We’ve talked at length about many of the tools we’re going to borrow from the actor’s toolbox. Face, eyes, and physical presence, which includes balance, movement, and gestures. Nothing exotic. Nothing outrageous. Yet, inevitably someone brings up the most scorching objection of all to using these basic tools.
We don’t want to appear phony.
We don’t want to look like someone who’s putting on an act, someone who isn’t genuine, who is a fake. That is absolutely not true. Phoniness is a turn-off, a sure-fire way to alienate anyone you might be attempting to communicate with, from one-on-one situations to a packed auditorium. We wouldn’t encourage you to act phony in any way whatsoever.
But using our eyes, our facial expressions, our bodies to communicate for us is not phony. There is nothing phony about any of the tools stored in your toolbox. How can it be phony to use tools that are already yours, that you already own?
Granted, using the tools may feel phony at first. May make us feel counterfeit or contrived. That’s always true when we practice a new skill or a new behavior. But you won’t appear phony. Every new behavior we learn goes through three stages as our internal computer makes adjustments. That’s true whether we’re learning golf or the tango or conversational French for our trip abroad.
First, we feel awkward and downright phony, and that feeling of awkwardness is no illusion. But if we keep up our practice, we will soon pass through that stage and progress to the mechanical stage. Maybe we don’t have to count the steps in the new dance any longer. We’re not exactly graceful, but awkward has been replaced by mechanical.
Eventually, if we stick with it, our inner computer adjusts and the new behavior that once felt so phony becomes habit. From phony, to mechanical, to habit. And we all know how comfortable habits are.
Here’s what we want you to remember. No matter how you feel, you rarely appear phony. And when it comes to creating an impression during communication, that’s a significant distinction.
When we change behaviors, we may feel uncomfortable. We may feel so uncomfortable we also feel “ungenuine”. But we are the only one who perceives our discomfort. From the outside, our new behavior looks completely natural.
The same is true when we begin to smile more, to use our face to convey our thoughts and feelings; when we make eye contact; when we stand tall and move with purpose; when we use bold gestures to accentuate our presentation. We may feel strange, but we look perfectly natural.
So battle the urge to resist new ways of presenting. Think about firing the bodyguard in your mind, the one who is helping you maintain the illusion of professionalism with your stiffness. Be open to using the tools that will help you widen the group of people with whom you can be effective. Be willing to connect everyone to the substance of your message by doing things that entertain as well as inform.
Communicating with your audience is a matter of how well you use the tools. If you are open, warm, vulnerable; if you use effective eye contact, if you face them with poise and power, you will create a wonderful, intimate relationship with an audience of two or two thousand.
If you’re serious about advancing your skills and making an investment in yourself, we invite you to our Excellence in Speaking Institute. Classes are filling up quickly so don’t delay! Visit this page to read feedback from our graduates about their experience.