Have you ever been to a work function, wedding or funeral when someone takes the stage and doesn’t know when to stop? Their stories are long, rambling and drawn out not to mention off point. The same things are said repeatedly and repeatedly and repeatedly (yes, just like that!) Sighs, eye rolls and drooping heads are all missed cues. As is shifting in seats and whispers as people share their thoughts on the longevity, irrelevance or repetition of the words they are hearing.
They say speaking publicly – in front of a crowd – is up there as one of the great stressors of life. People have so many different reasons for their personal preference to remain seated. Some people find it harder to speak to people they know rather than people they don’t. Some people have had a bad experience and felt shame, embarrassment or feel their personal or professional identity has been damaged. There are many more.
There are plenty of reasons why some people don’t know when to stop. Some get carried away. Some like the sound of their own voice. Some can’t judge the passing of time so keep going because they feel like they’ve not been speaking for long. Some like to tell stories. Some feel like they are approved of or validated in some way if they get up and speak at an important occasion.
Importantly, when it comes to expressing what you feel is important, you don’t want to be the reason why any funeral was unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. Generally, there are some simple ways to not be the person who doesn’t know when to stop:
Find out how long it is appropriate to speak for and stick to the allocated time you have been offered. In the main, you are one part of a dear one’s leave-taking. Understanding who else is speaking and what they are likely to be speaking about are two simple ideas which can make a significant difference to your contribution on the day.
Write out everything you want to say. Write it the way you speak, using words and phrases that suit you.. Allow time for revision and additions and never be afraid to leave that second or third story out…
Prepare some more…
Revise what you’ve written; checking for relevance of your messages in conjunction with other speakers and that you are meeting your time allocation.
I am an advocate of practice makes progress. Not all of us are gifted, natural or talented speakers. I suspect there are very few people who are. The ones who seem like naturals are usually well practiced and highly self-aware. Here’re some steps to practice.
Once you’ve written what you think is appropriate read it out loud to yourself. Make changes as required.
Then read it out loud standing in front of a mirror. If you think that seems foolish or embarrassing imagine what standing in front of a room filled with people and speaking without practice might be like.
These first two rounds also help you become aware what are the parts of your contribution which might be emotional for you. Make changes as required.
Then, just when you think you are good to go, I invite you to find someone you trust – that knows the person you are talking about – to share your contribution with… again, watching out for emotional triggers or tricky words or turns of phrase.
And, just because you can, practice out loud again… as often as you need.
Make sure you have a copy (or two) of your contribution. And ask someone else to bring a copy along (just in case).
In short, knowing when to stop involves planning, doing what you’ve been asked to do, respecting others, writing and practicing and being ready.
Be remembered for all the right reasons!
We have just one life…
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Just One Life… doing and designing dying and death differently and with dignity and distinction.
For more information on doing dying and death differently or to start thinking about how to handle a death of a loved one before you are overtaken by grief, organise a conversation with Jacqui today.
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Jacqui Chaplin is a Lifetime & End-of-Life Commemoration Specialist (a funeral celebrant among other things) based in Melbourne, Australia. She loves capturing stories about the nature of life and being human, as well as, celebrating and commemorating well lived lives and lives that have ended. Jacqui has a passion for bringing the conversations that many of us find difficult to think about, let alone speak about, out in the open so we can see how our stories, values and beliefs influence our attitudes.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.