Speaking Power: It's About Shedding, Not Acquiring©

by Melissa Lewis

One of my favorite books is The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. It’s about awakening and nurturing creativity in all its forms. (I like her point that making great soup is just as much a creative expression as creating a great painting, but that’s a subject for another article.) What struck me most was her description of how non-artists misunderstand the nature of creativity. We non-artists look at creative people with envy, believing that the artist has something we don’t have. “Wow, what great talent he has. I have no talent whatsoever,” or “She’s such a great dancer. I wish I had been born with that kind of gift.” But we’re making a wrong assumption. According to Cameron, artists don’t have something the rest of us lack; rather, they have removed the barriers to the natural creativity that’s available to all of us. Artists don’t have something extra; the rest of us do, in the form of barriers and limiting beliefs. If you want to be more creative, an artist would tell you to work on shedding what’s getting in the way, rather than trying to add something you don’t possess already.

I believe the same is true when it comes to speaking confidence. For years I’ve seen people struggle anxiously, believing that if only they had the right technique or had been born with the gift of gab, they would be able to speak confidently and powerfully. They spend years going to classes and coaches, reading books and studying great speakers, searching for that elusive something extra that, once acquired, will make them powerful speakers. In 18 years in this business, I’ve never met anyone who found that something extra outside of themselves. Of course practice and some well-chosen techniques can help, but as with creativity, I believe true authentic speaking power comes by shedding what’s in the way of your power, not by adding something you think is missing.

Think about the times when you’ve been powerfully influenced by another’s words. Were they always great orators with lots of fancy techniques, polished moves and slick, rehearsed delivery? When I ask that question of my participants, they often answer that the most powerful speaking situations were when the speaker dropped all the b.s. and razzle-dazzle and just spoke from the heart. Powerful communication is when everything else falls away and all that’s left is the truth. In this complex, multimedia, multitasking, hyper-busy world we live in, a simple message, conveyed with honesty and authenticity, can be far more powerful than the fanciest PowerPoint show. 

So what is this stuff that’s in the way? What are these barriers we need to shed to let our power through? Here are some barriers I’ve noticed over the years, along with examples of the types of questions that pop into our heads while they’re blocking our power:

So what would be left after you let go of these barriers? What is it that would flow so freely, given an unobstructed path? The real, authentic, most powerful YOU and the message you have to share. Imagine: no fluff, no posturing, no gimmicks, no mechanics--just you and what you have to say. In speaking (as with so many other things in life) less is more, and shedding is more effective than an endless, frantic acquisition of stuff you didn’t need in the first place.

Copyright © 2017, Melissa Lewis

Melissa Lewis turns traditional thinking about public speaking upside down to give people more comfort, confidence, and charisma in front of groups. She travels nationally as a highly-rated conference speaker, trainer and coach. She is a former comic actress, a Past President of a chapter of the National Speakers Association and has trained as facilitator of SPEAKING CIRCLES ©, a revolutionary new approach for building speaking skill and confidence. For more information, call (828) 658-4211 or visit www.melissalewis.com.

Note: This article may be used in newsletters, magazines, or other publications with the provision that you 1) use the article written as is 2) include author bio and contact information, and 3) notify the author prior to publication.