Keeping a Positive Focus in Your Speaking

Because I love to speak in public and because I have no fear about doing it, I had to test my theory about keeping a positive focus on something that truly terrified me.
 
Dancing.
 
As a child I was told I was a klutz; for years I took that label to heart and never tested it.
 
How many of you were told, by some teacher or authority figure, that you had no speaking skill? They never tell you that kind of thing in private, so of course you heard it in public–along with everybody else. That kind of feedback is always more deadly in front of witnesses.
 
How many of you, like me, never tested that label and grew up believing it? (You know who you are.) When it came to dancing, that was true for me. So I decided that the ultimate test of my theory would be to take it to a dance class.
 
Truth be told, 30 years ago, I took two sessions of an 8-week ballet class–without the benefit of my theory. I give myself credit for going back for session two, although when session two seemed even more hopeless than session one, dancing was over for me. The pain of focusing on my flaws, in the presence of the grace of the others in the class, was too much for me. I just chalked it up to my being a klutz and never looked back.
 
So thirty years have passed and now I have my theory–and a sense of humor. What did I have to lose? When I got the opportunity to attend a class on belly dancing, I thought, “What the heck? How much worse could it be?”
 
That’s when I recognized the first tip on my strategy: when you believe that you have nothing to lose by trying, you relax and lighten up. It makes learning anything new much easier.
 
That belief came in really handy at my first class, because it was obvious to me that I was Frankenstein’s Sister.
 
Every bit of 6-feet-tall Frankenstein’s Sister, in a room full of 5-foot-5 Dancing Divas. Clearly, these women had taken years of ballet, jazz, tap –or baton twirling. What they felt like to themselves was irrelevant to me; Dancing Divas was how I saw them. I was trying to focus on the positive, so I just paid attention to the fact that I was still breathing.
 
That night, the most positive thing I could report was the acknowledgement that I stayed, instead of running out of the room in humiliation. (How often after your first attempt at public speaking do you want to do just that?)
 
That’s when I recognized the second tip of this strategy: when you are willing to stay, that feeling of humiliation passes.
 
When I returned for the second class, I heard something amazing: all the great dancers have 5 or 6 moves that they naturally do well. The famous ones make theirs the foundation of all of their choreography; they become famous because they make it look effortless. Their secret is that they are simply being themselves.
 
So I looked for my 5 or 6 things.
 
Great speakers make it look effortless–because they are being themselves, using the 5 or 6 things that they naturally do well. If you think about it, great speakers come in all sizes and both genders. There are no two alike, yet their impact is identical!
 
After that I went back for several more sessions–until I discovered I could take private lessons. That’s where I really got good at belly dancing. It turns out that learning to dance is easier for me in a one-on-one format.
 
That led me to my third tip of this strategy: there is always more than one way to do anything.
 
Now I know that I am truly a dancer, because I have just as much fun dancing as I do speaking. Sometimes I even do them both at the same time.
 
How about you? What would happen if you focused on what you already do well, and use it when you speak?  Your focus on the positive could transform your speaking experience.

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