Greetings from Palo Alto! I’m here training a senior team in Tech. What a treat!
Many people I work with are supremely bright, quite introverted and find it hard to step into the spotlight in an environment that constantly demands it.
And they most certainly have an aversion to anything woo-woo.
Imagine my team’s reaction when I described the sorts of things Drama School made me do many moons ago.
In Animal Class – yes, Animal Class – we were told to choose an animal and then… become the animal. The theory behind this is that we explore movements from the animal kingdom and then imbue our human characters with behaviours different to our own. Made sense. Kinda.
I chose a lion.
Well, lions like to sleep. A lot. And lounge around in the grass. Both of which are things I also like to do. A LOT.
So, I became the best lion I could be for 45 minutes on a Monday morning at Arts Educational Drama School, whilst wearing a black Lycra onesie (Don’t ask).
However, one day the teacher noticed something amiss. Was Amy sleeping this whole time? Guilty as charged. So the teacher decided I would fare better as…. a meerkat.
Have you ever seen a meerkat? It’s basically a cat on steroids. I was forced to spend the next month frantically tearing around the rehearsal room without stopping. And I was NEVER allowed to lie down. Not once.
That, my friends, is an extreme level of woo-woo: Instruction that achieves little beyond …exhaustion.
Other less outrageous woo-woo instructions I’ve heard over the years include:
“Be more outgoing… more upbeat!”
“Show em tits and teeth!”
“Know all the answers”
“Come on…SELL it to me!”
And plenty more silly advice…
If you’re ever on the receiving end of equivalent nonsense, my one instructive is this:
Turn around. Walk in the opposite direction. Don’t look back.
A great piece of advice I heard was from an eminent improvisation teacher who worked with some of the best actors. He said:
Dare to be dull.
And it works because it’s a counter-intuitive instruction to prevent you from becoming, quite frankly, a performance puppet. When we stop trying to please others with our performance, we finaly become authentic and interesting.
There is so much richness in human behaviour when it is not being forced into a prescriptive box!
In our fast-paced, intense and ever-changing business environment where there is huge pressure to perform, to think on our feet and to please others, it takes a brave person to dare NOT to perform: dare NOT to please and to actually think for themselves.
The downside? We risk disapproval. However, is it better to force yourself to be someone you are not just to win the favour of others? Absolutely not.
If you’re more of an introvert – and the majority of people are – then know this: You have a superpower. It is precisely because of your reflective nature that you will do enormously well. The missing piece is simply the courage of your convictions.
In our noisy world, where most people clamour for attention, we need more people who value their reflective nature, who prefer to think before they speak and who are sensitive and often brilliantly creative.
So, remember. Don’ try so hard to please. Breathe, take your space and speak when you’re ready.
Because greater truths are spoken with a few well-chosen words than a long-winded diatribe of nothing in particular.