written by Gary Michael
BECOMING MORE WHO WE ARE
Authenticity as Presence and Responsibility
usually take "authentic" to
mean congruence of thought and deed, or acting in accord with one's
professed values. It's a valid definition; it just doesn't go far enough.
Authenticity is more than the absence of hypocrisy.
I think that to be authentic as a speaker
means, above all, to be fully present, for one's audience and oneself.
We have a number of ways to do that.
1. Treat audiences as ends,
not means. Audiences are not occasions for us to demonstrate our speaking ability
and knowledge. They don't assemble to validate us in our profession, flatter
our vanity, or provide us with a livelihood. They present themselves to us
for their own edification and delight. We have as our high calling the solemn
obligation to meet that need. That's what it means to serve. When we approach
them with an agenda of our own, whether merely to manipulate their moods or,
more ambitiously, to change their lives (how messianic!), we make a demand
of them. Any such demand, even if only implicit, makes of the audience a means.
2. Customizing is certainly
an obvious way to honor the uniqueness of each group and be fully present.
I love how different speakers find different ways to customize. Joel Weldon,
for example, researches his clients' victories and challenges so he can tailor
his programs directly to those matters, reinforcing the victories, suggesting
ways to meet the challenges. Naomi Rhode likes to have at least one new story
for every audience. She has taken a page from the play book of Dizzy Dean,
the superb St. Louis Cardinal pitcher, who used to give different, often conflicting
stories to every reporter who interviewed him Since television wasn't around
in Dizzy's days, it took a while before someone confronted him with his inconsistencies. "They
ain't exactly lies," said Dizzy. "I
try to give everbody somethin' original." To emulate Dizzy we needn't
dissimulate (Naomi certainly doesn't), just find a new pearl for every group.
I like to customize both by getting to gigs early
and learning the names of as many people as possible (often 25 or more) so
I can call them by name in the course of the program. Another device I've found
fun is to use fine art painting, my special skill, as a metaphor for the demands
of the audience's industry. While doing a painting demonstration -- talk about
an action rich visual aid! -- I relate the standards of excellence in art to
those in, say, speaking. If you have a special skill, especially one you can
perform on the platform, think about ways to weave it into, maybe even make
it central, to a talk.
3. Presence implies attention.
When we serve we listen. We listen to the planner or sponsor who conveys to
us the audience's purpose. We listen also to the audience -- with our eyes
-- as we speak. That further attunes us to them and clues us to needs that
arise, anything from clarification of an idea to an unplanned break. To be
fully present we sometimes surrender control, as befits a servant.
4. Another way to be fully present
is to show up with all that we are and ready to be nowhere else, to borrow
a phrase from Max Dixon. Only when we put our total focus on our task and those
for whom we perform it do we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We are more
than power suits, super smiles, terrific techniques and colossal content. We're
also our souls -- all those longings, terrors, aspirations, passions, and awakenings
-- that contribute to our quintessential selves. When we strive to appear invincible
in our command of skills and material, we shirk from the truth.
I don't suggest that we confess things that will embarrass our audience for
the sake of personal catharsis. Rather let's bring to our work the dragons
we battle as well as the resources that, now and again, permit us to prevail.
Let's allow ourselves to be who we are, including fallible, vulnerable, and
transient. As Ian Percy counsels, "Never fear to share
your unfinished self." The "I" who speaks is not a fixed thing,
but a work in progress that unfolds even as it speaks.
5. Authenticity also means taking
responsibility for who and what we are -- and accepting ourselves as we are.
That's why we are bidden to rely on our own experience for our stories. For
one reason, a critical part of what we share with audiences is ourself. For
another, to draw from our own experience is an act of self-acceptance. Furthermore,
when we sift through our personal histories for precious anecdotes we obey
a fundamental human dictum: Know thyself.
We also exercise responsibility when we
assume custody of our own introduction. An unprepped second party may
under or overstate the case for listening to us, confuse fact until it's
fiction, or accurately articulate the irrelevant. Part of our job is see
that the audience gets introduced to the "us" we really are.
That still leaves room for a creative introducer to have some fun, as
he or she well deserves.
6. Our most necessary act of
responsibility is to forgive ourselves for having the identity we have, not
some other, real or imagined, we may covet. Just as full presence demands that
we sometimes forgive an audience for being less attentive, enthusiastic, or
appreciative than we would like, responsibility requires that we accept ourselves
as we are. I'd love to have the voice of James Earl Jones, the twinkly eyes
of Michael Jordan, and that sock-your-knocks-off smile Sophia Loren beams at
us. Alas, all of us just got what we got. And that's good enough if we go all
out with it. The debate about the relative importance of technique vs. authenticity
is a red herring. To be fully present and serve with all our heart, mind and
soul means using the best technique we can muster. After all, it too is part
of us. Only when we mistake it for all of us do we lose touch with our authentic
self, that unique, flawed, glorious, always evolving entity our audience wants
to hang out with. All speakers, even the very best in the business, have limits
to their skill, knowledge and energy. All of us, however, have an unlimited
capacity for authenticity, the alpha and omega of effective communication.
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Open Letter to Aspiring Speakers
all heard the clichés. Speak about what you've earned the right to speak about (as
though we earned rights the way we earn degrees). Speak about that
which people will pay to hear. Speak about your passion, unless it's one
of those forbidden passions.
While all these maxims provide good general advice, none makes it much
easier for an aspiring speaker to pick the "right" topic. So in one's quest
for legitimacy, the temptation arises to speak about something you see others
speaking about. At least it did me -- and to the detriment of the development
of my unique identity as a speaker.
When I began coming to Colorado Speakers Association
meetings in 1993, two things struck me: l) the achievements of the regulars
-- their books, bookings,
and sense of belonging within the industry; and 2) the fact that none showed
signs of some larger than life, off the chart charisma that would dazzle audiences
even in the absence of good material. From this I deduced that given the right
content, I too could succeed. My craft was adequate if I could but concoct
So I looked at the list of standard topics and
chose the only one about which I regarded myself as having a modicum of expertise:
public speaking, a.k.a. presentation
skills. Then I put together a talk, got a gig, and -- BINGO -- became a legitimate
speaker. The only difficulties were: l) I didn't know as much about public
speaking as I thought; and 2) In my eagerness to fit in, I ignored the richest
my background, a superb education in the humanities and twenty years of practicing
It took me until almost three years ago to emerge from my communication consultant
cocoon and start speaking about other ways of connecting with people besides
presentation skills and first impression techniques. In one of those sudden
revelatory moments, a thought pierced my cranial encrustation: "Gary,
do you really think teamwork and networking are any more important to people
than art and authenticity?
You got intimidated. Throw off the shackles you've put on yourself and become
more who you are."
Does this mean I regret having become a public
speaking guy? Not at all. In doing so I learned a whole lot more than I would
have about the craft that
us all. I just wish I'd permitted myself to give voice to other parts of my
knowledge and experience sooner. When I presented "You Gotta Have HeART",
a painting demonstration that illustrated one way you can customize, at the
of our Sept '97 meeting, it was my coming out party. My advice then is this:
Let no preconception limit your choice of topic. You legitimize any subject
simply by choosing it. And: Talk about what you want to
know more about. Nothing accelerates learning like having to stand up and deliver.
Communication as Power
is a kind of power. Of the different kinds of power -- invested, expert,
ownership -- the most durable and rewarding is
that we have as role models. For as role models, we have moral authority.
And it is as communicators that we become role models.
Here are 2 tips for making communication an instrument of moral authority.
the autonomy of other people's minds and consciences by maintaining
rigorous standards of accuracy. No matter how noble our purpose,
if we withhold or distort relevant data that may be injurious to the
cause we espouse, we cease to be role models and become mere manipulators.
By allowing those we address to come to their own informed, reasoned
decisions, we maintain our moral authority.
have different communication styles. Some are direct and succinct:
Bottom Liners. Some like to explore all facets of an idea or
problem, usually at length. They spare no ancillary item of a story.
I call them Detail Freaks. Others use language primarily as a way to
cement relationships, to make people feel good about themselves. Communication,
for them, exists not for the sake of truth or thought but to make us
all better friends. Their moniker is Massager.
By listening we can recognize the communication style of those we converse
with and make the modifications in our own that will create rapport, the pre-condition
of effective communication. Assuming that everyone has the same style as ours
leads to both miscommunication and tension. For years I thought that anyone
who had a problem with someone as direct as I, must be stupid. But I was the
stupid one for assuming that directness was the lone hallmark of good communication,
and that anyone with a modicum of intelligence cherished candor and brevity.
Your Head So Others Can Share from Their Hearts:
The Gentle Art of Coaching
"Man's main task in life is to give birth to himself." Eric
people get the best out of themselves is profoundly rewarding work.
I love a standing ovation as much as you. Yet a phone call from
an individual client to report that our mutual efforts got him or her
a standing ovation leaves me with an even warmer feeling. When that
happens, I'm happy for the client-- and the audience I served without
even having seen them.
As it is rewarding, coaching is demanding.
When you present, you are responsible only for yourself. Yes, you owe
your audience the best effort you're capable
of. What they do with what you give is, however, their affair. When you coach,
I believe you accept responsibility for your client. If the person doesn't
leave your care doing significantly better than when he or she entered
it, you haven't earned your fee.
Because every client is different, coaching is always customized. You can't
rely on your sure-fire stories, deft mood changes, or dynamite audience exercises
to carry the day. You have before you a single person who expects to improve
dramatically--and quickly--by virtue of your expertise. That's pressure.
My modus operandi is to find out what the task
at hand is. (I always hope there is one. An assignment just to "make me
a better speaker," in the
absence of a proposed presentation, is a real stressor.) A campaign speech
calls for a different strategy than an acceptance speech, an after-dinner talk
a different approach than a lecture on how to draft revocable living trusts.
I also want to know what personal quality the client most wants to exhibit--strength,
erudition, sympathy, courage, caring, etc.-- and how he or she wants the audience
to think or feel. Is the most important part of the plan to evoke emotion,
impart information, or keep 'em laughing? Now we're ready to work. Technique
is key to a speaker's success. Sincerity by itself won't suffice. Effectiveness
requires form, both in the organization
of material and its delivery. I leave to personal coaches and counselors the
job of transforming people's lives by tweaking their psyches. My job is less
messianic: to raise people's awareness level, so they can make informed choices
for themselves. The last thing I want is for them to become clones of anyone,
especially me. That's why I don't say, "Do it this way." Instead,
we talk about the roles of various words, phrases, and sentences. We weigh
the relative weight of ideas and discuss devices for giving them the emphasis
the client decides they deserve.
I suggest, even demonstrate, options. The client then chooses. It's critical
that your delivery reflect your personality. That happens only if you think
about what you're saying when you're saying it. If you're thinking about how
anyone else, including your coach, would say it, you've lost touch with yourself
and undermined your authenticity. A coach who adds polish at the expense of
sincerity serves his client ill.
The only exception I make to this "non-directive" guideline is when
the material clearly calls for a pause. When I explain why, the client invariably
agrees. Even a high profile coach I know who claims to disdain technique, tells
people when to pause. Pauses are such a vital part of any talk--and so under
utilized even by experienced speakers--I think a coach would be remiss not
to point out important opportunities for them.
An officer of the Colorado AIDS Project came to me for help with an award acceptance
speech. He had a list of people, mostly co-workers, to thank. He also included
his parents, who were coming from another state to see the ceremony. We both
thought his parents deserved special thanks, so instead of tacking them onto
the end of the list, we put in a pause, followed by, "And now I want to
acknowledge two people who have supported my efforts for a very long time,
and came all the way from Iowa to be with us tonight. Ladies and gentleman,
please welcome my mother and father."
I cried each time he practiced the lines, and again when he called to tell
me how well they went over.
A speaker's job is to serve his or her audience with all his or her heart,
mind, and spirit. A coach's job is to help speakers so serve. It's what I call "passion
management": finding the right tools, for a particular person, at a particular
time, to communicate his or her passion. No coach can manufacture passion,
only show how to loose it over an audience. The job requires patience, empathy,
and acute concentration. A good coach is more than a craftsman. He or she leads
a search for ways a person can give wings to words, and, in so doing, become
more him or herself.
from SemiNews and Views, a publication of the Seminar/Workshop Leaders
Page of the National Speakers Association
to Your Presentations With Audience Activities
any presentation more interesting, educational and fun, involve your
Twain said, "No sinner was ever saved after
the first twenty minutes of a sermon." He meant that twenty minutes
is the attention span of most people. Shifting gears often makes it easier
for your audience to stay tuned. To change pace involve the audience
by giving them something to do. Games and exercises keep people interested.
Activities also generate information, reinforce learning, improve retention,
promote discussion, and help people to bond. Some of my favorites are:
1. DATALESS PARTNER INTRODUCTION
Introduce a partner after only a thirty second interview without reference
to job, marital status, age, number of children, or leisure activity. The
idea is to present your personal impression of your partner in a convincing
way, to share your feeling about the person. I like to use the exercise near
or at the end of a program, after participants have already gotten to know
each other. Questions that elicit information that helps to formulate the
introduction are: What do you most love? Most fear? If you could be any animal,
what would you choose? Any car? Any dessert?
There's no need to tell the audience what any of those choices are. It's more
fun to infer what you like from the response and improvise on it. For example,
if your partner, Glenda, says she'd like to be a dolphin, you might say: Glenda
is a very social person with a love of play. She likes people and feels comfortable
in different environments, especially those in which she can be active. She
is very loyal to her family and also welcomes contact with strangers that reciprocate
What you say is less important than how you say it. The intro isn't supposed
to be a complete psychological profile, just a passionate presentation of something
you believe to be true about your partner. I find it works better if, after
explaining it, I give a demonstration.
2. ANECDOTE OR CHALLENGE EXCHANGE
Tell a partner something good that happened to you in the last week. Or tell
about a challenge you're facing, why it's a challenge, and how your strategy
for dealing with it. The exercise takes very little time. I find the game
useful to show people how they can start or keep a conversation going after
the customary exchange of names.
As with any two partners game, you get l00% participation. There's no place
3. THREE THINGS IN COMMON
This game encourages people to open up with each other. I've found it especially
effective with singles groups. It takes a while to play, even with a small
audience, but the energy it generates and the laughs it produces are well
Find a partner and take five minutes to discover
the 3 most interesting things you have in common. Sun signs, job similarities
(unless the jobs are very unusual),
and recreational activities are not interesting. Go for things very few people
would have in common, like an exotic, out of the way place you've both been
or the fact that as kids you both raised snakes. When the partners have gotten
their three things (two things for groups of three people), I have them announce
their commonalities and write them on a flip chart. Then the whole group votes
on the winners, to whom I give prizes. In one group the winners were two women
who found they'd both been pregnant in Beaumont, TX. In another, it was a man
and woman who had both wet their pants in fourth grade classes.
An important benefit of the game is that it is an object lesson in active listening.
With prizes at stake, people really pay attention to what their partner is
saying, lean forward and ask questions. That, I tell them, is the best way
to listen to anyone -- fully focused on what he or she is saying.
4. SIX PERSON INTRODUCTION
This is the single best way I know to energize an audience in which more people
don't already know each other than do. If the audience has been sitting for
a while, listening to announcements or another speaker, I find an excuse
to use it. Give people 90 seconds to stand up and introduce themselves to
six others they haven't already met. The time limit means they have to keep
moving, looking for new introducees. In one group, a man climbed on his chair
to get a better view of who was around him. People started coming to him.
It added to the semi-chaotic, manic energy in the room. When you call time
at the end of ninety seconds, you'll see that everyone in the room is smiling.
If you want to glean some educational value from the exercise, ask the audience
which of them noticed the eye color of the people they introduced themselves
to. Remembered how many of the names. Had a tactile memory of the grips. Were
aware of the firmness of their own grip. This can be an introduction of things
to do when you meet people: Look them in the eye, focus on their names, maintain
a firm but not hurtful grip for a few seconds, stand up straight, SMILE.
TEACH YOUR PARTNER (OR GROUP)
The best way to learn something is to teach it.
We easily forget what we hear and read; we remember what we do. Give partners
or members of small groups (four
people max) an opportunity instruct each other in specific points you've
made. For example, in a seminar on selling, you've stressed the importance
of Initiative, Imagination, and Information. Let each person in a group of
three take one of these ideas, define it and give at least 2 examples of
how it can be implemented. It's fine that they may simply repeat what you've
given them. In doing so they are internalizing your message. Some will expand
on what you presented, think of other examples, maybe even call upon the
other group members to come up with fresh applications of your principles.
And that's just what you want -- audience involvement.
TWO-MINUTE BACK RUB
If your audience is seated in rows, ask them
to stand and face the same direction, toward one side of the room or the other.
When you say Begin, each person
gives the person in front of him a two-minute back & shoulder massage.
After two minutes, people reverse direction & rub someone else. The exercise
works fine with partners, though a line rub is a bit less threatening to
the touch wary. This is far more fun than a stretch break. I recommend using
it only after you've had some less kinesthetic exercise that has served to
acquaint people with their neighbors. Be sure to announce that no one is
required to participate, so the touch phobic in your midst won't feel pressured
to do something outside their comfort zone.
7. THREE IMPORTANT POINTS
An excellent activity for early arrivers while you wait for last minute arrivers
is to have small groups decide three or four things they'd like to get from
the program. It not only gives folks an activity, it gets them thinking about
the program content. It also works well at the end of an extended program,
seminar or class. In that case, you ask the groups to list the three most
important things they learned and their reasons for choosing these over others.
This helps to reinforce ideas. As with any exercise, de-brief when you finish.
Ask for the results, maybe even write them on a flip chart.
8. DIFFERENT VALUES DEMONSTRATION
Different people have different moral frames of reference. While we all agree
that values like integrity, loyalty and honesty are good ones, we often find
such values in conflict in a specific situation. Then we are forced to make
difficult decisions about what is "right." Understanding how others
analyze an ethically ambiguous situation is important to our appreciation
of them as human beings. Any program on leadership, communication, team building,
or other inter-personal content can benefit from an exercise that gives participants
a chance to share firmly held beliefs and how they apply them to a specific
Describe a dilemma. Here's an example I used to use in college philosophy classes.
Dick and Jane have been married for sixteen years and have two children. He
provides well for his family but has become increasingly involved in his work,
so much in fact that he has long ignored his wife's emotional and physical
needs. She has called this to his attention repeatedly but to no avail. Of
these three alternatives for Jane -- divorce, affair, grin and bear it -- which
is the least bad and why?
Divide into groups of four for discussion. Give them twenty to thirty minutes.
One group member is the secretary and takes notes. Another is the reporter
who will share the group's "conclusion" with the larger group. Someone
else is the captain and encourages all members to participate. The fourth person
is the analyst. He or she asks questions of the others to clarify their reasoning.
The reasons are more important than the conclusion. Part of the group report
can be about what additional information might have led to a different conclusion.
No matter how many classes I've given this problem to, one thing never changes.
People disagree. Even people who chose the same "solution" did so
for different reasons. And many said that the exercise gave them a better understanding
of themselves and others.
9. WHO GOES FIRST
This is not a game as such, just a way for a
group to have fun figuring out who will be first to do whatever the assigned
activity is. Just announce
that the first person will be any of the following:
was born closest (or farthest) from where you now are, or
birthday is closest to today, or
- Who has
the biggest feet, or
- Who has
the longest hair, or
is the oldest (or youngest), or
- Who is
the anything else you can think of.
people who arrive early a meaningful activity. Not only does it engage
their attention, it rewards them for having come on time. That's
far preferable to making the prompt people wait for the latecomers. An
easy activity is to list what they think are the top five or ten anything.
For example: the world's five highest mountains (Everest, K2, Kangchenjunga,
Lhotse, Makalu); the five longest rivers (Nile, Amazon, Yangtze, Mississippi,
Yenisey); five largest oceans (Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Arctic, Arabian
Sea). If you can find a category that bears some relation to the content
of your presentation, so much the better. A good place to look for the
information is Russell Ash's THE TOP 10 OF EVERYTHING.
With any small group activity you can anticipate
that not all groups will finish at the same time. To meet this difficulty
ask that the group leader signal
you when his or her group has completed the task. Walk over and give an additional
task, preferably one that in some way extends the initial assignment. Or you
can have people give themselves a new challenge. This will save you running
around the room asking who's finished and who not.
After most games, I like to debrief the audience. People are eager to share
their thoughts and feelings the activity brought up. Thus, the debriefing extends
the activity. It also allows people who didn't quite complete the assignment
in the allotted time a chance to finish their thoughts and reunite the audience.
Best of all, it lets everyone hear some stupendous statements. After an eye
contact exercise, a gentleman volunteered, " I had more trouble sustaining
five seconds of eye contact with people I've long known than those I'd just
met. That made me realize that I don't often look at my wife when I talk to
her. So when I get home I'm going to give her five seconds." The room
burst into applause.
Making Important Points:
Ways to Gain Emphasis
The inexperienced speaker tends to give emphasis to a word or words
in one way only: by raising his or her vocal volume. That works, but
it's only one way to give a word or phrase emphasis. The fact is that
any change of volume or pitch grabs the audience's auditory attention
and creates an emphasis. For maximum impact, a good speaker finds different
ways to emphasize things. That lends variety to the talk and makes it
much more fun to plan.
For example, instead of getting louder you can speak softer. Consider
this sentence, which might find use in a talk in favor of giving federal
leeway in sentencing: "What Americans want from federal sentencing procedures
-- and all facets of their government -- is reason, fairness, and flexibility." Because
flexibility is the point most at issue in this argument, it gets the honored
position of last word in the sentence. To give it further emphasis, the speaker
might increase his volume slightly on "reason," a little more on "fairness," and
even more on "flexibility." Equally effective, or maybe even more
so, would be to increase the volume on the first two qualities, then lower
the volume for the third.
Since "flexibility" has five syllables, you could utter the word
as though it were a slinky toy, raising the pitch slightly for "flex," a
little more for "i," even more for "bi," then let it drop
on the last two syllables. That makes the word sound like what it describes.
Speaking the word more slowly, dragging it out a bit, gives it even more emphasis.
Any word spoken more slowly than others gains emphasis from the change.
Another way to gain emphasis is to reduce the
pace. The sudden slow-down adds intensity. So does a pause just before you
speak a word. Consider this sentence: "Our
Founding Fathers made very clear that all of us have certain inalienable rights:
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Where the emphasis falls
is up to the speaker. If his main point is that the rights under discussion
originated not with some obscure professor of political science but with our
Founding Fathers, then those are the words he'll highlight. If it is the irrevocability
of the rights he wants to stress, then "inalienable" gets the emphasis.
If one or more of the rights is his focus, then he underlines them.
Now ask yourself this: For each of those alternatives, how would you choose
to make the emphasis? Would you raise or lower your voice, slow down and stretch
the word or words out, pause before the key word or words, or some combination?
I find this kind of self-questioning one of the most fun parts of planning
a presentation. It both forces me to think about the relative importance of
points in the talk and gives me a chance to direct my own performance. It's
also a way of demonstrating care for the audience through attention to detail.
A really good speaker does everything he can to make his message lively, interesting,
Pitch, pace, and volume jumps -- up or down -- also serve to signal a change
of thought. You can use your voice to clue your audience to a new idea by any
vocal alteration. Well-timed variation keeps your listeners both alert and
in step with your thought process. Believe it or not, it keeps you more alert
too, just as shifts of gear on a hilly, curvy country road make driving more
fun. Speak the way you'd drive that kind of terrain and your listeners will
thrill to the ride.
Fantastic First Business Impression
To make a fantastic first impression in a business context abide by
the same fundamental principle that governs the success of any first
impression: make people feel important. Whether we're at a lunch meeting,
job interview, sales call, or conference, we make others feel important
by being fully present.
It begins with the handshake. We send lots of subtle messages in the simple
act of shaking hands. Engage the other person's hand so that your thumb notch
contacts his or hers. Anything less can convey a sense of not wanting to touch,
even distaste. Have a firm but not overbearing grip. A wimpy grip runs the
same risk as incomplete contact. Too much macho and you may hurt someone, never
a good way to begin. Use the same squeeze for men and women but let up a little
for older folks whose arthritis may make them more vulnerable to discomfort.
communicate that you know the other person controls the transaction --
as someone you want to buy from or hire you always does -- incline your
slightly. Don't overdo it or you'll appear obsequious.
contact for at least 2 seconds. Too fleeting a shake comes across
like a jab rather
than presence. A two handed shake conveys greater intimacy.
It works well with touchy-feely types like me but may put off the less
kinesthetic among us. Unless you've observed your target in advance and
deem him or her
a lover of the tactile, best to let it wait for a later encounter.
Note the person's eye color. That creates eye contact in a very natural,
non-threatening way. Maintain the eye contact even after you've disengaged
hands. One of the
most common mistakes we make is to look toward other targets before we've
established real rapport with the person in front of us. It has an effect
like that of
a receiver running with the ball before he's caught it.
throughout the introduction. We want to look as though we're not just "pleased" but
damn happy to meet the person. Our body language as well as our facial expression
is a tool for communicating our elation. Important as dress and grooming are,
energy is even more so. An instant way to energize yourself and enhance your
smile is to hold a positive thought. For example, "You have bright eyes" or "I
hope you enjoy the meeting."
a person's name as soon as you hear it. "Ron, I'm very pleased
to meet you." Remembering a person's name goes a long way toward
making him feel important. Of the many techniques for name recall, repetition
and easiest. So use it again when you conclude the conversation. "Let's
talk more later, Ron."
something on which you can give a sincere compliment. Behavior is
have terrific posture, Ann. Were you born with it or did you work to
develop it?" Apparel will suffice. "What an interesting pin.
Does it have a story behind it?" By tacking on a question, you
give the person a chance to talk. Most people like telling stories
them. In telling their stories people reveal more about themselves
-- interests, fears, aspirations.
something of these will help you
down the road. Stories also show people's communication style. Do
they use conversation primarily as a way to convey essential information,
or to explore
ideas in detail, or to bond with other people by saying only nice
Knowing which and adapting your style to it will create instant rapport.
a way of describing your work that goes beyond the usual labels like
doctor, baker, candlestick maker. Develop a brief description
of your activity
the way people benefit from it. For example, an artist might say, "I
use pigment to produce images that bring more color into people's
work and living
space." A plumber could say, "I keep pipes clear so that
people can live in cities in sanitary conditions." This kind
of response to the ineluctable question of vocation both shows you
to be a person
the person talking to you an easy opening for more questions. Best
of all, it steers people away from stereotyping you.
you know whom you'll be meeting, do some homework. Arrive informed.
information about the company you hope to join, you can
relate your unique
skills to the specific needs of the prospective employer. Likewise,
salespersons can show how their product or service will meet existing
and future needs
of the potential customer.
questions. "What's the biggest change your business faces?" "Of
what is your company most proud?" "What's the most satisfying thing
about your job?" "The most challenging?" It's better
to pursue one topic with follow-up questions than to skip around.
interested in what you asked about rather than just throwing out
questions for the sake of conversation.
When you respond to a question with a general statement, add an
example. It will add credibility to your remark and make it --
and you --
no-brainer words and phrases like "you know" and "basically." People
who preface their every factual statement with one or the other sound like
idiots -- probably even to each other. To express disagreement start with "and" rather
than "but." "But" is a rapport killer; it nullifies
what the other person just said.
all, practice active listening. Keep your eyes on the speaker's. Nod,
smile, show that you're interested. Occasionally bounce back
what you just
heard. "So you find that...." An active listener makes
the speaker feel important, appreciated. Then you, the listener,
Freedom From, To, and You
We all wish for it, even when we're unsure where it will lead us.
It's a fundamental value, one we connect to the very idea
of being human. Yet we use the word in different ways. Sometimes
we equate freedom with absence of restraint. A judge tells a person
the jury has
just acquitted, you're free to go. Other times freedom
connotes capacity to attain a desired outcome. Having reached a level
of financial security, you're free to buy your dream house.
When we speak of the freedom afforded us by virtue of our being single,
I think it behooves us to get clear on what kind of freedom we're
talking about and whether it entails any ambiguity.
Examples of the freedom some singles claim to enjoy: Being able to eat what
and where you want. Not having to pick your clothes up or wash dishes more
often than you see fit. Date around. Have unlimited alone time.
These are enviable freedoms IF they enrich your life more than the companionship
of a mate who would, of necessity, limit them. It really comes down to what
you want your life to be about, who the person is you're trying to become.
If lack of restraint--call it liberty--provides you with greater self-expression
and leaves you feeling freer to become what you want to be, the single life
is a boon.
On the other hand, if you're convinced that your development, let alone
happiness, as a person depends on experiencing the deepest love possible between
two people, you'd do better to surrender some liberty in its pursuit.
Freedom for you lies in realizing a way of life centered on intimate partnership
and exploring your potential as a mate.
mean no bias in this. Intimacy, despite the good press it gets, isn't for
everybody. Some people just aren't cut out for commitment (God, I hate
that overused word). Learning, often through painful trial and error, if
we are or not is one of the burdens of our humanity. Accepting our truth
directions compatible with it allows us to live more authentically. And
that, I think, is the profoundest meaning of freedom: to become who you
THE ART THAT ENHANCES
Pity the critic. No one in the art world is more maligned -- not shady
dealers, not creators of schlock or sentimental art, not even deadbeat
gallery owners. A critic draws more ire from more people, generates greater
condemnation than even the likes of Jesse Helms. And for no more than
expressing his views. For a critic is, in the simplest sense, someone
whose opinions appear in print.
Criticism didn't always suffer a bad reputation. It was held in high
esteem until a brazen Frenchman had the audacity to satirize the bold
and colorful paintings of a group of his countrymen who came to be known
as impressionists. Little did this intrepid writer realize that Impressionism
would come to enjoy the same sacrosanct status in the history of art
as the Renaissance Old Masters. Criticism has been suspect ever since.
Because one of their number grievously misgauged the merits, influence
and eventual acclaim of a new way of painting, all critics suffered discredit.
legions of detractors regard criticism as an activity of, by and for
-- and uninformed snobs at that. Characteristic is the
reaction of Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) when someone asked him to
comment on certain critical assessments of his poetry. "I don't
pay no attention to no kind of critics about nothing. If they knew as
much as they claim to about what they're criticizing, they ought to be
doing that instead of just standing on the sidelines using their mouth." In
other words, criticism is something done by non-creative people at the
expense of creative people. A critic is but a mentally impoverished parasite
preying on that most noble of breeds, "The Artist."
Rubbish. Criticism is not the enemy of art but its handmaiden. Good
criticism is far more valuable -- and creative! -- than the mediocrity
which often masquerades as art.
greatest misfortune of criticism is that it is misnamed. The word itself,
by "constructive," connotes faultfinding.
It would be less misunderstood were it to be renamed interpretation,
which is what, in fact, it is -- the application of intelligence to art
in an effort to understand it better. Criticism is a quest for meaning,
and it exists in not one but several forms.
specify at least three kinds of criticism: historical, theoretical
The first concerns itself with the chronology and classification
of artists and movements, of ideas and their development into that nebulous
yet quite tangible aspect of art we call "style." Some people
consider art history a separate discipline, but a historian is an interpreter
as well as a chronologer.
Theoretical criticism has much in common with esthetics, that branch
of philosophy which seeks to define the nature and function of art. It
deals with generalizations about art, the categories into which various
art falls, and the ideas which inform it. A lecture or essay that described
the identifying characteristics of Romanticism would be an exercise in
Practical criticism analyzes specific works of art. The analysis may
entail a highly technical description of the artist's method or the writer's
reaction to the painting. But it always concerns itself with individual
pieces of art.
these three kinds of criticism have points in common and overlap. The
deals with theories as well as artists. The theoretical
critic must ground his generalizations on specific works of art, as when
John Canaday credited the popularity of contemporary western art to "an
ecstatic love affair...between the affluent purchaser with mediocre taste
and the skilled painter of mediocre conceptions." And the practical
critic who is ignorant of art history, much less art theory, will have
only the most subjective basis for his comments. (That strikes me as
precisely the case with many of the writers who cover art for daily newspapers.
Their impoverished opinions aren't based on any thought out and consistently
applied standards of excellence.)
In each kind of criticism we find an evaluative aspect, an implicit
or explicit statement of standards. The historian exercises value judgments
in the very selection of his material. Part of the theoretical critic's
work is to define standards of excellence, if not for all time at least
within the context of his discussion. And if practical criticism fails
to convey the writer's sense of the meaning and power of the work he
talks about, or his lack of such sense, it's probably not worth reading.
is thus an integral part of criticism and is hardly a reason for condemning
it. Evaluations of a sort are made just by asserting a
like or a dislike of something. When one goes so far as to affix a label
of "good" or "bad" he wades in critical waters. By
giving reasons for his judgments he performs a critical function. And
if, heaven forbid, his views are published, he may be blessed with the
appellation "critic," complete with stigma.
Like an artist, a critic must have a refined eye. Where the artist
works with color, shape and line, the critic uses words. Criticism appeals
to the analytical mind, the person who wants to know what things mean
and how they relate. Like good painting, good criticism is a mode of
correct thinking, an attempt to propagate excellence. The ideas it produces
are conducive to artistic creation. At its best, criticism is an informed
vision which deals with art in a way that awakens in us a fuller, more
intimate sense of how and why art exists and helps us to see more clearly.