365 Day Blog Post Challenge 2019
342. Tell about a work experience
I started working and making my own money when I was 12, so I’ve accumulated a lot of work experiences over the years. I recall one work experience that has stuck in my memory for the last 20+ years, so apparently it had a pretty big impact on me.
When I worked for Peerless Lighting Corp. when I was in my early 20’s, they thought it would be a good idea to send me to a Dale Carnegie Public Speaking course. I had somehow managed to get away with doing very little speaking while I was in school. I pretty much got away with sitting in the back of the class and rarely if ever speaking. So imagine, an incredibly shy person, heading off to a public speaking class.. alone and afraid. Although I had had many jobs throughout my junior high and high school years, this was actually my first “real” adult job, so I really wanted to do good and impress. Whatever the expectations were from my employer in terms of what I would gain from this class, I’m sure if I would have been graded on my progress, I would have failed dramatically.
I still remember sitting in the parking lot out in front of the building where the class would be. If I recall correctly, I believe it was a 4 or 5 week class, once or twice a week in the evenings after work. Night one was torture before I even walked inside. I sat in the car and felt horribly sick to my stomach (clearly anxiety). I had a pounding migraine and was nauseated. I’m one of those people that has to be on time though, so I managed to force myself out of the car and into the building. The trauma started as quickly as the introductions. Even something as simple as standing up and introducing myself in front of a group gives me a panic attack.
Each class was a different topic or variation on public speaking. We had to stand and read something to the group, we had to do a group activity where we all gave a little “skit” and we also had to get up and give a presentation. I was miserable the whole time.
I didn’t learn any public speaking skills from that course. I was a terrible public speaker before the course and continued to be after the course (and still continue to be today), but it was during those classes that I did realize something about myself. It was then that I realized that my fear for speaking in a group is so bad that I feel the need to go over what I’m going to say 100 times in my head before it’s my turn to speak. This includes something as simple as an introduction of myself. Why does this realization matter? It matters because it means that if I am not the first person to speak and I have to wait, I am not listening to ANYTHING that is being said by other people before me. I still have this problem today. If I am in a meeting and I know that I have a presentation that I have to give at a certain time, everything that comes before my presentation is a big blur, simply because I was so busy going over what I would be saying that I didn’t hear a word of whatever was being said during that time. It is actually a pretty big problem because there are often times I really need to pay attention to what is going on, but my brain just won’t allow it.
So, do I have any takeaways from this course, or any other public speaking classes I’ve taken? Only that I suck at public speaking. I think there are just somethings that cannot be taught, even with continual practice. Some people have the ability to speak with confidence and no anxiety. Some of us just do not have that trait. I do not enjoy public speaking. As said by Dale Carnegie himself, “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing”. I can’t imagine there will ever be a day in my life where public speaking is “fun” to me, so changes of being successful at it are probably not in my cards.