Thursday, August 16, 2012

3 Toastmastering lessons from my little daughter...

An article that I wrote for TUTI PALMS toastmasters club newsletter.

I got a message from our Chief Editor TM Uma... She requested (actually, ordered! ...) "Saro! We are producing a newsletter this month. You are writing an article for that ... and it is going to be about Women's day. By the way, the article is due next week".

I was thinking about it for a week. I don't want to give a gyan about Women's achievements and their importance in our society. I wanted to write something about women which will also be relevant to toastmasters.

I'm fortunate to have seen the multiple faces of women - thanks to my mom, sister, wife and little daughter. Each one of them is different and they make my life's equation complete. To stay away from controversies at home, I decided to write about the toastmastering skills that I learned when raising my little daughter :)

1) Yes! You can do it

It was about 5 years ago. My wife and I were helping our little daughter to walk... she was 10 months old, then. She took a few tentative steps, and fell down. My wife and I didn't show our disappointment on our face, when she fell down. We continued to cheer her up… "Mitra! You are doing great... try again..." "Mitra ! It is OK... You can do it".... "Mitra! Only a few steps more... Common".

When Mitra took her first 5 steps continuously without falling, we became so proud.

Don't we do exactly the same thing in our toastmasters meetings? When a fellow member couldn't answer a Table Topic or forgets a speech in between, we continue to encourage them to talk. There are times when we even pray that our fellow toastmaster shouldn't fail. We never criticize our toastmasters when they fail. Rather, we provide them a constructive feedback. Thus, we provide a safe environment for everyone to experiment, fail, learn and improve. We always tell them "Yes! You can".

2) Vocal Variety / Body Language 

"Dad, I saw a HUGE elephant today when coming back from school"... My daughter was narrating her experience of seeing an Elephant on the road... with her eye balls popping out and arms stretched wide. I was quite impressed by the tone of her voice and her gesture. Her face was literally glowing when she said that.
I'm sure all of us were expressive when we were kids. But, somehow we lost our voice and body language when we grew up! I guess it was because our elders always told us to "lower our voice" or "not to raise our hands", when speaking.
Now, we are trying to rediscover those skills by doing speeches in toastmasters :)

3) Getting repeatable good behaviors

I read a book called “How to teach so that kids can listen”. The book talks about “How to motivate kids to get repeatable behaviors?”. The author says “Don’t just compliment your kid, but compliment them for a specific reason”.

I tried to experiment it. Most of the times, my daughter doesn't clean up her room before going to bed in the night. There will be toys spread all around. My wife ends up cleaning them every day. One night, my daughter cleaned up the room herself, without even being told. I wanted to appreciate her for that. Instead of just saying “Great job Mitra !”, I said “Mitra! I like the way you are keeping your room neat and clean. You are saving a lot of time for mom. I wish you can do that every day.  Great job”. When I communicated the specific reason for which she is getting the appreciation, she understood that “I’m getting this appreciation because I kept the room neat and clean”. Now everyday night, she cleans her room before going to bed.

You can use the same technique for adults also. After all, we were also kids once upon a time.

For example, instead of saying “Senthil! You did a great job of publishing our first newsletter”, you can say “Senthil! You displayed extraordinary commitment and passion to produce our first newsletter. You were able to make it happen despite the challenges you had in getting articles from our friends. Your persistent follow-ups paid-off. Great job”. Now, Senthil will be motivated to display his commitment, passion, and persistency whenever he gets a chance.

I wish all the toastmasters of our Tuticorin Palms Toastmasters Club a very happy Women’s day celebration.

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