Connection – finding yourself through others
29/03/2012 § 2 Comments
Last week I went down to Devon for a workshop, two days in Embercombe, one of my favourite places to hang out these days. The title of the course was “Speaking out”. Somehow this feels like my year for finding my voice…
I won’t go into details about the course. Suffice to say it was a powerful experience and I gave it 10 out of 10 on the feedback form. What I want to share is the main insight I gained while there.
I suppose I had travelled down there with an expectation that I was going to learn how to get my ideas across better to a group of people. What I learned instead, to my surprise, was that the key component of a powerful presentation is to connect. Bizarrely, the key to speaking powerfully is to listen.
Firstly you have to listen to yourself, to the voice inside you that will guide you if only you pay attention to it. Secondly, you have to listen to, to connect with, your audience. To do this is really helps if you look them in the eye, if you have an expressive voice and hands, and a relaxed but energised body. But this is not the most essential part. The most essential part is an attitude that says “I need you in order to become truly alive, to become truly myself”.
I don’t know why but this came as quite a surprise to me. Intellectually I can see that I ought to have known this. For example, I wrote last year how I remembered that the root of “communicate” is “commune”. So communicating is about hanging around with others, not transmitting data to them. But I have never experienced it in quite the same way before, never noticed how different it feels when I truly connect with people while presenting, rather than simply rehearsing something from memory.
One piece of advice from Mac, founder of Embercombe and one of the facilitators of the workshop, was that this was not just about formal presenting – it was about how we engage with people in our every day lives. I took this to heart and have been experimenting with my new found skills ever since.
A good opportunity came in the latest dialogue session I held on Tuesday. It was a small group, just three of us, and this made the experience all the more powerful. I found that if I consciously looked the others in the eye while talking or listening, if I tuned into what was going on for them, I became more articulate, I listened better, I felt more energised. Somehow I became more alive.
It turned out to be an amazing session, lasting a good 30 minutes longer than usual. We all felt a heightened sense of presence, noticing for example how when we talked, we would tend to feel less connected, as if the complex process of talking caused us to withdraw attention from our senses. Hence the power of silence in a group.
What made it a particularly exhilarating experience was that the Royal Festival Hall was humming with life. People had been drawn to it, bathed as it was in the light of the evening sun. We had to squat on a bit of floor space, surrounded by activity: on one side a plate glass window behind which was a large busy restaurant; on another a lengthy meeting was going on at a table; on a third side, a rehearsal for a play was taking place, with at least 6 actors proclaiming lines such as ‘Come quick, there’s been a tragedy”. It was hilarious.
We felt so present that we were able to take all this in, all this colour and vibrancy and life, while still staying connected to what was going on inside ourselves and what was going on for the others that we were in dialogue with. It was an amazing experience.
TS Eliot had it right. “Simply connect” he advised. I have discovered that it’s the best drug going…