Dear mail list readers, I am happy you exist. What would I be without you?
Today’s public speaking tip will be about an essential subject: relationship maintenance. It has been said that training public speaking makes us acquire skills that are also useful to maintain long term relationships. (or to initiate any kind of relationship....) Why is that?
Any human communication happens at least at two levels. The more obvious is the level of content (what we say) and a less obvious level is the level of the relationship between speaker and listener. This is true whether we speak from a stage to an audience, or to our partners, friends, children, family members, colleagues, shopkeeper etc...
Let me give an example: if I say: “I want a black americano with two croissants” in a very neutral tone, I will not induce the same quality of relationship with the waitress as if I said warmly: “Could you give me a black americano with two croissants, please?” In the first case, I take the service for granted, I make her feel that she is there to serve me (and that’s true, it’s her job) In the second case, I express that I consider the waitress a human being, my equal, and I treat her accordingly: my equals deserve to be asked politely.
There is not a single communication in which this relationship level doesn't play a role. Most of the time, it is more subtle than in my example, and we aren't really aware of what is going on just under the surface. However it’s always there. Who is dominant, who is welcome and how much, who is valued and how much, who is taken for granted, who is worth paying attention to, who gives orders....are the kinds of relationship subtexts we exchange and sometimes fight for.
If someone does not get our message, it might well be that they actually don’t want to accept the subtext. The other way round, if people welcome and value what we say, it might well be because they are happy to acknowledge the relationship subtext.
Therefore, let’s focus, but not too much. Our content might be clear and important by itself, however, what matters instinctively, for us, human beings, is the relational subtext. Let’s be aware enough of it and smile, make eye contact, compliment, thank, express that we value the attention of our listeners, reassure at times (it won’t be too long, I’m almost finished) so as to maintain the best relationship with our audiences, partners, colleagues, shopkeepers...
Whatever we have to say will have the best possible reception. I rarely wait long for my Americano and croissants. And when it happens, I understand they have their reasons...
London, the 10th of December 2015
The last Speed Public Speaking session for this year will take place tomorrow Friday the 11th, from 7pm to 9pm, at RSL in Willesden Green. Details are here: http://www.meetup.com/Speed-Public-Speaking-in-Willesden-Green/