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THE VELVETEEN SPEAKER Becoming Real as a Speaker and a Person

14 Feb 2014 | Posted Under Speaker

 

            I stood before my two companions for a long twenty seconds before I spoke, desperately searching their eyes for the support I needed to begin. Sitting at my kitchen table, two former officers and board members of a national speaker’s group looked back at me with love and compassion. I had been chosen to go first as we began a speaking exercise. It was my house.

            With no precedent to follow, I took in a deep breath, sighed a sigh that  seemed to come up from my very soul and began in a quivering voice to share my true feelings about our relationship, about our little group whose purpose was professional and personal growth. I decided that what I wanted to do most was what was called for in the rules of the exercise, and what I always wanted and tried to do anyway - but not always successfully - and that was to be real. Like the Velveteen Rabbit in the children’s storybook, who was loved so much that he became real, I , too, was counting on being able to make that giant leap to total honesty with these two dear friends with whom I had shared my hopes and dreams, my plans and intentions as a speaker but not always my doubts and fears.

            Today was the day to become truly real. In order to do that, I knew I had to drop the final facade, the illusion that what I appeared to be, I was. Today I would speak from the inside out with no illusion, only honesty.

I began by telling my associates how inadequate I felt being here with them, being a part of this group, myself not being as “established” a speaker as my friends were, not a household name among the corporations and business that seem to be the marketplace where a professional speaker must make her mark to gain real credibility in the profession. I told them how flattered I was that they had sought me out, sought out my time, my companionship, placing some unimaginable value upon it. That these two, heroines not only to me, but to countless others, would want to spend time with me, and had indicated that  they felt they could learn from me, left me incredulous, honored, and scared. Knowing them and the kindness of their natures, the genuineness of their love and support, their dedication to the shared values that had brought us together, I knew - at least in my mind - that they would never reject me. Yet, in my heart an icicle of fear still lived. I had always held back just a little, watched my words ever so slightly, wanting to sound “intelligent” when I spoke, feeling still at some deep level a need to impress them in order to be fully accepted by them.

            I knew that it was, in part, my specialized knowledge that they valued, my understanding of things spiritual in nature, of the link between science and psychology, mind and soul. This new area of the psycho-spiritual interface where topics of values and destiny and beingness were discussed was one that they, like myself and many other speakers, were feeling the urge to explore further. Each of us in our own way were in the group to bring our speaking to a new dimension–the dimension of the soul. And in this area, at least, I felt on solid ground. This territory was my home base, my calling card, my “expertise.” Yet, even though I’d written a hundred articles on emotions, relationships, and yes, being real, somehow I, like everyone else, had parts of my life that did not conform to my own standards. I didn’t “walk my talk” every minute of the day. But today I was determined to. Today I was going to be real.

            Having admitted my insecurities and still seeing, perhaps even more so, acceptance in my friends’ eyes, I continued. I searched for words to explain my distress at times like this when I am torn between speaking my heart and holding my tongue because of fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being understood. Fear of disrespect for my alternative viewpoints. Fear of not being able in all situations to be free to be me, to be real.

My three minutes went fast. I stood for a few moments longer to receive the applause that the exercise dictated. Then I sat down. Finally, it was their turn.             

            I listened in amazement  as the other two discussed similar concerns of not being understood, of not being accepted, of not being able to be fully real.

            Afterwards we discussed how we as “audience members” had perceived each of our speeches, but not from a technical standpoint of how we had delivered our message, whether our gestures or eye contact were good, that kind of thing. We took these elements for granted. They were not what we were concerned about today. What we were looking for in one another’s speeches was a feeling of connection. Did we connect with our audience (each other)? Did we feel as if we were being spoken to, not at? This was our number one goal.

            We each found that the others had felt more connected at times when we were disclosing our true feelings, when we were being honest in an honest way. When the words we said came not from a former speech or from thoughts that we had discussed so many times that we had just the right words readily available on the tips of our tongues–no–we were more real when we had to stop and think when we spoke, when we had to take a moment to match up the words with a feeling that was present within us at that very moment, when we had to go inward to search for the meaning of what we wanted to say.

            Our exercise, the little three minute speeches were not eloquent. We were perhaps not as poised as we are on the podium in front of our “real” audiences. But I think we were more real. And this made us wonder. Why can we not be this way with our audiences? The answer, of course, is fear. Fear of rejection, of not looking good, of not pleasing, of not being admired.

            But in this dawning of the age of the search for inner meaning should we not begin to bridge the gap between being “professional” and being real?

                Professional speaker, Grady Jim Robinson, CSP,  in his newsletter, The Mythmaker’s Voice, once explored this connection. He said, “The ‘relationship speaker’ says ‘ya know,’ gropes for a word, agonizes over meaning, reveals pain, creates thunderous laughter at life’s chaos, trips over the microphone wire, forgets a punch line and all the while is somehow, through the charisma born of authentic living, creates a unique happening among people, a moment of soul-bonding.”

            Perhaps speaking is, after all, more than putting on a dazzling performance. Perhaps it is having something to say…that matters. Perhaps it is, after all, OK to be like the Velveteen Rabbit–to be real.

 

 

                        Rita Milios, LCSW, The Mind Mentor, lives in Hudson (Tampa Bay) FL. In addition to being a speaker, Rita is an author, writing coach and psychotherapist in private practice (Inner Peace Professional Counseling).



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