Recently I began working with a master coach to develop my public speaking chops. While watching a video together of a recent talk I gave, he pointed out to me every instance where I gave away my authority, whether through intonation or body language. It was eye-opening to say the least. “See how you’re rocking from foot to foot? That’s what teenagers do when they’re asking to borrow the car.” “Notice how your intonation goes up at the end of most sentences? It appears as if you are questioning yourself which actually causes the audience to question you.” And so on.
It was crazy and also embarrassing. I had never noticed these things about myself.
When planning a talk, I think about what I can offer that is useful and what words I might use to express my ideas. Throughout, I ride a roller coaster of self-doubt. Do I really have the right to teach? There are actual experts on this topic and I know I’m not one of them. What if a real expert is in the audience? What could I possibly add to this topic that hasn’t already been said more effectively by countless people? And so on. The thing is, I thought I was hiding all of this. Come to find out, I was not. The disconnect between verbal and non-verbal communication was palpable.
As he pointed all of this out to me, I realized that this was not the first time I had heard some version of, “Please own your authority.”
I remembered a time I submitted the first draft of a manuscript to a publisher which was sent back to me with the following note: “Susan, please delete all such phrases: ‘it seems this way to me, but it may not to you,’ or ‘this is my opinion; you may disagree,’ and ‘this is what I learned; you may find otherwise.’ Not only is it confusing to the reader, it is irritating.”