"I forgot the words to three of my songs (audience: 135,000 people). And that was it for me. I never sang professionally... for 27 years" (Barbra Streisand talking with Larry King).
Barbra's "greatest talent isn't acting or singing; it's her ability to hide her fear" ("Petrified," The New Yorker, 8/28/2006).
Mistake #1: Assuming you know what's going on inside others.
Suppose, at the next leadership offsite, your CEO decides to forego the usual PowerPoint slides.
Instead, he stands up, and in a commanding, operatic voice, he sings out the quarterly financials.
You're impressed. And yet, you know nothing about the CEO's inner experience. He could be extremely confident, or extremely nervous, or extremely insane.
Mistake #2: Assuming you should feel as confident inside as others appear outside.
A basic problem in human relations, says psychologist Daniel Gilbert, is that we see ourselves from inside-out, but see everyone else from outside-in.
"STOP COMPARING YOUR INSIDES TO OTHERS' OUTSIDES."
That's my favorite line (paraphrased) from a so-so novel called "The First Patient."
It's about a U.S. President whose physician vanishes. Then the President has a psychotic episode which, to me, just seemed like a predictable reaction to bad health care.
Mistake #3: Assuming other people can see your insides.
I sometimes work with managers who, during high-stakes presentations, assume their nervousness is transparent.
But often the only reason your audience knows you're nervous is because you feel compelled to announce it.
Mistake #4: Assuming you can see your outsides.
The other night, I was having dinner with a senior executive who complained about one of her managers:
"At meetings, she just looks totally bored. And she has no idea how she comes across. But—here's the odd part—she wants her own staff to get trained in body language."
Sometimes my wife wonders about my body language. "What's that face?" she asks.
You would think I would know. After all, it is my face.
Tip: You don't need to feel confident (inside) to look confident (outside). But you do need to know how you look.
© Copyright 2011 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.
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Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.