Speech Smarts

Is Your Mask Wearing?

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Boo… Boo who?   Boo you when you mistake your mask for yourself.  Masking your feelings can come off as a little two faced, especially when what you say is a treat and how you say it is a retreat.  Until we face the fact that we are always wearing a mask, our masks are veiled choices.  When you unveil yourself, you will find masks that you see through, masks that you take off and masks that you put on.

To put on your audience is to mistreat them.  To put on yourself is to defeat yourself before you even deliver your first word.   The mask I put on most often is the “I’m doing fine” one.  Perhaps you have seen my strained smile and heard a cheerful sounding word or two echoing out from behind the eyes of a sad soul.  We wear this mask for each other to avoid imposing our pain on each other.  The problem is that we all have problems.  Pretending that they don’t exist ensures they persist. This mask is a put on, held on by our belief that our troubles are unique and that we must be discreet.  It is scary to say what weighs you down.  It takes courage to speak from the heart.  Cathartic communication is fine when it is refined.  Whether you fail or prevail depends on how you unveil your travails.

Inexperienced and immature speakers pretend their best face is their real face.  Their smiling face is a misfit with the nervous fit going on inside.  Then one day, they rip the mask from their face and speak their truth. They find wonder in their warts. They are vibrant in their emotional vulnerability. It is frightening, exhilarating and unfortunately it is all about them.  Your problems are not the problem, it is your focus.  Your problems are life’s gift to you; what you do with them is your gift to your audience.  Gifted speakers explain the lessons contained within the pain.  You see, the key to connecting is to address the common pain, not just pointing out your pain.  Taking off your mask allows others to take the focus off their pain.  Focusing on our ill fitting masks helps us see through them and sees us through what we have to truly face.

Through every role, we mask part of our soul.  Just like looking into a mirror, we know we are more than our reflection.  We are each other’s mirrors and our masks reflect, connect and ideally respect.  When we respect the desire to see ourselves as we wish, not as we are, we deface ourselves.  Courageous speakers unmask us, by challenging us, to see ourselves for what we are and respect us for who we can become.  They connect their soul with their role and invite us to disconnect from our masks.  When we reflect on what makes us whole, we see it is our hand holding up the mask.  Are you hiding behind a mask or are you too scared to look through another’s?

Your role as a speaker is first to see through your own mask, then to take it off so your audience can put down theirs.  Your task is to help your listeners choose which mask to put on.  The scary part is realizing you have a choice in how you see others and how you see yourself.  Most of us never realize how often our struggles come from trying to get others to wear our masks. Boohoo for you when you do.

[buzzsprout episode=”34313″ player=”true”]


About the Author:

David Nemitz has designed and delivered over 10,000 sales presentations, professional development programs and executive coaching sessions for corporations and governmental organizations such as the US State Department, The French Consulate, and American Express. When he is not helping others define and refine their strengths, you can find him watching the sun set over The Magic City or strolling through The City of Light where he lives with his wife Ninette.