Warning: Bad Speaking Advice!

Warning: Bad Speaking Advice!

By Susan Berkley

In the Wall Street Journal there was some really bad advice about public speaking, which can be disastrous if followed.

A journalist reported on how Chicago’s Second City improvisational acting troupe teaches managers to give better presentations. She observed that one of the instructors urged a woman who was “too tense to look into her listeners eyes” to “gaze at foreheads.”

This ludicrous piece of advice is right up there with “visualize the audience in their underwear.” Try having a conversation with a friend or colleague while staring at their forehead. They’ll think you’ve become possessed!

When a speaker fears eye contact, it’s really a symptom of a deeper problem: a rejection of affection. Phobic speakers will often say they feel shy because they are afraid the audience will reject them. This is a delusion.

Audience members tend to be optimistic and receptive until they have reason to believe otherwise. With the exception of the occasional jerk, most audience members are eager to hear what a speaker has to say and grateful for the speaker’s contribution.

Why, then, the fear of rejection? Psychologists call it projection. The speaker is actually rejecting the audience, before the audience has a chance to reject him or her. When we are afraid to look someone in the eyes, we are also rejecting any affection and friendship they might be trying to send our way. This process is unconscious, but it can generate feelings of guilt and even shame, causing us to avert our eyes even more.

Eye contact is a good thing. In speaking (as in life) make more eye contact, not less. The eyes are the mirror of the soul. Allow them to radiate loving thoughts from your heart to the world.


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Susan Berkley is a top voice over artist and founder of The Great Voice Company, a company devoted to teaching great voices around the world how to become successful voice over actors. The Great Voice Company is an international leader in voice over training and in providing top quality voice over recordings in all languages to discerning businesses and marketers. For additional information visit www.greatvoice.com

Copyright 2012, The Great Voice Company. All Rights Reserved. Warning: Bad Speaking Advice!

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