Seinfeld once said, “The number one fear in America today is Public Speaking. The number two fear is death. Therefore, most people who were at a funeral would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy.” The thing is, Ladies and Gentlemen, ALL speaking is public. The moment the words come out of your mouth, they are in the world. But how many of you have said something this week that you know has not been heard? You may have even repeated yourself many times. And yet, you feel unheard. Right? Why is that? And how do you manage to actually be heard?
All public speaking is for the ear. Too few of us have any idea how the ear works, or indeed, what it wants. Did you know that the ear is fully formed by four and a half months in utero? The unborn baby is housed within the sound of its mother’s voice. The sound of its own mother is a deeply held part of every baby’s destiny. The outer ear is closely known to every mother who nurses her baby, as she looks into that ear while her precious child is feeding. Many cultures saw much in the shapes and forms of this ear and lots can be said about that. But the inner ear – is not visible – and remains a mystery to many of us. In fact, the tiny bones of the inner ear were only discovered late in the history of medical research. Deep inside the ear is the cochlea – an amazing spiral tubing which contains tiny hairs and the finest oil the body produces. There is only one other place in the human body where the same substance as this tubing is found. Do you know where? It is the gut! What does that tell you about listening? To me it is so remarkably clear – that we need to be able to DIGEST what we hear. How on earth do we do that? First of all, we must be given time. Time to hear and time to digest.
The only way that can happen is if the speaker is using their heart and lungs as well as their brain to speak with. The only reason any of us hear anything is because we live in the air. Without it, we would hear nothing. And it is the air of our own breath which carries our word well to the ear of the listener. If we breathe out as we speak, our words are given not only momentum, but actual form which carries them fully into the ear of the audience. (Isn’t it interesting that we still call a group of people attending a spoken session an AUDIENCE!) This tells us again that the number one issue with our speaking is that it must be audible.
When the speaker fills his voice with breath – that carries the words into the ear of the listener. Then – if he actually gives himself time to breathe in fully for his next group of words, this gives the listener the opportunity to digest the words already spoken. How does this happen? As in all digestion – the substance is taken in by the body takes a long journey of selection and elimination. With our food, our body, quite without our own permission chooses what it needs and what it will discard. Our listening has to go through a similar process but seems to engage our more conscious choice. We relate what we have heard to earlier memories or thoughts, or allow it to connect to other thoughts or concepts. Thus we connect to some of what we have heard and incorporate it into our own world of thought, or discard it and eliminate it.
Without the time to do this – the listener may not even have heard what is said, as they are too busy thinking their own thoughts. They need the words to be well-spoken and delivered in a lively way to their ear and their consciousness. And they need time to relate to what is said.
So – if you want to be heard – – – – speak well on your outward breath, and then breathe in deeply. In the time it takes you to breathe in, say nothing. Your audience will not even notice the gaps, as this is when they are busiest – taking what you have said and making their own inner response to it.
Whether you are a teacher, or a salesman, an actor or a parent – this is the number one skill in being heard.
If you want to BE UNDERSTOOD you need to know how to use the verbs in your sentence. No matter what your message is – you need to be able to explain clearly to people what is going to happen, what you do, how it works, how much it costs, how it will affect you. People who are in a play are called ACTORS. But aren’t we all ACTORS? We all are trying to do something in the world. Getting others to understand what we are trying to do and getting them to come on board is a number one skill in all fields of enterprise. I will tell you more about this on my next blog. I look forward to hearing from you too.