If you have ever heard me speak you probably know this story of an Ah-Ha moment in my life – which I will never forget.
A number years ago I was speaking at a conference for judges and lawyers and the luncheon speaker was a lady from a presidential administration (I didn’t care for) and from what I had seen of her tenure I was also unimpressed by her and was not interested in hearing her speak. I only went to the luncheon to eat the free chicken lunch – then I was going shopping.
Unfortunately, I could not exit the room before she was introduced to speak so I stuck and I had to stay and listen. Simply put I was amazed… she was excellent and old hard hearted me realized I might have made a mistake about her. She told of her upbringing and how she and her mom built their house by clearing the land, cutting logs and figuring out how to wire the place and put in the plumbing. She told about growing up with a desire to go to law school and then over time her hard work was recognized and lo and behold she was nominated to a cabinet position in a presidential administration…WOW it was good stuff. And when she was done speaking – the audience – me included… rose to our feet with a standing ovation…and the audience rushed the stage to shake her hand and get a photo. Now I’m too cool to rush the stage so I stood back and watched…and then I saw it. For the last 30 minutes she had regaled us with stories of her life and when she was done – she closed (no…she slammed) the book of her life shut, and we were left with as little as we walked in with.
As she stood there to have her photo taken and shake hands with some audience members, I noticed she was looking over the heads of her adoring fans to the back of the room, she looked down to the floor and to the side of the room – never making real eye contact and speaking very little to the adoring crowd. She was uncomfortable. And as quickly as she had opened herself up and allowed us to glimpse into her life – she slammed the shell of protection tightly around her when she was done.
My Ah-Ha moment came when I watched the group who had rushed the stage in anticipation of the humanness of the ice queen – only to turn away with hurt, disgust (at ourselves for believing she was different than we thought she was) and anger. The comments at dinner that night proved me right – collectively they reviled her – she broke their hearts – she was untrue – the dinner table discussion resounded that it would have been better if she had never opened up then to open and close in the span of a half-hour.
Folks when you open yourself up to show the real you – you must stay open to prove the real you.
Here I am years later, and I’ll never forget that day. It would have been better if she had told a typical Washington inside the beltway boring story then to have opened and shut and leave the audience wondering who was behind the mask.
From this life changing experience my point is this…I tell my audiences never, never, never dismiss those who come up to you afterwards to speak, shake your hand, say a kind word or simply to introduce themselves. Sometimes they just want to say – you were great – it is your responsibility speaker (changer of lives of others) to give them that chance to say thank you!
Always, Acknowledge With Graciousness those who come to speak to you give them that chance to say thank you!