“Buried,” was the reply of the lady to my left. I’d asked one of those questions, born of some dim and distant NLP guru, “Describe you in one word.”
And yes she looked, “buried.” Her face so rictus straight, that it did indeed reveal this lady to be, if not buried, then wanting to be.
The exercise of using one word to describe oneself itself is actually pretty revealing and not remotely dim. People usually choose their word well. The single word they choose giving an insight into who that person really is. This is the point of it. My own presenting theory says that if you are true to yourself, then you are more likely to be liked.
The ability to let people in is so important.
I don’t find it easy myself. We’re taught, sometimes through experience, but mostly through friends, teachers, siblings and parents, that we’re not quite good enough. So we adjust ourselves to be more liked. Yet in the midst of a business presentation we need to try and be ourselves because:
1) Unless we’re a psychopath the chances are this will be more appealing than any other version, 2) Under stress its easier to communicate that way 3) Discovering you’re good enough builds confidence which in turn makes you a better communicator.
Some people will fib a little when I ask the one word question. They’ll say, “Confident.” Or “Purposeful.” In the hope they’ll manage to hide their fears. Instead of course, they reveal their insecurities. I also fib occasionally. I’m supposed to be the leader, so saying, “scared shitless” is one I’ll usually keep to myself (and its two words.) However, maybe I’m wrong – maybe allowing myself to be a little more vulnerable will actually make me appear stronger.
Letting us in, being a little vulnerable makes us terribly attractive, human. We like our friends because we know them. We love our family partly because we really know them. A nerdy techie saying, “nerd” – doesn’t make us think. “Oh my God, how terrible, you have revealed you are a geek. I cannot be in the same room as you.” No quite the contrary. We go – “You are brave, you are strong, you have a sense of humour, you see yourself as we do. Can I be your mate oh wit of the IT room.”
So our lady who revealed herself as buried, troubled me but she made herself unwittingly the focus of the group’s attention. As the morning’s training progressed, I tried various nerve reduction techniques to no avail. She was clearly still buried.
Eventually, simple improvising techniques and presenting with passion did the trick. It transpired she was buried through her desire “not to fail.” This meant she tried to learn every word of a presentation, resulting in even more nerves as the fear of forgetting her lines, made her even more terrified. Yet she was a world expert in her chosen field. So knowing her story, then improvising was enough.
By the end of the workshop I didn’t need to ask if she was still buried. Her face was alive, resonating passion, fun; her own inner “oomph” (can’t think of a better word), was coursing through. No longer buried. So going back to the single word questions. If she hadn’t let us in, we would perhaps have put less effort into saving a fellow human being, and perhaps she would remain buried, her true personality trapped, never allowed to surface and reveal the lovely human being we got to know by the end of the workshop.