Thus continues the Special Report, "The Diva’s 7 Secrets to Speaking or Performing With Confidence, Ease and Charisma." I am posting these Secrets one by one over every week.
You Can’t Make A Mistake
Oh, we’re so afraid of making a mistake! Especially publicly.
You were taught to fear mistakes at a very early age. You learned that if you made a mistake, you could be punished, either by your parents, your school or your society. If you did anything that was displeasing or judged as inappropriate by the adults around you, you were admonished, sometimes ever humiliated in front of others. You figured out that there must be appropriate ways to behave and that if you “misbehaved,” you were “bad” and subject to rejection, isolation and pain.
Now, that can really screw up a person’s sense of self-confidence in their own self-expression, don’t you think?
Even now, as adults, our fear of mistakes cripples so much of our potential creativity and confident self-expression. We’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, of forgetting what we mean to say, of doing something “wrong.” Huge chunks of our creative, expressive selves have been strangled because we long ago decided these parts of who we are might not meet the approval of others.
A day doesn’t go by without someone telling me a horror story about how they were humiliated or made to feel “wrong” or unworthy by either a teacher or some authority figure. These humiliations and the habits we’ve formed around them continue to haunt us. In an attempt to stay safe, we’ve stopped owning and expressing our true voice. We’ve allowed ourselves to become silent and small.
But here’s the good news.
When it comes to self-expression, there are no mistakes. There are only spontaneous, unplanned opportunities for connection.
When you forget what you meant to say, or when the microphone goes dead, or your PowerPoint presentation gets all fouled up, or you drop your notes, these are not mistakes. They are perfect opportunities for you to create a new level of engagement and intimacy with your audience.
There is magic in those moments as your agenda falls away and what was planned gives way to something unexpected, fresh and surprising. An extra surge of energy fills the room and offers you the opportunity to ride the wave of that energy.
Let me tell you about my friend Richard. Richard is a singer who doesn’t give concerts very often so when he does, he gets a little nervous. At his last concert, he sailed through his first two songs and we, his audience, were all enjoying the music. As Richard launched into his third tune, he got a little flustered and then, he got a little lost. Rather than try to fumble and fake it, he turned to his band and told them to stop and start again from the top.
In the moment Richard stopped the song, we became involved at a whole new level. We knew we were witnessing something unplanned, something unexpected. And it was kind of thrilling. When Richard started the song anew, the pedal on the piano started to malfunction and the pianist had to stop the song again! All of a sudden, the concert hall became an emergency room as piano doctors were called in to fix the piano.
Meanwhile, Richard was just standing up there with nothing to do. He could have gotten really unnerved by this unexpected chain of events but he didn’t. He just rode with it, used the time to just be with his audience as if he were hosting a party in his living room. He told us a joke. Luckily, it was a good one.
As an audience, we were completely captivated by the whole scene. We were laughing and groaning and buzzing amongst ourselves, AND we were completely engaged with Richard and what was happening on stage moment to moment.
When the piano was finally fixed and Richard started back into his concert, we all felt so much more engaged and included in the show. It was as if we had been directly involved in creating the experience, because we had! Richard had invited us into the experience rather than freaking out and trying to pretend it wasn’t happening.
As a result, we all felt a closer connection to Richard, to his music and to each other. We felt this connection because we had had the chance to just be with Richard the person rather than Richard, the polished performer. Everyone could relate to Richard, the person, but Richard, the singer, we could only appreciate for his musical artistry.
Now, if these “mistakes” or unforeseen circumstance hadn’t happened, would we have still enjoyed the show? Yes. Would we have enjoyed it less? No, but we would have enjoyed it differently. It would have been a fine musical experience. But I don’t think we would have felt such a sense of connection and community if Richard hadn’t stopped that third song and let the madness unfold.
If you can experience these unplanned happenings without judging them as “wrong” or “bad” you will be free to enjoy them for what they are. Fabulous opportunities to let go of your agenda and make a personal, human connection with whomever you are communicating.
Can you let go of your fear of mistakes? Can you begin to feel that there are no mistakes?
What we call a “mistake” is just something we didn’t plan, didn’t prepare for, and perhaps didn’t prefer to have happen. So what! Stay open and be real, and nothing can go “wrong.” It may go differently than expected, but that can be so much more fun and inspiring than anything you could have planned.