Sundararaman Viswanathan | Jul 17, 2009
“At least to my knowledge.”
“In my humble opinion.”
“If I am not wrong.”
“Hope you don’t mind.”
Every day, we are faced with a typical situation where in we hide behind these phrases. Why is that so? Are we trying to be polite? No! We do so, simply because, we fear the sting of “embarrassment”, if proven otherwise!
What do people fear about being publicly embarrassed? I suspect it might be because, it could prove fatal! Yes, people do commit suicide because they were embarrassed!
Last week, it was just another meeting at our local Toastmasters club*.
Again a session of table topics, and the usual suspects walked up to the lectern, got their topic, and fumbled with words (mind you “words” not even “sentences”) for about 10 seconds and walked back for a round of applause! It is customary in Toastmasters to applaud all speakers regardless of the quality of their performance, just to encourage people! As someone who believed, “One is either a winner or a mere spectator”, I never commended a poor performance. There was never a sense of purpose in my applause at the club meetings so, it was just the ritualistic thud thud thud….
I used to wonder, how embarrassing it must be for those losers who were not able to string together a few theme-related words or coherent sentences for a mere 10 seconds. This was happening for quite some time. That evening, after the meeting, during a casual talk, I stumbled on a startling revelation that one of the speakers was the wife of the President of our club. The very moment I came to know of this fact, my world view about “embarrassment” had changed for ever.
This man, the President of our club, a man of great stature, admired for his public speaking skills, did not have any qualms or embarrassment in bringing his wife, who possessed less than adequate public speaking skills, to the Toastmasters club. It then occurred to me that he would have been a real loser if he had felt embarrassed and had left his wife at home. By not feeling embarrassed and bringing his wife to the very same club, he showed extraordinary levels of maturity, sincerity and importantly, lead by example as to how one could be successful if he/she were to shed the cloak of embarrassment. I am sure his wife and our fellow Toastmaster will one day become a competent speaker!
When I extrapolated the same to other speakers who fumble at the lectern week after week, I can only admire them. The new perspective which I acquired, helped me identify the enduring spirit in people, who, do not feel “embarrassed” but continue to have a go at it, week after week just to ensure they improve their public speaking skills.
I have come to realize that one has a lot to lose by feeling embarrassed.
I have been dying to have a line or quote from myself which people could use. Therefore when I framed the quote “Embarrassment is the proudest virtue of a loser”, I was delighted! But as always, there was a thought lingering at the back of my mind that I might make a big fool out of myself by claiming the competence and wisdom to frame a quote. So, I wanted to dilute my stance by adding one of the escape lines mentioned above like, “In my opinion, embarrassment is the etc….”
But then, I realized that I was going back to the same old bad habit of wearing the cloak of embarrassment! I have shed that cloak now. Instead, if someone can prove that the quote was already attributed to a great thinker, I will apologize and get on to the job of shaping another quote. Otherwise, I will never frame a quote in my life!
Also, if people who committed suicide because of embarrassment, had just stepped back and thought for a second, they would have realized that it is always a better choice to live and be embarrassed for a moment rather than die and be remembered as a coward!
Next week when I go to my local Toastmasters club, my applause will have a sense of purpose and will probably louder than anybody else’s!
* Toastmasters International is a movement started in 1924 at Santa Anna USA by a visionary called Ralph C. Smedley with an objective to improve public speaking skills and build leadership qualities in an individual. A typical meeting consists of 3 parts (prepared speech session, evaluation of the prepared speeches and then a table topic session). The table topic session gives every member a chance to speak extempore for 2 minutes on a given topic. Today there are about 200,000 members and the movement is spread across 82 countries.
For more details visit: www.toastmasters.org
Filed Under: Miscellaneous