What Would You See If You Looked in an Honest Mirror?
If you’re anything like me, your last gesture before leaving your bedroom each morning is a fast review in a full-length mirror. Just to make sure.
To make sure the shoes actually go with the suit, skirt, or slacks. To make sure no threads are hanging, no flying hems, and no runs in your last unopened pair of hose. To make sure . . . Even with that final glance, have you ever wondered what others see when they look at you? Do they see what you see both literally and figuratively?
What do they see and hear when you speak? Whether you are speaking to your board, your bank, a prospect, client, media, or an interviewer, do they hear what you hear? The quick answer is NO. Absolutely NOT. Not possible.
Have you ever heard the saying that practicing a speech does not count unless you practice out loud? There are several reasons this advice is valid. What stands out most is the physiological reason. Your voice sounds different outside of your body than it does inside your head. The very act of the words reverberating off the bones in your ear causes the sound to be different once words are spoken out loud.
One winter day, eight brave people, from different backgrounds, different ages, different businesses, different communication and leadership skills, convened with a common purpose. The purpose was to see themselves as others see them. A professional videographer was present and myself.
Each person was videotaped. We played back the video, I made suggestions, and we taped again. The improvement in just a few minutes of instruction was amazing. Let me tell you about some of the participants:
is a 50-year-old man who thought he was passionate when speaking about green causes. Hank has to present often to get buy-in for hundred thousand dollar projects. Hank learned from the reaction of the group that his passion came across as scary. When Hank saw himself on tape, he saw that his passion came across as anger to others. He also learned that vanity be gone, he looked more trustworthy with his new glasses than trying to look younger without them.
is a young attorney. He really thought he was emphasizing points through his delivery. First, the participants then the tape showed him that he was wooden in delivery. Not good form for a litigator. A simple exercise: take one sentence, any sentence. Each time you recite it emphasize a different word. See if the listener can correctly identify the word you emphasized.
Is a young, dynamo, a thirty-year-old whirling dervish of enthusiasm and energy. When he tested out a presentation to a client on a new branding strategy, our participants were confused. Brian, fearing his “normal” style might overwhelm his audience thought he should use a calm, soothing, voice. We called him Pastor Brian. The style he selected was appropriate for a sermon, not a marketing send off. The participants called for Brian to let out the real Brian. If ever enthusiasm is appropriate, it is at the launch of a brand.
Amanda is a young woman who takes her responsibilities very seriously. Her style is a just the facts ma’am kind of style. Jewelry and makeup are not in her morning regimen. She thought that was adequate. When she saw herself on video she could see the improvement a scarf and lipstick made. Two changes that made it easier for the audience to see where the message came from.
Simple not easy lessons learned:
- You are using less emphasis that you think you use.
- Really look at the words. Your voice and demeanor need to reflect the words you are saying.
- Women wear bright or something of interest around your neck to help the audience see where the message is coming from
- Men wear a bright and solid tie or shirt of color to draw attention to where the message is coming from
- You can’t see what others see and hear.
The first time I saw myself on TV I was stunned. Every morning I put make up on using a lighted magnifying mirror. I thought I looked at an honest reflection. The problem was, when we look in the mirror we tend to be expressionless. In life, our face moves. So imagine my surprise when I saw myself on TV and saw wrinkles. You can’t see or hear yourself accurately in your own vacuum.