Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Significance of Breathing

I posted on this some time ago, but it's big enough a subject to warrant another entry. It's almost impossible to overemphasize the importance of breathing. Aside from the fact that, without it, you'll die.

But the opposite is also true: the more you breathe, the more life you can breathe into you. Most people don't take advantage of the full capacity of their lungs. Did you realize that they are actually bigger on your backside than on your front, and extend further down?

Learning to breathe properly is one of the key ways to develop presence, which is largely about being fully embodied, and present. Why do you think so many meditation techniques focus on the breath? Because they bring us into this moment. And when you're speaking, connecting or engaging with a person or group, Being present is what creates presence.

It's also about connection. When you breathe in, you're breathing in the air that others are breathing. (I know, it sounds gross, but it's a fact.)

Exercise: Visualize that when you breathe in, you are taking in the other person. When exhaling, you're giving back to them.

This simple exercise easily transforms interactions, and fosters open connection. Try it - and leave a comment below as to the results.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Restarting: How to Get Over a Mistake when Presenting

It's been some time since I've blogged, so it's time to get this show back on the road. Hello again.

So let's talk about restarting. What happens when you're in the middle of a presentation - or even in the middle of a conversation, or an interview - and something goes wrong? What do you do?

Unfortunately, the standard response we have most of the time is to shoot ourselves in the foot. How do we do this? By 1) Stumbling over our mistake, and feeling stupid, thus losing confidence for the rest of our spiel, or 2) Refusing to acknowledge that we made a mistake when it's glaringly obvious, pretending we're impervious to error.

So what's the proper thing to do? Let's work backward.

Depending upon the context, and of the nature of what we said, it might actually be fine to do the latter - if no one knew, and if it really was minor. However, if you said something analogous to former candidates for office, and referred to Africa as a country, this simply won't work. Also, #1, feeling stupid and showing it, will get you every time.

The best thing to do: be okay with having made a mistake. Everyone makes them. If it's really minor, stop worrying about it! and just keep going. But if it's noticeable - or if a later point (or the next sentence) is contingent upon having said it correctly, simply stop and correct yourself. Even use humor. I'll occasionally find myself saying something rather wrong (yes, it happens to everyone, even a 20+ year public speaker and performer), and will just stop myself, and acknowledge it, being totally fine with the fact. What happens? People like to see that you can be human, self-deprecating, and simultaneously self-assured enough to admit the fact.

But, at the very least, even if you don't acknowledge the mistake out loud, be okay with it yourself. Then you won't make the mistake obvious and ruin your own experience of what else you have to say.

Oh, and as for myself - why was I gone so long from this blog? I've been busy coaching public speakers and starting a theater company. But I've certainly missed you. It's nice to be back, and I plan to be around a lot more.