I’ve just wrapped up participation in a two day retreat (New Collaborative Ecosystem) that was at times challenging, and at times exhilarating.
There were many conversations at this retreat but aside from meeting some aligned collaborators (yay!), the biggest takeaway for me, personally, was actually this:
In one-on-one, or small group interactions, I am usually very humorous, light-hearted and playful.
However, when presenting ideas that matter to me, especially in front of larger groups, or when I am writing, I usually shift into a calm, clear and passionate, but rational presentation “mode” that feels like a “professor” and focuses entirely on the ideas and maybe their impact on the world, while leaving my own personal humanity, and that of the people I am speaking to — out.
This doesn’t serve me or others well, and it doesn’t do the ideas justice.
I also have a tendency to go straight to the abstract ideas, particularly when I’m feeling like I don’t want to speak for too long. But this often doesn’t convey meaning to people nearly as well as a “parable” can.
I am needing to stay conscious to focus on “stories first” and on not being afraid to “bring myself and my personal experience, pain and vulnerability” into the room.
It sounds terrible, but basically, I need to learn lessons from politicians — they tend to be masters of those balances in ways that I am — so far — not. That said, sometimes, they get so practiced at telling those stories that they lose their authenticity. But that is a separate issue that is probably more related to the high volume of “public” appearances that they make.
The other group of folks that does this well is the practitioners of what I call a “sacred art”:
Comedians tend to be vulnerable and personal, but are given permission to do so, in part because of the “role” that they play in society — they are the jokers. They have permission to joke.
In other contexts, cracking-wise can lead people to think that you aren’t a person to be taken seriously. As if your humanity somehow disqualifies you in certain ways.
I think that is why I tend to switch modes when in front of large groups or when writing — because I can’t “read” my audience, I retreat into the abstract and remove myself from the equation — as a way of not stepping on political correctness land mines.
The funny thing is — even as I write this, I’m still falling into that same pattern.