Friday, April 3, 2009

Understanding My Speaking Experience

I was thinking about the real gain from my Toastmaster experience. At the end of the day, I don't think I will be an accomplished speaker or be a professional speaker by occupation. For the short to medium term, I think the experience will help in my daily interaction at work: in meetings, discussions and interpersonal interactions. I don't think I will have an opportunity to speak in a public venue. The experience will be more on being vocal, expressive and
articulate during these interactions.

But I think the major skill that needs to be supplemented with speaking skills is negotiation. Negotiation is a good fit for public speaking because it involves communication and a certain confidence to achieve a certain goal. Reading the book 'Nixon and Mao' by Margaret Macmillan talks about the negotiation that took place between the US and China. It's a good book that tells the behind the scenes story of the summit that changed the relationship between these two countries. It's a good tale about the intricacies of negotiation, back door deals, drama and tension that led to the breakthrough.

By nature I do not speak much and think too much which affect my natural speaking capacity. But at times I am able to relax and can communicate well. Networking during the meetings were actual practice though maybe a bit superficial. But I had a lot of opportunities as well in the project management meetings. I think this should all help in negotiation when needed. I think meetings with discussions are really subtle forms of negotiations. I think negotiation is important in that it's a way to assert yourself.

My main problem is that I take things personally. Whenever there is a conflict or rejection of my ideas, I feel bad and I freeze. I have problems going over these moments of conflicts that I am ineffective in negotiation and any form of discussion. I think I should be able to accept disagreements and not take it personally. I need to rise above the meeting and try to find out the issue involved. Understanding the issue is the key to be able to find a way to overcome the roadblock. The key is to understand that you do not represent your views and disagreement is not personal.

I also need to prepare more when I speak whether in a meeting, public engagement or presentation. My tendency is to 'wing it' in a 'seat of my pants' style. I now know that it does not
work. Perhaps in a one to one session I am more successful in expressing myself. But I made the mistake when I think I can do the same in a public environment. This is what happened to
me during the PMI symposium and other moments in Toastmaster when I serve as the Toastmaster of the evening. Without preparation, I fail and freeze sometimes and unsuccessfully 'wing it'. Oftentimes I have no patience to prepare which cause my downfall.

During meetings, I fail when my ideas are rejected that I cannot get over it. I am lost just waiting to be slaughtered.During these sessions, I should relax and discern the issues involved. My tendency is to be defensive and to take the rejection as a disagreement of my idea (not my person). The trick is to look at my idea like it were an object, to look at it from all sides, find out the flaws, criticize it without feeling and discard it if not useful. It's being dispassionate and being able to bounce back and keep on fighting and exchanging ideas without fear of being rejected. It's the only way to learn.

I guess the speech evaluations is a good way to accept criticism and bounce back. My own inclination is not give a severe criticism to the speaker. I guess it reflects my own tendency to not receive criticism well. But again I should not take it personally. What is being criticized is not me but my public speaking skills and perhaps my preparation. This is another good thing about Toastmaster experience which I should recognize. So the improvement that is needed are in thinking skills or speaking skills or negotiation skills. Not really in improving one's personality. Otherwise you will keep blaming yourself and not really improve.

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