How fascinating has it been to follow the Titan disaster and watch the 2022 BBC interview with Stockton Rush, where he is seen inside the submarine displaying the PlayStation controller used for navigation.
What?! Did you just say ‘PlayStation controller’, Louise, for a trip from which there was no possibility of rescue? Call me old-fashioned, but…
Guess what? When it comes to presenting our ideas, we often operate with weak systems, and when things go wrong… like the Titan, we implode.
Just this week, I worked with a senior executive who told me if they had to do a television interview, they would need to resign from their job.
This is not the first time I have heard that same logic. You hear inner voices saying “Do something”, but underneath it all you think, “Maybe I can’t change. Maybe this is me,” and “I’ll need to resign, rather than show my weakness”.
Here’s the news: It’s not your fault. There is a massive gap in our education, and that gap has existed for decades. If I were to get philosophical, I’d even say it is part of the devoicing of society.
Adding to the problem, there are external pressures on the system, similar to the Titan. People often run late, microphones may malfunction, and there could be issues with poor spatial psychology and inadequate lighting, among other barriers that hinder effective communication. It can feel as intense as 300 pounds per square inch.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. How do I know? Because I work with people every day to bring about change. The principles for being influential have been known for thousands of years. Two thousand years ago, Aristotle outlined some specific rules in his five canons of Rhetoric.
The neck must be straight, not stiff or bent backward. As regards the throat, contraction and stretching are equally unbecoming, though in different ways. If it be stretched, it causes strain as well, and weakens and fatigues the voice, while if the chin be pressed down into the chest it makes the voice less distinct and coarsens it, owing to the pressure on the windpipe.
It is, as a rule, unbecoming to raise or contract the shoulders. For it shortens the neck and produces a mean and servile gesture, which is even suggestive of dishonesty when men assume an attitude of flattery, admiration or fear.
Source: Quintillian, Institutio Oratoria Book X1, Chapter 3
Unfortunately, much of the ancient knowledge concerning ‘delivery’ was not documented, and its importance has diminished over time. Since the 1960s, the evolution of non-verbal skills has resulted in audience dissociation.
If you don’t believe me, let me ask: Have you ever been told to ‘imagine yourself in a glass box’ or ‘picture the audience in the nude’? These recent phrases depict a highly dysfunctional approach to communication. Silly old me, but weren’t we supposed to be connecting to each other?
But let’s get back to you. Tangible, immediately useful, and highly applicable skills are within your reach. It takes effort, but it is possible, and you don’t need to spend a lifetime diving to great depths.
PS: Rather than visit the Titanic, do yourself a favour and:
Pre-order my book, ‘Gravitas’
Join me at the 3-day Retreat.
Be part of the Gravitas day.
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MELBOURNE 8th SEPTEMBER 2023
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