ECG Founder & Chairman, Peter Giuliano, discusses how to recover and practice your Best Natural Style℠
Some years ago, going through a stack of old books, I found one published in the 19th century on the art of public speaking. Reading it, I was surprised that the bulk of the book focused on gestures expected of all public speakers: when the open hand should cover the heart, when a fist should be raised or brought down, how and when the head should move. It's not hard to see that there's nothing "natural" about these recommendations.
At ECG, we believe that the best communicator is anchored in the real person, not a manufactured persona with programmed gestures. While helping unlock the "real person" isn't easy, the rewards are tremendous.
This is bad counsel. As adults, we tend to live in our self-built comfort zones, and our mannerisms, behaviors, even how we use our voices, may not be appropriate in all communication situations.
Just "being yourself" in all probability is not your Best Natural Style.
By the time most of us reach adulthood, we've adopted modes of behavior and speaking that we feel comfortable with or that we've become convinced are "appropriate." In reality, most of us live not as who we are but as who we've become thanks to outside influences.
Anyone who has reared a child may recognize this: as infants, we developed a gestural and facial language that spoke as loudly as words. As we grew, we literally jumped for joy when excited. When something was funny, we laughed uproariously. When something made us sad, we plopped to the floor and scrunched our faces.
By the time we entered school, we could describe things or events using appropriate facial expressions while focusing on the eyes of the listener. We worked like artists to paint pictures in the air with our gestures. We spoke with our faces, our bodies, our eyes, our voices.
Where did that expressive child go? She grew up.
Lower your voice … Please stop waving your arms around … Wipe that look off your face …
Most of us grew up with such phrases, and we probably needed to hear them sometimes. But they also diminished our natural expressiveness. Many of us were "over-socialized" to the extent that what now seems normal is a nearly flat communication style, one largely void of emotion and nuance.
That's not your Best Natural Style.
RECLAIM YOUR BEST NATURAL STYLE
Take a moment to think about an exciting vacation, a recent life or professional challenge, an event elating or sad. Next, objectively examine how you shared it with others. Or recall a time that you told a story to friends, your sister, other family members.
My guess is that in both instances, you at least touched on your Best Natural Style. You varied your voice, used gestures, maintained eye focus. You chose words for their descriptive and emotional value.
Those instances capture your Best Natural Style. They are your strength. Play to them.
Oh, sure, in the corporate world, there are limitations to how expressive one can be but not as many as you've probably imposed.
Our counsel is that you follow the paraphrased advice of the late Peter Drucker: don't concentrate on eradicating weaknesses; expend energy building your strengths. Focusing on the first might help you become average; focusing on the second may make you a star. And it's stellar performance that builds careers. Naturally.