I stood in the middle of the circle, surrounded by peers trying to distract me from the talk I had started to give.
I was one of the last ones to present, and by the time it was my turn I didn’t even want to be in the class anymore. Although my classmates were just following our teacher’s instructions, I was extremely irritated by how disrespectful everyone was acting toward each presenter.
This experience happened a couple of weeks ago at a Dale Carnegie course I am taking. The teacher instructed us to come prepared to give a one minute talk on a subject about which we have strong feelings and convictions. What she didn’t tell us until it was time for us to take turns presenting was that we’d all be sitting in a circle and the audience’s role was to distract the speaker in the middle from what he or she was saying.
This exercise seemed so disrespectful to me as the audience texted on their phones, yelled across the room, or chatted to their neighbor while the speaker was trying to explain a deeply held belief. I wanted to listen to what each of us had to say but oftentimes couldn’t hear over the twenty other voices in the room.
When it was my turn to present, I knew I could either shut down or speak with conviction. I asked myself how much I believed in what I wanted to communicate and whether it was important enough for my classmates to hear.
And then a funny thing happened as I started telling my story. My voice got louder, my gestures grew larger, and I walked around the circle, looking at each person, wanting them to hear what I had to say. One person stopped talking. Then another got quiet. Then another.
I told a story about being back home during my sophomore year in college and reading my journals from second grade until now. I told them that I started crying as I read line after line and page after page of me trying to prove myself through my schoolwork, my grades, my accomplishments. And then it hit me: I don’t need to prove my worth to anyone. I am already loved. I am already valued. I finished by saying, “So when you wake up tomorrow morning, I want you to say to yourself, ‘I am enough.’ And believing this will allow you to freely and fully live into who you already are.”
Although the talk was only one minute, the beginning felt like hours as I watched classmates not paying attention and heard them talking over me. Yet when I approached the ending, I could have continued talking with just as much energy because I wanted the audience to hear what I had to say, not in a selfish way but because I so believed in my words.
As I sat down, I was a little bit shocked. I don’t often speak as loud as I can to talk over others and use big hand motions to get my point across. Then at the end of class, I was voted for the Crashing Through Award, signifying me crashing through the distractions and delivering my talk with conviction.
I don’t tell this story to brag but instead to continue reflecting on the experience. I’ve thought about it often in the two weeks since it happened because it was so unusual and out of my comfort zone.
All I can make sense of is that I tapped into something I felt strongly about and knew I needed to share. And that’s the small thing that can make a big difference in your life too. Whether as a leader, a student, an employee, a spouse, etc. what is it that’s worth standing up for?
If we spoke with conviction all of the time, the effectiveness would wear off and come across as forced or fake. Instead, if you speak with the desire to influence and impact others on topics you are deeply passionate about, they will see your conviction and want to listen.
When we were first told to prepare a talk about a strong belief that we held, excluding religious or political convictions, I didn’t know what topic I would present. Then I followed this train of thought:
- What do I believe in or have strong feelings about?
- What experience took place to lead me to this belief?
- What action can others take on this belief?
- How does this belief benefit others?
This process also requires vulnerability as you share why you have the belief that you do, but this gives you credibility and connects you to your audience.
The frustration of not being able to hear other’s convictions produced almost a burden in me to want to share my conviction. Had this fire not built up in me, I don’t think I’d have tapped into this passion that I have or communicated it with as much conviction. As I was describing the experience to John, he thought it was a great simulation of how the world is loud and not listening to what you have to say. From this exercise, I was reminded that I do have passions in me that I believe are worth hearing, and I have the confidence to tap into this place going forward and not be passive.
A small thing that you can do today that will make a big difference is to reflect on the passions that you have that are worth others hearing. Then confidently communicate these convictions, not in a “look at me” or “I’m right” sort of way but so authentically and real that others can’t help but pay attention.
I’ll finish with this excerpt from a She Reads Truth devotional: