You don’t really mean that.
This thought is constantly with me, when I ask my partner something and I feel she is holding something back.
I ask the question and she replies yes. However her tone, intonation and body language tell me otherwise. I heard the answer and yet I didn’t because I’m focusing on what she didn’t say. What I’m describing here is someone’s subtext or what’s implied but not said.
It happens to all of us, all the time, but how often do we say what we’re really thinking?
The reason is simple, our thoughts are for ourselves- they are our own private space where we can criticise, fantasise and day dream. Our thoughts also govern how we feel. If I ask my partner the same question on different days – I may get a yes each time but the subtext of each yes will be different depending on what she is thinking about in that moment.
This is also true of longer conversations, how often have you stopped listening to someone? You have read their subtext and started to switch off; because as they’re talking you know they’re holding something back, or trying to come across as somebody they’re not? Your face is pointing at them and pretending to listen, but you’re not engaged because they can’t or won’t connect with you.
So we know as a listener how easy is to switch off, but what is happening when the roles are reversed and you’re talking- why do you hold back, or over compensate by trying to be somebody you’re not?
Well, firstly- you have programmed yourself to only share the bits you want with the people you want. Which means most people only see a small part of who you really are. Secondly, even if you do want to share with your inner circle, you are still acutely aware that what you say could leave you feeling vulnerable. And what’s the first thing you do when you feel vulnerable? That’s right, pretend you don’t feel vulnerable. So it feels easier and more comforting in the moment to suppress who you are.
If we take this into speaking in public then- what are you faced with?
A group of people looking at you waiting for you to speak. . . .
Perhaps you don’t know them, or want to make a good impression so your subconcious programme kicks in- and they only get the bits you want to share, profressional you, sensible you. But your audience is struggling to listen because they’re reading your subtext and they know you’re suppressing who are you. They’re getting distracted by your tone, intonation and body language. They’re pointing their face at you but they’re thinking – this person doesn’t look comfortable, they look tense and nervous.
When this happens the audience stops engaging with you.
They still hear what you’re saying, but they’re not listening.
Whenever you speak to an audience you are always looking for a connection. You may think no one wants to see your vulnerability, you may think no one wants to see the real you, but you couldn’t be further from the truth.
Think about your favourite comedian- why are you laughing? You’re laughing because you find them relatable. You’re laughing because it feels like it’s just them talking to you- like a friend or relative. They’re making you feel like that because they are sharing themselves and their vulnerabilities.
Now, I’m not suggesting a career in comedy- I’m merely using it as an example to illustrate the point.
If you suppress who you are for fear of showing weakness, you’re missing your best chance to connect with your audience.
If you share who you are, your insecurities become instantly relatable because your audience see themselves in you and they engage more. The more they engage the more they listen.
Tell your audience you feel nervous.
Let them see you’re not perfect, because they aren’t either.
Don’t hold yourself back.