Do you spend time thinking when you should actually be influencing? If you think too much, here's why it's time to speak up!
It's time to spread your wings and . . . speak.
Whatever you think about that statement, I'd love it if you'd tell me about it. Both at the same time, that is. You see, it's my belief that we form our ideas as we speak about them—that when it comes to public speaking, thinking and speaking are the same process. That's what I'd like to discuss (as I think about it) with you today.
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It's one of the ways the amazing human brain and body work simultaneously and seamlessly.
Introvert? Extrovert? Time to Learn from Each Other!
I don't mean to suggest that considering what to say on an issue and how to get it across to listeners doesn't matter. I'm referring to the fact that expressing yourself on any topic benefits greatly from how you refine your ideas as you're revealing them.
I thought about this phenomenon recently (appropriately, as I was speaking to a client about it!) based on a question he had just asked me.
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"How do you respond quickly," he said, "if you're thinking about what you're going to say?"
My answer was: "You have to do it that way, because the process of speaking is also the process of thinking." I'll bet you've recognized this fact many times in your own life. How many times, for instance, have you found yourself saying something even before you knew what you were going to say about it? Part of what is happening here, of course, is that you subconsciously formed a response in so strong a fashion that it "erupted" full-blown in what you say.
Sure, Thinking Helps You Speak, but Speaking Also Helps You Think. The process of speech is miraculous. Consider: you're exposed to a stimulus of some kind—someone makes a remark, say. You think of a response (at lightning speed, incidentally), then signal that response to your vocal apparatus, and it kicks into gear and you express yourself through your voice. If you consider how truly rapidly all this happens, you'll realize that you didn't have time to form your thought, do a little editing on it until it's just right . . . then send out a signal to your voice box to get ready to form some words.
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In fact, introverts can run into trouble in meetings because they want to do that very thing: perfect their thoughts before they speak up. So they "perfectionize," and when every idea has been polished to a high sheen in their mind, they open their mouths . . . and realize the meeting has gone on to the next point on the agenda.
Trust Yourself . . . and Go Beyond Your Limitations
When I work with clients like this, I give them an assignment. During the next week, I say, when you think you have something to say at a meeting, start talking, before the idea is fully formed. I assure them that they do, in fact, have something worthwhile to say, and it will emerge at the moment that they are talking about it!
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Imagine a world where things were different: where each of us had to perfect our thoughts before we could express them. Conversations and meetings would go on for hours! (If you think you spend too much time now in virtual meetings, wrap your head around that one.)
I'm trying to get my introverted clients to go beyond their particular—and self-imposed—limitation. But in a sense, we all have to do that concerning "speaking up" about our ideas. We must have faith in ourselves that we have the knowledge, experience, and anything else that's necessary to express ourselves well. Then we have to strike while the iron is hot.
I don't fully understand how the act of speaking allows us to form and refine our ideas as we're talking about them. I'm not familiar with any research on the topic. As an actor, I do, however, appreciate the wondrous and instantaneous expression of mind, emotion, and voice that each of us tosses off hourly, as if we were giants. So have faith in yourself if you're too much of a thinker at the expense of connecting with others . . . and take that big step.
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Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking training and overcoming speaking fear. His company, Boston-based The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching and corporate group training worldwide. In 2021 for the eighth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speaking, was named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His latest book is The Online Meetings Handbook, now available at The Genard Method and at Amazon. To know more about TGM's services, Contact Gary here.