Monday, November 10, 2008

Your Habits and Your Past

This fall I relocated both myself and WholeSpeak to the San Francisco Bay Area. It's wonderful to be back - I lived here for almost fourteen years before leaving for my graduate programs in Illinois and Colorado, and then founding WholeSpeak in Boulder, Colorado.

The diversity of the Bay Area rivals or champions almost anywhere else in the United States. From ethnicity to sexual orientation to class, it's all here. To which I say: wonderful! Such diversity makes us more alive, and being surrounded by difference helps us know ourselves and the human condition. We're both universally human and quite unique, as engendered by our ethnicity, socio-economic background, genes, and more.

It's been a blessing to thus be cultivating a far more diverse coaching clientele than in Colorado. I've recently started up some San Francisco workshops, but am especially enjoying doing more one-on-one coaching these days. Right now I'm enjoying working with members of the international business community and with first generation Americans, whose parents immigrated (e.g., Latino Asian-American, Indian-American). They deal with some issues that may be similar to 2nd or later generation Americans in that they may be negotiating cultural "codes" about how appropriate it may be to display emotions or even talk at a loud volume, both of which are pretty helpful when it comes to doing a presentation or speaking in public.

What I repeatedly tell my clients is: you are culturally trained to "perform" in your everyday life in certain ways. There's nothing wrong with this. At the same time, it can function as a confining "box" and limit you, and stop you from fully expressing yourself. This can be quite unconscious, such as having tension in your neck and shoulders, and having fairly shallow breathing, which inhibits your true voice - and your full power - from expressing itself in the world around you. Everyone deals with this, but when also having to negotiate cultural and language barriers, there's an added dimension.

In my experience working with countless clients, it's best acknowledge this, and realize it's part of who you are - at least thus far. But it's not who you'll be forever, especially if you work on it actively. By getting training in public speaking or self-expression (like acting or singing, be it with me or elsewhere), you can slowly expand your box, and redraw the lines, gaining greater comfort, ease, and enjoyment of expression, both for public events and in the course of your life.