Category: Public Speaking

You Need More Active Speaking

You Need More Active Speaking

Don’t get stuck being passive.

I get it: you’re shy. Well guess what, I’m shy too. Don’t believe me? That’s on you.

Too many people use their feelings as justification. But we’ve all had to work when we felt sick. We’ve all kept watching a show we didn’t feel was that interesting.

Actions trump feelings. You can still be more active despite feeling shy.

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The Fallacy of Flow

The Fallacy of Flow

Re-listening to my latest Ruthless Love podcast (yes, I’m that kind of person) got me to thinking about conversation expectations.

In that episode, I thought things were going great because there was a lot of texting. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. And hey, I know what you’re thinking. “Pffft, texting?” But no! It was like a lot, a lot.

The moral of the story being actions speak louder than words. Talk is cheap. You know the cliches. Basically, you can say a lot of things and not really mean anything. (Conversely: you can “say” a lot by not saying anything.)

Was I sucker back then? Maybe Probably. Are people still a sucker for this stuff even now? For sure, but not just in dating!

With any kind of communication dynamic, there’s a false expectation in how it’s supposed to play out.

With my English-learning clients, I see this happen. They’ll listen to a native speaker and have trouble with a conversation. “Americans speak fast” is the observation. “I need to speak fast to be fluent” becomes the conclusion.

That’s definitely not the case.

Real communication can be pretty ugly. It’s full of stops and stutters, pauses, repeats, and abrupt endings. Of course, it rarely looks that way in TV and movies unless you’re watching a scene that’s trying to play up the awkwardness.

Just yesterday, I was helping a client with some listening practice. I was using short TED Talk clips like this one:

Damon Horowitz is a little different from other TED Talks. He’s more on the theatrical side instead of the slow-flow style presentations that’ve become the TED Talk norm.

Is it a good presentation? Debatable.

Is this an effective presentation? Sure.

Is it real communication? I’d argue no.

When you’re trying to be a better speaker, be aware of your standards and models. If you really want to speak like Damon, it’s definitely achievable. Keep in mind that he goes through a lot of practice and rehearsals to deliver his speech in that manner.

It’s not a style of speaking he’d do impromptu (i.e. “real”/natural communication).

TL;DR There’s a flow of back and forth and a flow of words themselves. Don’t be too quick to idolized. There is such a thing as “too smooth”.

Feeling, Seeing, and Experiencing Progress

Feeling, Seeing, and Experiencing Progress

No one likes to be the “new guy”, whether it’s at work, a class, a club,  a game, or group of friends. It can be intimidating. It’s also super uncomfortable because you’re starting at an absolute zero.

You don’t have the rapport that everyone else has built. Your skills aren’t quite up to par. Your abilities are lacking. You feel like you suck.

And maybe you do suck.

But there’s also a huge advantage that comes with being a newb: clarity.

Let’s say that most of the time, no one can eat what you cook. So you work on perfecting your culinary arts. No bites at all become a few nibbles. A few nibbles become an entire plate. Eventually, people just might ask for a second serving!

The same goes for speaking prowess. First, you’re unable to muster a single word, but then you do. Next, you pick up phrases. Your vocabulary builds, and the quality of discussions to be had improves.

And that’s only if you stick with it. Johnny Nguyen from ExpertBoxing put it this way:

“Of everything you do, only [a percentage] of it’s going to be any good… And that’s only going to be when you make your best effort. If you give a half-assed effort the whole time, 0% of it will be good.”

This leads me to the key point I want to cover. No, no, none of that “it’s okay to make” BS. Let’s face it: as true as that statement may be, it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

Instead, let’s talk about the difficulty in tracking progression when you’re not a newbie. Building from the ground up, it’s easier to see how far you’ve come. When you’re in the intermediate stages and try to reach the next level, that’s much more difficult to see.

To take it to the next level, you need to revamp how you see and feel progression. Otherwise, your perspective will trick you into thinking it’s not happening. Just like with fitness, your probably have a terrible sense of self-perception.

For the most part, the school system does a pretty good job of setting a sequence of progression. Whether or not you actually get better, because you’re moving along in classes, you feel like you’re improving.

On the other hand, if you focus your efforts on solely using academics as measurement, you’re going to feel unsatisfied. The payoff isn’t really there. Academics are important, but they’re limited in scope. They can’t really tell you how well you’d do in practical application.

Plenty of language learners, however, will stick to that kind of model because it’s the most familiar method of tracking they know.

And this is why an aptitude for conversation doesn’t feel like an accomplishment. This is why the ability to give directions to a stranger doesn’t feel very rewarding. So even if people are experiencing progression in real life, they can’t see it or feel it.

People have been conditioned to think they need a formalized test in order to get a sense of improvement.

How do I evaluate an advanced speaker? I look for someone who can adapt and deliver.

Too often, language learners obsess about finding the “perfect” vocabulary word. They fail to realize that English doesn’t work in terms of perfect word choices. We need words that are appropriate enough for the topic, context, and listener.

In addition, language learners who obsess on an idealized “perfect English” fail to incorporate variety in their speech. They’ll say the exact same things, the exact same way, every single time. A “perfectly” dull delivery rarely sounds advanced.

Very important speaking qualities to possess, but very difficult to evaluate. And that’s why you need a good coach/instructor to pull you out of your head space. Otherwise, you’re very likely to kill your own progress because you can’t see it.

If you can’t see progress, you probably need a different marker.

If you can’t feel progress, you probably need to re-define your goals. You need to remember the bigger picture.

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"Don't let a couple losses throw you off course. All you gotta do is win someday." #animequotes I had a question from @jomanh1193 a/b its meaning. I thought it was pretty straight forward, but I can understand how it can be confusing. Most of you probably aren't familiar with the phrase "to be thrown off course". Don't confuse this with "of course" which means "definitely/absolutely". When you're off course, that means you're going on a different route from the map. So in other words, when people fail and lose, they don't feel like they're following their plan. They don't feel like they're meeting their expectations. They feel disappointed. "But all you gotta do", this is a reminder that means REMEMBER! Even if you lose today, you can still win tomorrow. Keep going!

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Remember, true progress doesn’t look sexy. That’s why movies always incorporate montages– watching the daily struggles is boring!

“Some Guy” Named J.R. Smith Speaks

“Some Guy” Named J.R. Smith Speaks

One of the biggest sports stories right now is how the Cavaliers beat the Warriors in the finals. I think it’s the finals. Maybe it was for the title. Maybe the finals and the title are both the same thing? I’m not really sure because I don’t keep up with basketball.

I know it’s supposed to be a big deal because the Cavaliers lost… something… beforehand. And there’s also a guy who’s on the Warriors who’s name is Curry. That’s cool. I like curry.

The bottom line is, as significant of a moment this might be to many, it really didn’t do much for me until I saw this tweet:

And now, I give a damn. Boy oh boy, do I give a damn. That’s not the Curry man up there. That’s not even critically-acclaimed athlete turned actor Lebron James. That’s “some guy” named J.R. Smith.

I’ve watched it ten times already. C’mon, you should catch up. Watch it again:

I’m sure every athlete looks forward to the winning moment. I’m sure everybody has some idea of who they’d like to thank and the words they’d want to share. But I doubt they’re ever prepared for the wave of emotion that comes.

It’s overwhelming, uncontrolled, and from what I can tell, it must be awesome.

You can’t tell me this was rehearsed. If J.R. did any kind of run-through in his mind, there’s no way he’d have it come out like this. But I’m glad he allowed it to happen. I feel incredibly honored to see this kind of rawness from another human being.

When it comes to emotion, you’ll often hear the word “heart”. You got to have heart. It’s a good message that’s been overdone into a cliche.

But thanks to J.R., I feel it’s worth repeating. With all the speech work that I do, I give lots of guidelines. Many of my clients ask me for “rules”. I’m often reluctant in how to advise that front.

Sure, with more rules you get more structure. And more structure can mean more of a coherent system. But then you get too systematic. It gets mindless. You can hit the right beats, execute reasonably well, but your message? It’s just sterile.

Sterile’s not a good descriptor for anything or anybody.

In the end, emotion from the speaker and the emotion that can be drawn out from the crowd trumps any rules out there on speech. When you move your mouth, less tongue, more heart.