free samples.”

, in her high pitched, catfight voice, she drove me to the brink of fleeing the store without my stuff, as she went on about how everyone at the store loved the brand I was purchasing. Then, she tried to insist I trade in some of my Sephora points that I somehow collect by virtue of knowing my daughter’s name and birthday. But, I closed my eyes, shook my head and murmured/begged, “Please, I have to go.”

When the air hit my face as I exited the store while clutching my black and white bag of goo, I felt liberated from the torture of being her well attended to customer.

I also felt so sorry for her. I’m sure I haven’t been the first person in her life to run away from her. Yet, I couldn’t do anything more for her.

How do you tell someone, “Your voice hurts my ears?”

No one does. So like the bad-breath person, the smelly clothes person and the guy who never washes his hair: we just endure your presence if you’re suffering from a malady you don’t detect.

You never know why you don’t get ahead at work. Why no one wants to ride with you. Why you aren’t asked to join us for a drink unless we can somehow separate you from the herd, without hurting your feelings.

Sights and sounds matter. Your personal brand is defined not just by the values and qualities that create meaning in our lives. Your personal brand is not just your Facebook posts or your blog. Your personal brand is not just what you’ve Pinterested or thrown onto Google+ for us to digest.

Your personal brand is all of you.

If you have strangled voice syndrome, there is help for you. Get to a qualified speech therapist. If you just haven’t thought about what you sound like, record yourself. Not just when you’re practicing a speech, but also when you are on the phone speaking (your side of the conversation only, please) or conversing in your office.

Some self-help remedies? Listen to broadcasters, voiceovers on commercials and your favorite (non-punk) recording artist. Think Sting not Black Flag. Deborah Harry not Wendy O’Williams. Sean Connery not Fran Drescher.

Find a role model, figure out what he or she is doing that you can imitate until you’ve perfected the personal brand that sounds like the one we can’t wait to hear from.