October 10, 2011

Do as I say, not as I say.



Sometimes speakers (like all human beings) say one thing, but do another. One gives bad news with an unfortunate smile on her face. Another rails against pollution but smokes two packs of cigarettes a day. And another is a finance expert on stage while trying to crawl out of a deep debt hole in his private life. I spoke about "practicing what you preach" in a previous post, and the importance of your behavior matching your message.

Here's an example I read about the other day, and I think this is very common -- speakers who say they want audience interaction, but behave in the opposite way.

My husband's niece Miranda wrote this on Facebook:

"My teacher complains that we don't talk in class and discuss things, and then when we raise our hands, he skips over us to listen to himself talk. I experienced this first hand today when, for once, I had a good comment during our 'discussion' and he saw my hand was up, looked my way about 10 times, and then kept moving on to the next section, and then asking if we had anything to say and ignoring the people with their hands raised. Sorry, [name of teacher], but you kind of really really suck."

I suppose there are many reasons why a speaker would ignore the audience's attempts at interaction. Maybe he does just like the sound of his own voice. Maybe he doesn't want to deal with dissent or disagreement. Maybe he fears that there's not enough time to entertain all the comments and questions. Which would all be fine if he didn't say he wanted participation, but then not accept it.

Saying one thing and doing another is one of the quickest ways to alienate your audience. No one is going to take advice from or be motivated by a hypocrite. Pay attention to how you come across to those you hope to influence and serve; you might be surprised to discover that you are perceived as a completely different person than you are. Or perceived as exactly the person you're trying to pretend not to be!



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