Last night I heard some great icebreakers. No, I’m not talking about bad pick-up lines or cheesy team-building exercises. I’m referring to the grand Toastmaster tradition of giving your first prepared speech…or, in other words, you break the ice between you and your new club. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Toastmasters is a public speaking club. Yes, people actually get together to do this in our spare time because we think it’s fun.
I love icebreaker speeches. People tend to be pretty raw and vulnerable when they get up to speak for the first time. They haven’t started practicing the lessons and concentrating on techniques, so we often get a chance to see straight into their heart. At last night’s meeting, we got to hear two icebreaker speeches, so I was in heaven.
My favorite role to perform at a Toastmasters meeting is speech evaluator. Each person who gets up to give a prepared speech receives feedback on what they did well and places they can improve. To me, this is where my skills in helping others to see the best in themselves and share it with the world really come into play.
Last night I had the joy of evaluating a young woman named Christin. We sat and talked for a few minutes before she gave her speech and she said to me, “I can do this in my car but I haven’t done it in front of people. I think it’s probably pretty terrible.” She talked about not wanting to follow our other speaker because she knew how good he was and how badly she would come off in comparison.
When it was finally her turn to speak, I watched her walk up to the lectern looking so small and scared. Her shoulders were hunched, she had a terrified expression on her face, and she looked as though she wanted nothing more than to sink through the floor.
She opened her mouth and magic happened. She spoke her first few words, and her face lit up, her shoulders straightened, and she was off to the races. She was funny. She was wickedly smart. She had us in the palm of her hand and we were happy to be there.
Here’s what I said to her during my evaluation – “You are an amazing speaker. Everything you do while you’re speaking is really, really good. The only thing that’s not good is how you treat yourself in your head before you come up here.” I talked to her about how comparing yourself to another person is a really violent way to treat yourself – that the way someone else accomplishes a task has absolutely no bearing on how you accomplish it. I kept reinforcing that she is already a terrific speaker, she just has to stop psyching herself out. She has to stop being her own worst enemy.
I felt good about the evaluation and I knew she got something out of it. A job well done. Case closed.
Yeah, right. During my hour-long drive home, I reflected on what I had said to her and realized…I was just talking to myself.
There are a lot of things that I’m really good at. As an exercise in acknowledgment, here are some of them – I’m a good facilitator; I’m a good coach; I’m a good teacher; I’m a good speaker; I’m a good writer; I’m a good friend; I’m a good website designer; I’m a good student…etc. And yet, I torture myself with “what ifs” on a regular basis. I torture myself with the thought that if I’m not perfect, I’ve failed.
I can’t tell you the number of former employers I’ve avoided asking for a reference because I was certain they were dissatisfied with the quality of my work. I had absolutely NO reason for thinking that. No reprimands, no comments, not even any sidelong glances. But because I hadn’t been a 100% perfect employee, I was sure they hated me.
I psych myself out and torture myself on a fairly regular basis. Which leads to paralysis. Which leads to misery. It’s fairly typical adult child of an alcoholic behavior, but putting a name on it doesn’t make it any prettier.
It has been a very long winter and I have participated in my own form of hibernation. This week I’m finally feeling my juices starting to run again. I ready to start being active and creative again. Keeping in mind the lessons that I spoke to Christin (and myself) last night will help me to keep moving forward.
Last night, I got a double miracle. I got to hear one of the best icebreaker speeches I’ve ever heard; and I tricked myself into giving myself exactly the feedback I needed to hear.
Thank you Christin for being the vehicle and the conduit for both those things. You are fantastic and I am excited to watch you blossom.
What about you? Head to the comments and let us know about some of the things that you’re good at!