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The One, Most Important Thing in Public Speaking

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It did not take me long to think about when I was asked the question, “What is that one, most thing about succeeding at public speaking?”

Well, some people call it the fear of public speaking and the naturally shy people call it nervousness. My choice of the word to represent this malady is anxiety? Most people, whether they are the front-liners or the head honchos of an organization, they are all anxious about having to face an audience.

So, before we go into how to manage it and succeed at the interaction let us consider the source of this anxiety and the cause of this malady.

In my opinion this anxiety is generated from two aspects, two sources.  First, it is generated by the fact that the speaker thinks that the audience may be too good for her. That means, they may be too knowledgeable, way too intelligent and way to classy for her. And, that they may perceive her wrongly and may judge her too harshly. The second source to this is that the speaker may feel that he is too classy, much too knowledgeable and much too advanced for the audience he is to address.

Both these extremes rise from the dimension of a misplaced self-image, a warped self-esteem or the manifestation of a false ego, if I may. This internal misperception and an external behavior that makes an effort to put on a show create a discord, a dissonance and a lack of congruence in the speaker. That lack of congruence is seen and sensed by the audience and thus, they too tune out. When they tune out, the speaker and his performance come crashing down too. This does not just happen on the speaking stage but also occurs on all leadership platforms. Scroll down the history of the world and you will see that leaders came crashing down, when they did not say or do what they meant or meant to do what they had said they would.

How do you manage to survive and thrive through this?

As a speaker just before you speak and throughout speaking you need to be stepping out of your own skin and stay vulnerable. You need to stop excessively focusing upon how good you look or not; how well you speak or not and how perfectly placed your content is for the event and the customer- audience. Your heart, your mind and, sometimes, even your smartphone needs to just living and breathing in kindness and a deep desire for creating value for the audience. To make the customer king, while speaking is to get out of your own way; get out of your own skin.

How is this done?

Considering that you have done all the homework you need to have done before the speaking event, you need to calm down. You need to let go all concerns of not doing a good job. You need, also, let go of the entire negative and excessively brittle and moral self-talk. You need to deflate. You need to bring your attention to how you are breathing. When your breathing stops sounding and feeling like you were pumping iron or when you choked your breath upon the sight of a dog that you were scared. Your breathing needs to even down to like that of a baby at sleep. It needs to go easy in, easy out and through the diaphragm. Rhythmic and calm with your shoulders, eyes and tongue as relaxed as possible.

The moment you deflate, ground and calm down then your attention will stop obsessing with yourself and move towards being present and conscious of your audience’s space, their current state and then their learning needs. It is then that you can and will begin to shine as a speaker, a great communicator and a leader that inspires and makes her world evolve beautifully. At this stage your interaction with your audience becomes a dance of love, of engagement and co-creation.

That which works in public speaking, works in running fruitful meetings. That which works in public speaking works in bringing the best out of others. That which works in public speaking, works in leading your world a brighter tomorrow. This is the one, most important thing in most everything in life; being in the here and now and then taking the world into their future with humility and with compassion.

Attend the one day workshop of The HeART of Public Speaking in Cebu on September 24, 2019. Register Here:

 

 

 

Eleven Audience Energizers for Public Speaking

Thousands of executives across the world strive to get a large audience moving, talking, laughing and learning is like King Sisyphus wanting to roll up a rock onto a hill. It is hard, it is tough and like the proverbial rock, the audience can come tumbling down. Yet, there are many who appear to have been born with the abilities to rouse up audiences and work the room naturally. The truth be told no matter how skilled and natural certain speakers appear, they all drill themselves mad through scores of techniques and tricks to rack up engagement and learning transfer.

This is not to downplay authenticity of intentions, quality of content and meaningfulness of purpose in public speaking, but to highlight the fact that the best of intentions and purposes need to be packaged prettily and brandished with fun.

To back up an article, Large Crowd Energizing Techniques, that I wrote a few years ago, here are eleven more easy ideas we can use. Besides the science that is explained in the aforementioned article the simple reason behind energizing our audiences is that every speech, every presentation and every conversation is an exchange and play of energy. When the speaker steps up to the lectern all eyes are on her and, thus, so is all the energy upon her. Call it the burden of leadership at that moment. Now when a speaker begins to dialogue or engage with the audience the energy begins to churn constructively.

To unburden and then brace your-self to rock and roll, here are eleven ideas:

  1. Ask a few positive closed questions with good chances of ‘yes’ as an answer. Keep these questions closed, short and simple. Like, “all feeling good?” “Looking forward to a fun day?” “Feel this quarter is going to be a better than the last one?” Manage to keep this activity less than 90 seconds.
  2. Ask them to talk to the person next to them and share, for less than 60 seconds each, “how they started their day this morning?” While they are at it, take a sip of water, check your clicker and slides and manage to keep the whole thing less than three minutes.
  3. Ask them simply to stand up, stretch and greet and welcome a few people they haven’t yet met. The hustle, the bustle and the smiles will unburden the energy off your shoulders and churn it around the room. Keep this activity also under three minutes for larger crowds and short keynotes, but allow five to seven minutes for smaller training sessions.
  4. If you are conversant with mindfulness meditations then have them sit up, sit silent, close eyes, focus upon their in and out breathes while thinking about how they want their day to turn out. Give them a minute of silence. Have them open their eyes and share their thoughts with the person next to them. Keep the whole activity down to less than three minutes. It is called a ‘minute to arrive.’ A minute to let their awareness and focus blend in and settle into their bodies.
  5. If there is paper and pencil available, have them caricature a self-image and add an event expectation. Something like, “today, Joseph the accountant, wants to learn how to authentically influence others.” This will generate laughter, relax and cue you into your topic of the day, ‘Authentic Leadership Influence’ or whatever. Manage to wrap this up, also, in less than five minutes.
  6. Flash a sensational statistic, a report or a headline on the screens and pause for them to grapple with it for a ten to fifteen seconds. An example: An average person spends One Hundred and Twenty Minutes, or better still, Seven Thousand Breaths a Day, on social media. That is like taking a shower twenty times in a day! And, when the surprise and murmuring tones down you can plunge into your talk.
  7. Flash a very rare and unique photograph that has some sort of relevancy to the audience or to the subject matter at hand. The picture can also be of incident that you will tell a story about during your presentation. Make sure the picture is not unpleasant, is easy to recognize and recall but carries meaning and purpose to the topic at hand. A good and a relevant picture works like a good prop. It takes the eyes away from you and directs them onto the picture. Thus, it moves the energy around.
  8. Display a real prop, a model or a gadget. Years ago, a motivational speaker friend of mine, Harry Pound, used to carry an old-fashioned, hand-operated water pump in the back of his car. At every speaking opportunity he’d place it on stage and mime pumping it while explaining that water, results only flow when effort is consistently made. Effort and hard work in, results and water out. The physical activity takes away attention and helps you, the speaker, get over herself and become one with the audience and vice versa.
  9. Employ gentle and benign humor. The powerful science behind humor is that the speaker has to herself the target of the joke. She has to belittle and humble herself, this deflates self-consciousness and endears the audience to the speaker. Refrain from trying complex humor. Keep it simple and light. Manage proper timing between setup and punch. Make an effort to relate it to the event. Years ago, I was to greet a guest speaker at the gates of a hotel and then escort him in and introduce him to the audience. Somehow I missed him at the gate and he was already on stage. At his introduction, I claimed that I was so dense that I’d never get a job in the immigration services. That earned me a lot of laughs because our guest was the then commissioner of immigration in the country.
  10. Tell an analogical story that somehow relates to the subject at hand. A friend of mine tells a story about how tigers when cornered fight back ten times more ferociously than normal. He takes his time in describing the mindset and the fighting nuances of a tiger. He then goes on to add how his sales and marketing teams work with ferocity during bad times. Spend just a few minutes painting a word picture of a cornered tiger. During the rest of your talk, compare how cornered tiger-like traits are found in salespeople. Spend three to paint the word picture and throughout your speech make a call back to it, like “rise and roar like a tiger!” It acts like a non-tangible prop and keeps your audience hooked for good.
  11. Tell a story which kind of spins off into a question. Years ago, I made up a fictional story of a farmer who digs for oil and fails several times and then eventually succeeds. At the near end of the story I ask the audience why he fails so many times, and where was the wealth during all those times. While they ponder upon possible answers, I deliver my message about discovering strengths and at the end of it give out the correct answer to the story. A roar goes through the audience because they then see the connection between the story and my presentation.

Understand this, the sight of any audience can give the heebie-jeebies to the best of us on stage. Lawrence Olivier, Meryl Streep and Amitabh Bachchan all claim rights to stage fright. Winston Churchill would claim to have bats in his belfry before any talk. To get nervous is normal. To be in awe of the energy pulsating from crowds is also normal. There are across the world scores of speakers who know how to motivate large groups by using the energy that emanates out of crowds.

Some methods work and some fail. There is no silver bullet solution to this malady and there is no such thing as the perfect and ultimate formula for success in delivering keynotes. The ones that you, sometimes, see and hear have been well planned, well-rehearsed and choreographed such that they appear as extremely natural. Only after a lot of practice will you become unconsciously competent with the sciences audience engagement and motivation. Even then you will always be striving for perfection but never reach it. Nobody has reached it. No, not even Socrates, Demosthenes, Twain, Churchill, Roosevelt, Gandhi, Mandela, Obama or Trump. They have just done well with what they had, and then created their own styles.

Study all the flavors, try the ones you like often and mix your very own cocktails. Just remember to be kind, courteous, compassionate and refrain from laughing at your own jokes.

Raju Mandhyan

www.mandhyan.com

Raju Mandhyan

www.mandhyan.com

Inner Sun

Exposing Yourself through Public Speaking

I masticated a bit over the title of this article but came to a conclusion that, that is what I mean and that is what I have to say. One of the cardinal rules to succeed in public speaking is to say what you mean, and mean what you say. 

May years ago, when I wrote my first ever book on public speaking, the HeART of Public Speaking, I placed on the cover an expensively purchased picture of a man speaking from behind a lectern to a highly engaged, happily laughing audience. The beauty of the picture wasn’t just in the fact that the audience looked extremely engaged, it was in the boldness of the fact that the speaker’s rear silhouette was butt-naked. I had my artist drape a gentle, heart-shaped shawl around the speaker and then the cover went ahead and said exactly what I had laid out inside the book. I loved it and so do those who still own that edition.

To succeed, to shine and scintillate at public speaking, one must do exactly that – expose your true self and then wrap yourself and your presentation with love.

How, you ask?

Well, you might have heard the saying that people would rather be in the coffin than do a eulogy. People fear public speaking more than they fear death. What we really fear is being exposed to scores of eyes that may not just see into us but that they may also see us through our charades. Our true selves might sometimes be timid, pretentious or arrogant. Or, worse scenario, people fear speaking up in the presence of large audiences because our agendas are unethical, and we say what we do not mean and mean what we are not saying. With scores of eyes watching our every move, every micro-gesture, every bead of sweat we can be called out for what we really are and what our true intentions might be. That is the fear.

This, of course, may not be everyone’s reason but the question remains the same – how do we expose our own true selves and yet be covered by a protective heart? Here are certain tips that I have picked up from failing, sweating and dying then coming alive a thousand times when in front of a large group of people.

First, recognize and live out ‘common humanity. Tell yourself that the people out there are people just like you. Some smart and some not so smart, just like yourself. Tell yourself that they, too, have doubts, fears, anxieties, challenges and aspirations in life just as you do. Tell yourself that they are here to hear you no matter how profound or ordinary your spiel for them may be.

Second, generate loving, agape, feeling towards them. Though love resides in the hearts the activation of the desire to offer kindness, compassion and love is a function of the prefrontal cortex. You consciously tell yourself to be kind and loving, then the forty odd million neurons residing in your heart go to work creating love for your audience. When that happens, you radiate kindness, and kindness begets kindness. Sure, there is a chance that there may be one or two thick-skinned, bitter lemon of a person in the room who will continue giving you the heebie-jeebies. Just go on without them, they will eventually turn into sweet lemonade.

Third, according to international speaker par excellence, Scott Friedman, be authentic. What does that mean? It means expose your true self. You don’t have to talk like your college professor or like Chris Rock. Just be yourself. Let your flaws, your stutters, your accent be seen, felt or heard. Let your heart lead you and speak from the heart. If there is something you don’t know or are not sure, say exactly that, “I don’t know that, and I am not sure about that.” That’s okay. You are neither Solomon nor Google.

Fourth, also according to Scott Friedman, be vulnerable. Yes, you do not wear a tight blue suit with a red cape. You were not born on planet Krypton. You can bleed, and you can hurt. Expose all those sides of you that can bleed and hurt. Most people in the audience will relate to you, offer compassion and a much kinder ear if you pretend not to be a flawless, man of steel. Should the thick-skinned, bitter lemon hurl a rotten egg at you, say “Ouch!” and then right away forgive her for she knows not what she does. She knows not that you are human too. Keep doing the right thing and keep creating value with your words.

Fifth,  is to become good at being light and funny as a speaker. Laughter is the shortest distance between two hearts, and humor is the vehicle that will drive you there. Some people are naturally funny, and others can get there through practice at public speaking. ‘Neuro-plasticity’, you know! The more you do something, the more you become that – in this case, funny. Just make sure to make yourself the butt of all your jokes otherwise, the thick-skinned, bitter lemon will stare you down to your death. Or, better still take up lessons from ‘the HeART of HUMOR.’

There!

Of course there is a lot more to public speaking. There is this fact that speaking in public is about, as I have already said, creating good value. It is about inspiring people, and about leading them to a new and a better place in their lives. You can do it. Yes, you can because the brilliance and wish to shine is in all of us. It is in all of us to help, love and cherish all those that surround us but, first, we need to have the gumption to expose ourselves, our true selves.

I never let many copies of my first book, first edition, circulate in the marketplace because I was afraid. I was afraid that the cover was too brash, and it would scare away the conservatives. The thing is even though I’d written all about being brave, about being kind, authentic and open; I wasn’t brave, I was still a newbie to expressing myself courageously. Yes!

To wrap up, let me caution you away from that saying where public speaking gurus will tell you that to overcome your fear, you should imagine all your audience butt-naked. That, to me, is utter nonsense. Baloney! It is bound to scare the bananas out of you and sink you into the ground. It is best to, not just imagine, but be in your spiritual birthday suit when speaking in public. It is best to expose yourself as you are, bare your soul and your audiences will lift you up into the heavens. Have fun!

Check out my books, blogs and videos on Amazon/Raju Mandhyan.

 

 

The Link Between Laughter and Tears

“Humor and pain, like comedy and tragedy, have subtle similarities. At the basic level, they are essentially the same. A person who has suffered great pain and tragedy in life also has the ability to transcend it and convert it into comedy. If you look at the history of those who have made the world laugh, you will note that they did, indeed, suffer great sorrow and pain before discovering laughter. Shakespeare created immortal masterpieces of literature but lived a personal life wrought with longing and loneliness. His every work is a constant dance between the tragic and the comic. The legendary Doctor Patch Adams, who proved to the world that, indeed, laughter is the best medicine, lived a life of hardship and struggle. His patients loved his humor because they knew that behind the façade, he understood and deeply shared their pain.

InSights on InSights

InSights on InSights

A few years ago, NBC held a prime time talent contest called Last Comic Standing, where Dat Phan, a young Vietnamese-American became the champion and attained instant stardom. Today, he lives his dream of making a living while making others laugh. As a kid, he and his mother lived on the streets of San Diego and slept on bus stop benches. Growing up, he worked as a waiter, a busboy, and a doorman at a casino and a comedy club. Phan is not hampered by his past experiences. His hardships have become an integral part of his humor, as has his upbringing in a poor cross-cultural family. “I do whatever it takes to do stand-up,” Phan said in an interview. “There is an abundance of material in struggling and poverty and trying to make it. There is so much humor in that, it’s unlimited. You have to be able to see it. You have to be very creative. In the beginning, I didn’t do real well, I bombed dozens of times. Something sick inside told me to keep on trying because I had nothing to lose. I kept exposing myself to different audiences. I kept bombing and failing and being disappointed until I got just one laugh. And that laugh gave me encouragement to continue and pursue a career and a skill that makes others happy. The pain of my past has been my driving force and I believe that no matter how hopeless it seems there is always something to look forward to. In life, you can get to the next level if you’re willing to give up everything and give everything you have in your heart to make it!” says Dat Phan.

Kahlil Gibran rightly said: “The selfsame source from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.” Very often when we are laughing uncontrollably, we find tears streaming down our faces. And, quite as often, after we’ve expressed our pain through crying, we find ourselves laughing joyfully. Both laughing and crying provide cathartic cleansing. Our facial expressions also mirror this kinship. That’s why, at times, it’s hard to determine if one is crying or laughing. Somewhere in the depths of our souls and somewhere in the recesses of our limbic brains, laughing and crying are separated by a very thin line, just as comedy and tragedy are.”

When speakers, trainers and other facilitators play hopscotch over this fine line that divides comedy and tragedy using personal anecdotes and situational humor they create rapid rapport with their audiences and transfer new learning deeply and powerfully.

To make being funny a part of your skill sets, come look me up in April in Singapore, I am running a one-day workshop where you will not just know the science behind humor but you master a few techniques to consistently employ humor in most all of your interactions.

 

 

 

Ego and the Appreciative Self

Among the many theories and recommended global best practices in leadership, none stands out more than the universal consensus builder and conversation starter that goes:  “self-knowledge and self-management is foremost before anything else.” Of the numerous descriptions of leadership, let’s talk about that which describes leadership as being a catalyst for creating positive and progressive change.

Tales and Techniques to a Creatively Funnier you at Work and at Home.

Let’s then narrow down our focus to what a leader needs to do in order to be able to create, catalyze and champion change.  It would go without saying that to create change a leader must know (1) where he stands and (2) where he wants to go, bringing others along others with him.

How does a leader know where she stands?  She needs to have clear knowledge, deep understanding, and calm acceptance of exactly who she is, what she wants, and what she intends to accomplish in her sphere of influence in the world.

The tricky thing about intentions though is the fact that they are intricately tied to self-perception and ideas of who we are. This narrow, intertwined niche is where the probability exists for our assumptions to go wrong. Here, in this sliver of creative space, is where who we really are clashes with our overblown assumptions of who we think we are. Let’s consider this anomaly of true self versus overblown perception of self from the Eastern philosophical perspectives. Side stepping a bit from Sigmund Freud’s theory of the ID and the Superego, let’s simply refer to it as Ego or our own distorted view of ourselves.

In the course of leading, driving change, and living up to our fullest potential, this misrepresentation or Ego does get in the way not only of what we intend to create in the long-term but also in our interactions in day-to-day living. It can stonewall us just as Walt Kelly’s hero, Pogo, once claimed, “I have found the enemy and they are us!” It can side-track us just as a wise old man once said, “If not for me, there I go!”

Thus, hurdles to progress and innovation constantly appear and surface within the change initiatives of an organization or an individual. They arise mostly from a false, distorted perception of the self.

In the early-to-mid-1980s I had traveled around the world to sell and promote Philippine-made apparels and textiles.  On my first few sales trips to the Americas and the Middle East, I failed to bring back any sales not just once but three times. Each trip had taken months of preparation, weeks of travel, and thousands of dollars.  After every trip during that period, I’d come back empty handed and unsuccessful. The effect on my self-esteem was devastating. The organization I worked for knew the reason and I too, gradually learned the reason. It had very little to do with the products, the business knowledge, or the market conditions then. It had all to do with me.

Several months of humbling reflection and pondering made me realize that what seemed like external challenges were really my own internal shenanigans.  I was playing with my own mind and myself. It was all about how I perceived and positioned myself in the world and to the world. My self-image was inflated and unreal. It needed work; lots of work!

Months after that deadly year of professional failures, disappointments, and humiliation, I remember a moment sitting by my mother’s feet and sharing my most recent, eventually successful trip across the world. Her hand rested on my head as she gently asked, “What was different this time, son?” I recall taking a very long pause while fighting back my tears, I responded, “It was me, Mom. It was my own over-inflated perception of myself that got in the way of my dealings with others and my attempts at creating value. It was my ego, Mom. ” She patted my head gently and tears that I was fighting with began to roll down from hers.

Our egos, or misrepresentations to ourselves and to the world, create majority, if not all, of our work-life challenges. No sure-fire way exists of eliminating or curing this chronic ailment that occurs and recurs in every one of us persistently and maliciously. But since that emotional realization of my malady in the presence of my mother, I had set out on a quest to find a remedy– a solution–to benignly manage or tone down the excessiveness of my own ego-driven, exaggerated perceptions of self. That was over two decades ago.

Nearly a decade ago I have found a balm in a new way of life inspired by the philosophy and practice of Appreciative Inquiry, originated by Dr. David Cooperrider of Case Western University, USA.

Three of the many guiding principles of this way of life are most relevant to us in evoking a true perception of self and in nurturing the possibilities and potential brought forth by such a benign and beautiful awareness.

Principle 1: Trusting that every Human System and every Human ( a system too) has innate and untapped potential.

Of paramount importance is the fact that this belief is innate and exists in all of us. It can also be very easily be unleashed with care and compassion. The quality, quantity, and comparative value of this hidden potential is priceless.

This perspective allows me to look at the external world as a world of abundance and opportunities. It allows me to leap onto unchartered waters, take risks and to be open to all that this dynamic life has to offer.  With this belief, I can live with confidence, courage, and optimism. It allows me to declare to myself that regardless of my size, shape, or skin color I am part of an unfolding universe and I need not protect myself any sort of pretensions and machinations.

Principle 2: Acknowledging and adapting to Diverse and Constantly Changing Perspectives.

By recognizing that people and organizations are different; by accepting that these individuals and organizations are in a state of flux and change allows one to hold back from being judgmental. With this principle, self-awareness takes on a systemic swing and allows one to view and regard people and institutions that are different, in a compassionate and holistic way. It helps us mingle with all others with a sense of wonder and enthusiasm.

For me, this approach sparks off an attitude of adaptability and strengthens the muscles for seeking synergistic possibilities. From “I know,” I can move to “I am interested in knowing, learning and adapting.” In this way the sense of my true and authentic self takes the lead and gently dissolves my ego.

Principle 3: Asking Questions instead of Telling and Opinionating.

This principle and practice of learning, leading, and guiding resets a dramatic pathway into uncovering and unleashing untapped potential in oneself and in others.

A few years ago, I had conceptualized and hosted a TV Talk Show called ExPat InSights. My core intention for the program was to highlight similarities between cultures and therefore, enhance the bond between the Philippines and the scores of foreigners living and working in the country. Diplomats of different nations, business leaders, NGO heads, members of academe, and any individual who represented anything different were invited to share their passions about their business or advocacies.

Two seasons into the program, and after close to 300 interviews, I had covered Cambodia, Afghanistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Canada, among other countries. One day, my program assistant (whom I had given carte blanche to invite guests based on the above criteria) announced that the Ambassador of Pakistan had accepted the invitation to be on ExPat InSights. I nodded acknowledgement and smilingly showed my approval.

A couple of weeks before the set program date, I sat down to plan for the interview and my questions. And that’s when it hit me!  Pakistan? Wait! Isn’t that the country that borders India? Isn’t that the country that once used to be India? I realized that I’d lived too long away from my birth country and had forgotten that Indians and Pakistanis live across a blood-drenched border drawn 65 years ago.

Neither the Pakistanis nor the Indians have forgotten the pain, the trauma, and the bloody events from that past. They have had several wars and have continued until present day to deploy men armed and ready to kill anyone who crosses the barb-wired border.  These two groups go to war even when they play cricket or compete at the Olympics!

How in heaven’s name was I going to appreciate a representative of that country? How was I going to find and highlight the good? I realized that I was in an extremely difficult situation. My trust and adopted belief in the appreciative way of life had locked horns with a terrible past and with my own, unconscious fears.  Even if I did manage to be proper and professional as a host, I’d be ostracized and hated by a billion Indian people. I was faced with a fierce conflict of values within myself.

During the next few days I began to check for any loopholes in the invitation that had been sent  to the Ambassador.  Maybe the date was wrong? Maybe it was another show? Maybe the weather would announce a holiday for one of those infamous Philippine typhoons. Anything that would let me chicken out of my dilemma!

Meanwhile, the Ambassador had gone ahead and sent me his picture, his profile, current updates, and news about Pakistan-Philippine relations. I was getting deeper into the muck.  I began to have nightmares.  In those dreams, all Indian people from across the world were throwing sticks and stones at me and calling me unmentionable names. The eggs and tomatoes flew right at me through the TV screens. The Indian government had gone declared me a traitor.

A night before the interview date, I called up my mentor, Dean Rose Fuentes, who embodied the appreciative way of life.

“I don’t know what to do. This is a real mess, I’ve gotten myself into!” I screamed through the phone.

“Yes, I agree, this is a mess and I appreciate you calling me. Now, how is it that you want me to help you?” I realized that she’d appreciated my action and asked me a question right back. This late at night, she was setting a good example of walking the talk of appreciative inquiry.

“Do you, Dean, have any suggestion on how to sit across a person whose fore fathers might have killed some of my forefathers and be nice to him?”

“Wait,” she said, “Let me switch off my favorite episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants and let me think.”

I waited.

After what seemed an eternity of moving chairs, clicking switches and grunting noises, she came back on the phone and said, “There’s this wonderful little book called Dynamic Relationships by Jacqueline Stavros, and I think you ought to read it before you on live.”

I was a day away from dying in front of the cameras and she was asking me to go buy a book. I gently bid her good night and let her go back to Sponge Bob Square Pants.

I then called up another friend of mine; a wise old soul of Indian origin but Burmese by birth. He was in his 70s and I was sure he’d be able to give some practical advice. Not only was mature and smart but he also was a diplomat’s son. He knew tact and diplomacy.

“Tell the Ambassador that you are sick,” he suggested.

“But, I don’t want to lie, and especially not about illness,” I replied.

“Then tell him that the TV station does not approve of your program content,” he offered.

“I can’t do that! I created the show and I own full autonomy over programming. The station has nothing to say about the content and I’d still be lying,” I wailed.

“Hey look, you asked me for advice and given the fact that I need to be jumping into bed, here’s a last idea.”

“Ughh, okay, tell me please,” I begged.

“Say no, the Asian way,” he chuckled.

“And, what is the Asian way?” I asked.

“Tell him, that the show needs to be postponed and that you will call him … and then don’tever call him again,” he ended.

It struck me at that time that no matter what I do, it will be out of fear, out of a warped sense of reality. It would also amount to being a total cheat. I did not want to do that. The war of values inside me had ended. I trusted living the authentic and appreciative way.

The next day, there I was happily chatting with the Ambassador of Pakistan in front of three cameras. Our interview would soon be broadcast nationwide and across the world through the internet. I had swept my mind and heart clean of all biases; of all negative assumptions. I framed my questions such that each question appeared to lighten up the face of the Ambassador and he opened up his heart to me. He shared stories of struggle, success, and synergistic wisdom.

I even managed to ask him about why and how Osama Bin Laden had made Pakistan his hideout in his last days.  He answered every question politely and warmly. He expressed optimism and shared his insights about possibilities and hopes for a peaceful world. Not for a moment during the interview did I feel any enmity or friction. The interview, which is still up for anyone to view over the internet, is proof of the power and beauty of Appreciative Inquiry.

Yes, the process of gentle inquiry, of warmly exploring memories and stories of strength, success, and synergistic action works massively towards empowering others and driving change. The amazing thing about the process of inquiry is that it also works exceedingly well with conversations with our selves.

No, let’s not label it self-talk. Rather, let’s claim the use of appreciation and inquisitiveness as the backdrop for healthy, life-giving debate between our true selves and our inflated perceptions of self, our ego.

You have to understand though that the ego can never be totally eliminated. It can, though, be tamed with conscious efforts at aligning with an appreciative and an inquisitive way of life.  You also have to know that eliminating the ego totally is NOT necessary.   All we need is to keep it in check and maintain a healthy sense of self.

This belief and approach has become a way of living for me. This way of life is the air that fuels the fires of engagement, innovation and excellent execution towards growth and success at work. It is the belief system that strengthens my ties with family, friends, and the community at large. In every other aspect of existence, I depend on this life-giving oxygen to learn and innovate; to consult and facilitate; to coach and train.  Appreciative Inquiry constantly equips me to build bridges from where I am to where I want to go. It makes me humble and strong enough to have an impact on my own destiny.

Power of the Pause

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A work of art, way before it becomes a masterpiece, must start with a plain white canvass. Hidden, and yet unborn, inside it lie the ponderings, the passions and the promise of hope and beauty. The artist’s creativity would be severely crippled, every time he picked up his brush, if the solitude of white on the canvass did not lure him to conceive and co-create a brand new reality. Just like masterpieces require the emptiness of a canvass to creatively explode upon; our conversations also need momentary silences, pauses, to express and highlight the magic and motivation which lie hidden in our hearts and minds.

Job applicants, job interviewees, salespeople, managers and even senior executives across industries fall into this trap of speaking up without thinking in. We forget to recognize and give way to the feelings within. This constant shooting-from-the-hip-ness adds nothing but more noise to the din and the mindlessness that engulfs our world. This aimless and excessive thoughtless verbosity is a waste of ammunition and a massive waste of human energy.

Power of the Pause

Power of the Pause

A pause, before, during and even after conversations adds color, rhythm and a panoramic elegance to conversations. A pause, properly orchestrated, is one of the most powerful dynamics of speech. It allows the speaker and the listener to assess thoughts, structure ideas and tap into the deeper recesses of our wisdom and instinct. In the language of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a pause allows us to align our internal resources of intellect, emotion and authentic self with our external resources of the body, speech and action.

In conversations, before interactions, we can chose to stop, to slow down and be still for a few seconds. This will allow us to put a leash on the chain-reaction of reactive behaviour. This can lessen our spinning off in the usual way of defend, offend, talk up, talk down and constantly justify our past performances. A pause is power and a pause induces empowerment and trust, as it makes the other person feel listened to. This little pause then becomes a source of powerful human energy.

The way to increase the amount of pausing before, during and after all our interactions is to keep a mindful awareness on our breathing. Every now then the din and the clamour of the world that surrounds us tends to take over and engulf us in its toxicity but an awareness on our breath acts as an anchor and helps us manage emotions. A visible sign, and constant life-saver of emotional intelligence is a smooth, deep and a rhythmic flow of breath.

In many of my workshops, I profess the 3P method of powerful connection, engagement and influence. In any interaction plant yourself in a position where you are physically stable, at ease and have good visibility and exposure. After planting, pause deeply to gather your thoughts and visualize empowerment of the listeners and a successful outcome of the conversation. Finally, project yourself with power and confidence keeping the goals of the interaction authentic, integral and driven by purpose. This will align your internal and external resources and also evoke excellence from others. That, in essence, is leadership and coaching for excellence in action.

Pausing consciously is a momentary respite between being completely self-absorbed to being awake and present for others and for life. Our conversations need these momentary silences and pauses, to express and high-light the magic and motivation which lie hidden in our hearts and minds.  Watch Video

Empathy and Presentations

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“We’ve got to feel the audience,” he said and with a warm smile on his craggy face as he gently rubbed his coarse hands together.

“What? Feel the audience! How exactly do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, you see most all of us when we stand to make a presentation, we are concerned with two things; one, we are concerned with the thought of how exactly will impress the audience and the second, we are concerned about how exactly will the audience perceive and accept us. These two concerns are the manifestations of either self-importance and/or of self-consciousness. Both these manifestations are born in the ego, a self image of us that is skewed away from our true self,” he said.

“And then?” I urged him on.

“And,” he went on “when we are skewed away from our true self, we are pretending, we are putting on act to impress others. When we are pretending to be who we are not then we are standing on shaky ground, and we are unsure of how to appear steady, calm and self confident while scores of eyes are watching our every move, every gesture and every expression. Under such scrutiny the veneer of pretension will crack and, usually, does crack.”

“Uh, hmm, I see what you mean;” I said “how then does empathy become the solution to this malady?”

Presentation Skills by Raju Mandhyan

Presentation Skills by Raju Mandhyan

“Pretty simple,” he said “when we care, respect and view the audience to be human, to be frail of ego just as we are then we are, naturally, overcome by a sense of camaraderie and brotherhood. If I may push the idea a bit more, we begin to empathize with them and for them. It’s a great feeling and it diffuses all the hot air that is pent up inside of us as would be presenters. We come down to earth and our focus moves towards the mission at hand. The mission at hand is, always, of adding value, building something new, something that carries High Impact.”

“Gotcha!” I said to ‘Craggy Face,’ “I understand you want us all to turn into monks at heart. Ok!”

‘Craggy Face’ smiled warmly and rubbed his coarse hands gently and happily.

He was pretty cool that way!

Large Crowd Energizing Techniques

The sight of any large audience can give the heebie-jeebies to the best of public and professional speakers. To get nervous is normal. To be in awe of the energy pulsating from crowds is also normal. There are however, across the world, a handful of speakers who know how to manage and motivate large group energy by using the energy that emanates out of these crowds. These brilliant speakers are conversant with the science and psychology of large groups and have mastered a few techniques to tame and entertain the beast. Here are a three of my ideas and the science behind them.

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I hate brocolli!

I hate brocolli! I hate the sight of it. I hate it’s name. “Brocolli?” What is that? It sounds like some tropical disease. Like, “He’s got brocolli between his toes. She’s got brocolli in her armpits.  But then again, we do know its good for us. Its green and healthy for our insides and for our cancer fighting cells. And, some claim, it adds and multiplies brain cells.

Similarly, in my work-life there are things that I know that there are things we must do which will be good for us. Like learning to and keeping proper accounts. Learning to and keeping proper records and files of projects and programs. And, for professionals and small business owners like me, learning to build an active website and sustaining, nurturing it over time.

I hate brocolli!

I hate brocolli!

I knew this. I was told this, many a times, years ago by colleagues and friends in the industry and yet I kept thinking _assigning this to a professional or a professional team would be the smart thing to do. And, boy was I ever wrong! Nearly every other year, I’d look for to outsource this work and they’d come back and pick my brain, have me do the thinking, the brainstorming and making the website work for me and my business. ” At first I was doling out money in spades and getting aesthetically impressive returns. Then I tightened my fist and began to get function but no charm and no ease. All through, in the back of my head, I kept thinking…”I wish I was computer savvy. I wish I understood the internet as well as they do. I wish I were Generation X or Y or Z. I wish I weren’t a late-bloomimg baby boomer baby! Grrr!

Website building, maintenance and the world of internet marketing loomed over me like a huge clump of rotting brocolli.

Yet, a small voice kept telling me, “Go ahead, take a bite and start chewing. Go ahead, roll up and your sleeves, tie a nappy around your neck and dig in!

So, two week ago, I rolled up my sleeves, put a nappy around my neck, put on my reading glasses, plugged in the earphones and hauled my lap top closer to me and began clicking, punching, rewinding, undoing, doing, highlighting, reading, taking a power nap in between, and clicking, punching, rewinding, undoing, doing, highlighting, reading, listening until it began to make sense, until it began to take shape.

What you are browsing through right now is a still a rough draft, a skeleton of what is yet to come and grow. In essence, not only am I learning to eat my brocolli but I am also learning to plant, grow and make it flourish organically. That’s the way to go when it comes to learning and succeeding at something you consider hard and something that you figure you can set aside and a let divine intervention resolve it for you. No sirree! It doesn’t happen that way.

Can this same principle be applied for accounting, book-keeping and or maintaining records. Yes!
Nothing is more empowering and liberating than tackling any and all kinds of huge, ugly brocolli clouds that loom over you and slow you down. Hate that brocolli? Eat it first! It’s good for your soul;)

Inner Sun

An Unbalanced Life.

Most everyone is focused on living a balanced life. What exactly is a balanced life? Twenty fours divided equally between work, play, family, personal needs and service to the world? Or, is it stress at work, peace at home?