There are two camps in public speaking:
- Camp #1: Never let the truth get in the way of a good speech.
- Camp #2: If you tell the truth you will never struggle to remember what to say next.
Which camp are you in?
Some very good speakers have made an art of … massaging the truth to fit their ends. They tell an engaging and entertaining tale. People laugh, ooh, aah, and give them rave reviews … some of the time.
Have you ever found out that a great speaker you respected and admired didn’t quite tell the truth? Maybe it wasn’t his story, or maybe she changed the circumstances.
Did your opinion of that speaker change when you discovered the truth?
One very gifted woman contacted me from the States to help her with a competition speech. Something didn’t sit right. Her story seemed too self-elevating. It didn’t feel real. I wanted to like her. She was advocating a worthy idea, but it felt contrived and easy.
Finally I said “It’s missing something – that raw element – your struggle and your pain.”
That’s when she admitted that most of the story was completely false. Her tone became soft as she shared her TRUE story. Her voice cracked. Her sentences were halted, as though the words stuck in her throat as she related a story of loss, humiliation and regret.
We were silent on the phone for about 8 seconds as I digested her words. I had been there, with her, in the moment, reliving her pain, confusion, disbelief, and sorrow.
“That’s the story you should be telling.”
She wasn’t convinced. Maybe the pain was too fresh, the humiliation and regret too deep. She lost that competition. We reconnected and I urged her to consider taking the speech to women’s groups but telling the REAL story.
This brave woman swallowed her pain and fear of being judged. She offered her truth to women’s groups … and was an instant hit!
Personally, I don’t think you can go wrong by telling the truth. If I wanted to hear a fairy tale, I’d watch a movie or read a book. When I listen to a speaker, I don’t want to wonder “Is this the truth?”. Part of that has to do with my hard-wired, non-negotiable top core values.
Ninen years ago I took a values assessment. I wish I’d taken it much sooner. “Honesty” is my number two core value. It has been stomped on in every job I’ve ever had, every relationship, every group. Why? Because most human beings have other values that are non-negotiable. It’s not right or wrong; it just is. We’re each gifted with different hard-wiring, no matter how we are raised. I have always seen, heard, processed and responded through a different filter than most people.
This is not a huge blessing in a world where “Truth Manipulation” is accepted, even expected. Having honesty as one of your top core values is a real challenge.
I envy the entertaining speakers who can easily craft tall tales. They have a tool in their tool-box that I will never have. It’s a “Truth Manipulation Super-Power”. Of course, just like in the comics, a Super Hero’s power is not only her greatest strength. If used unwisely, it can be her greatest demise.
While few people will have “Honesty” as one of their top 3 non-negotiable core values, you never know who is in your audience. Those people’s trust, once lost, might never be regained. Is your not-so-truthful story worth more than the trust of your audience? Are you changing the truth for their sake … or for your own?
“Offer your truth. It’s the most powerful gift you have to give.” ~ authentic Carol Carterism #36 [click to tweet this!]
OWN your truth. Celebrate your real journey. Share your mistakes, your fumbles, your flaws. Let the audience learn from your experience, rather than a manipulated, candy-coated, watered-down version. After all …
“Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement” Rita Mae Brown
I’m a terrible liar, and I’m grateful. I’ve had to master the art of turning the truth into a truth worth telling … and, to be honest (no pun intended), it’s forced me to up my game. Telling the truth to my audience has boosted my:
- compassion, and
Telling the truth to complete strangers is not easy. It takes time. Little by little, being vulnerable becomes easier. Here’s your encouragement – When someone comes up to you and tells you that your story has changed her life, it’s all worth it!
So … which camp are you in?
Please share your thoughts below. This is a hot topic among speakers. Opinions aren’t right or wrong. Your perspective will be honoured and appreciated. As I said, we are all uniquely wired.
Sincerely ~ Carol Carter