"The smell (I pointed to my nose) of the barn enveloped me like the fragrance wafting from a bakery (I sniffed and drew in a deep breath.) There was something about it that made me realize I was in a place like no other."
"I leaned into the horse's shoulder (leaned to the left) to get him to lift his hoof, and he (pause) leaned (pause) back into me (long pause/leaned to the right). (Eyes wide open, eyebrows raised). Then he gently lifted his hoof so I could clean it out. At that moment I fell in love (touch my heart) with horses."
These are the notes I made for myself as I prepared to give my "Gestures" speech to my Toastmasters club years ago. I had decided that I would do what I had never done before: draw all the attention to my body as I told the story about my first horseback riding lesson. Always having been self-conscious about my body, this was a bold decision for me but I knew that I was in a safe place. If it didn't work, I'd never have to do it again, but it might work and then imagine the doors that would be open to me!
How do you respond to opportunities to push your own limits? The Director of national programs for a government agency brought her team together for several days of skills development, including one day devoted to enhancing their speaking skillfulness. The advance reaction to the workshop ranged from "well, okay" to "I don't need this. I speak all the time." During the day, they took my approach to crafting content quite seriously. Then it came time to practice their 10 minute speech and the resistance was pretty strong.
"I'll never use note cards for my presentations, although I'll do it now since that's the assignment." So much for pushing his limits and being open minded. Maybe note cards would help him, but he'd never know because he decided against them before sincerely trying.
"The people in my audience want data and facts only." So she resisted crafting even a simple story as a way to make a point. The people in her audience might think they only want data and facts but they are human beings who will respond to a few well-crafted stories that will help them make sense of and use the data and facts she could deliver later. Since she didn't even try, she would never experience the value of the story.
Near the end of the day, the Director tried out a short response to the question "What does your agency do?" by taking us with her to a recent experience she'd had. "One of the award recipients at a dinner I was at said 'I remember the first time I turned the key in the lock to my new apartment. The noise of the lock releasing was the most beautiful sound I've ever heard.' And that is what we do-help people open doors to their own homes."
That is a moving lesson learned and expressed by a highly educated, technically sophisticated Director of national programs.
How do you respond to challenges to your habits and mind-set? Share a story in our comment box of when you tried something you didn't think would suit you and what happened because you were open minded.