I used to be a selfish speaker. And If I am not careful, I can easily slip into that selfishness.
After speaking and coaching speakers for nearly two decades, I decided to leave formal employment to build my own business in January of 2020.
By that point in my life, I had been speaking and coaching speakers for over two decades. While I knew there would be many obstacles to overcome (much more than I anticipated that year!), I was confident in my speaking ability.
As part of my business strategy, I decided to invest in emotional intelligence and leadership training. I had seen my partner, Whitney, go through a program that built her confidence and inspired her to new ideas and new possibilities.
I knew the training would be challenging; I wouldn’t have enrolled in it if it wasn’t. I explore a lot of my past, evaluated my goals, and was able to get feedback from experienced leaders and coaches. One area that I did not think would be challenging was the public speaking component.
The program often asked us to participate, oftentimes having us step to the front of the room and answer a particular prompt. After one of my responses, I received feedback from the trainer on my speaking. She commented that I was not communicating authentically and that I was masking the intentions behind my communication.
This was crushing.
I was one of the best speakers in the group. I knew I was. I had my undergraduate degree in English with a minor in Communication and I had a Master’s Degree in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. I knew the mechanics of communication better than most.
And THAT is why I was showing up inauthentically.
Because I was going through the motions.
Because I was checking boxes.
Because I was doing the “right” thing, but for the wrong reason.
When I spoke, I spoke to impress, not to impact. I wanted audiences to oooooh and aaaaaahhhh at my impeccable skills in transitions and body language and clever wordplay.
In other words, I was an incredibly selfish speaker.
Then, I started to connect the dots. When I was coaching competitive speech and debate, we did not just focus on mechanics. I was guiding these young leaders, mentoring them, and there with them through their personal and academic highs and lows. We often discussed what was underneath their fears and inefficiencies. I didn’t let them off the hook when they did not show up to practice but rather discussed with them what motivated them to be absent. Without knowing it, I was teaching these students the tools of communication through emotional intelligence strategies.
After my training, I started to re-consider not just my approach to speaking but my approach to coaching speakers. A communication trainer who teaches only the mechanics of speaking is doing their clients a great disservice.
If hand gestures and body posters were sufficient to communicate confidently, then we would all be confident communicators. But it is not.
Here are the three main reasons why emotional intelligence and transformational coaching are necessary for confident communication training and coaching:
We are all different.
Communication training is an emotional and vulnerable experience. Everyone has different fears and desires. While speaking fears may look similar, their core motivations are not. Finding a trainer and coach who can uncover the true source of discomfort is necessary in order to solve the deficiency.
Our audiences are all different.
If we were only communicating to one type of individual, communication training could be standardized. However, in order to truly land a message, one must be equipped with the emotional intelligence tools to identify an audience’s needs. Emotional intelligence training allows a communicator to pick up on the subtle (and not-so-subtle) cues an audience gives to flex into the communication style that would be most effective.
Communication training CAN be fun.
Most communication training is dull, dry, and standardized. Emotional intelligence tools allow us to feel free from our fears and anxieties and actually have FUN while we speak!
Most importantly, however, is the fact that communication training is transformative. When we are emotionally aware of ourselves and of others in a communication context, we become emotionally aware of ourselves and others in ALL contexts.
That means improved communication with your family, friends, children, spouse, and partner.
Above all, it is also improved communication with yourself, becoming more aware of how you show up in the world and how authentic you can be.