It was a couple days before the business leaders' lunch that my colleague and I were co-hosting, and the old familiar anxiety began to gnaw at the edges of my awareness. The lunch was actually a pretty informal affair, but yes...I would be opening with a 10 minute presentation. I was only barely conscious of the thoughts, but they were lurking: Will I be engaging? Will they find my ideas credible? Will I gain respect...or lose it?
Tough thoughts. Familiar ones. But this time I turned the tables on them.
For the two mornings leading up to the lunch, I spent some time reading through a list of the 16 men and women who were planning to attend. As I read each name, I thought about where they were in their life journey, the challenges they might be facing, and the opportunity for their lives to be impacted by this gathering. I prayed for each one to experience whole new levels of joy and purpose in the coming year. It was exhilarating!
And it set my heart totally at ease.
It's not a new idea, but it is a powerful one. And this time I experienced it firsthand: It's not about me; it's all about them! The transfer of attention away from myself to those I planned to speak to was transformational. So simple, so freeing.
And the principle holds true beyond public speaking. In our business meetings, our family dinners, chats with neighbors, client lunches--yep, it's still about them. It's not that other people are intrinsically more valuable than we are or that their opinions matter more than ours. No, it's a matter of focus. When we engage with another human being and our primary attention is on ourselves--how we're feeling, how we're being perceived, etc--it's a defensive posture. And it fails.
Conversely, when we are secure in who we are and the value of what we bring, we are free to engage fully with others...being attentive to their needs, their desires, their good. The need to protect our interests and manage our image recedes, and we can be fully present to another human being. This is when great things happen.
The lunch came off well, but more importantly, my heart was free to be there and enjoy the people we were there to serve. Are you with me?