Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Oh my! Did I really say that?"

One of my least favorite things to do as a speaker is to listen to my own presentations.  It is a painful thing to do, but a needed pain to endure from time to time.  When I listen/watch to myself I often witness bad diction, misplaced humor, distracting movements, bad word choices, incomplete sentences (when I am saying words in my head but they do not completely leave my mouth) and presented material that just doesn't seem to flow the way I wanted. Realizing speakers are their worst critics and can have "off days," the exercise is still painful  (Oh, if you really want some "beneficial pain" of critique, ask a trusted friend to give you his or her take on your speaking).
Why then do I put myself through such pain?  To get better.

This method of skill improvement works in other areas of your life in which "words: are involved. When is the last time you listened to the way... spoke to your spouse? spoke to your kids? spoke to your students and families in your ministry? spoke to those you answer to and serve with in ministry (pastor, elders, deacons, volunteers)? interacted with your kid's teacher, coach, principle? interacted with the waiter at the restaurant?
It may be painful (again, for extra "beneficial pain" ask a trusted friend their opinion), but a needed pain to endure from time to time.  It will help you become a better communicator on the big and small stages of life.

Several years ago, while directing a summer camp, I learned a valuable lesson.  I was attempting to get a crowd of sugared up middle school students and anxious college aged counselors settled down and focussed on my words.  Totally unaware of how I was coming across, I brought one of my staff members to tears by the intensity of my tone and facial expressions.  Later that evening, still unaware of  my mistake, a trusted friend pulled me aside, loving told me of the feelings I had hurt and proceeded to constructively point out how my tone and facial expressions can come across as unloving and harsh.
Painful?  Yes!
Valuable information?  Absolutely!
From this day forward, I have become better at turning down the harshness of my tone and facial expressions when I communicate with peers, students, adults and especially my own wife and kids.

So...go ahead...listen to yourself, ask others to listen and get better at communication in all areas of your life.

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