Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tell me something about yourself

In speech class, I encourage my students to share something about themselves in their speeches. What I mean is that instead of giving a speech full of facts and statistics, connect the speaker to the audience through self-disclosure. Telling a pertinent story about yourself in a speech may tell us why you care about your subject, which, in turn, makes us care. Stories that expose our vulnerabilities can connect us on a level with which we may not be fully aware.

The rewards can be great, but sometimes speakers and writers can be hesitant to “let it all hang out.” There is no right or wrong as to what to reveal and what not to reveal, and everyone has to make their own decisions. I am comfortable telling my students some of the errors or embarrassing incidents that have happened to me, and they laugh, and I think it helps give them permission to not worry about being perfect, and it connects us. But there is a risk when it comes to self-disclosure, so there are a few stories that I will never share, and that’s OK. I have enough embarrassing moments to go around, so I’m not worried about keeping some to myself.

In an interview on NPR with Walter Kirn, author of eight books, including Up in the Air, he said writers try to “build bridges between the parts of people’s selves that are hidden from people’s social lives.” He once had an editor who told him that people don’t want to hear how handsome he is or how well he does, they want to hear about screw ups and embarrassing habits -- those are the things we all have in common.

Let’s celebrate our imperfections and share who we (or our characters) really are, to strengthen our writing, and connect us. 

Write soon,