Who’s your favourite hero? Why?
Mine possess the qualities I aspire to have: Bruce Wayne, James Bond, Ripley, Rocky, Wolverine and Indiana Jones are focused, courageous, tenacious, audacious (and other words ending in ‘acious’). They can easily do the things which I find difficult.
Twisted and Evil
However, much more interesting are my favourite villains: the Joker, Magneto, Darth Vader, Clubber Lang (and the many Bond villains). It’s liberating to fantasise being a villain; I envy their lack of morals because it removes the constant self-checking for causing offence (I suspect I rarely offend anyone, but doing so feels worthy of a self-inflicted samurai-style career-ending disembowelment as punishment). I’m drawn to their additional qualities (they already possess the hero’s, that’s why they are their match). My favourite villains are often ruthless, selfish and greedy, sometimes with a sense of humour (which some heroes lack because they’re so earnest). Their lack of inhibition is wonderfully inspiring (being cruel to someone who deserves it is OK, right?). The point is, freeing yourself from your built-in behaviour auto-correct allows you to be authentic and therefore substantially more interesting as a speaker.
Now, imagine your best possible speaking experience*. Would you be:
My Prediction? Paiiiiin
What if it didn’t matter what people thought? What would you say and how would you say it? Does it really matter if you don’t conform the to the usual expected format and style? Or would breaking the mould actually make you stand out in a positive way, as someone with a fresh perspective who wants to help everyone no matter what? In this case, imagine that you had no fear of causing offence. You may overstep the boundary of what’s acceptable at the place you’re speaking, but you may also come across as authentic, heartfelt and dedicated, with a vision that wakes people up and stimulates new thought; that’s the best communication of all.
Imagine what a villain would do in your meeting; they wouldn’t worry about causing offence, so they’d call out any dishonesty or pretence, they’d criticise openly and offer solutions without ego. If you’re being positive, then highlighting a problem – and a solution for it – is a very good thing, whether you insult people or not. Your purpose wasn’t to offend, that was simply a by-product, and a price worth paying if you reach the solution. Be an adult not a child when it comes to your ego.*
Watch the World Burn
Cruelty and selfishness are not helpful traits to display in a meeting or presentation, but honesty, directness and a desire to improve things certainly are.
* Visualising yourself at your best is a great way to archive speaking confidence. Even if you feel you’ve never spoken impressively in front of people, seeing yourself doing so in your mind’s eye is a powerful tool because it makes a new neural connection that tricks your subconscious, which is the part of your mind that’s busy messing you up when you’re trying to get yourself together before your important talk. Step into the role of this fearless speaker and you can become that character with those highly desirable attributes. It’s a trick, for both you and the audience, but it’s one that works.
* See Eric Berne’s ‘Transactional Analysis‘.