~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
Ever notice that the word “heart” contains both “ear” and “hear”? In order to really hear what your reverse mortgage clients and prospects are telling you, it’s essential to listen with the ear of the heart.
Speaking coach Lee Glickstein, with whom I studied, calls this type of listening “Alchemical Listening“.
Lee’s teaching method is unconventional. In lieu of the critique that’s standard in some of the well-known speaker trainings, Speaking Circles International offers a radical approach: allowing the natural speaker within to emerge minus “constructive criticism”. With no agenda, both speaker and audience are free to simply be present with one another in the moment. This wellspring of unconditional support creates connection, and with connection, stage fright gradually dissolves and creativity, passion, humor, and storytelling emerge. By receiving only brief, positive feedback for whatever they choose to share, hesitant speakers transform into authentic, powerful presenters who form a heart connection with their audience, rather than just aiming to deliver a message.
This insightful approach arose out of Lee’s awareness that we are all innately self-critical, and that additional criticism, no matter how well intentioned, does not diminish anxiety. Knowing in advance that whatever they do or say will not be judged, it’s far easier for Speaking Circle participants to speak spontaneously — from the heart.
He explains how this process, which he calls Relational Presence, “rewires the brain to share … generously. By bringing a sense of appreciation and gratitude into every relational encounter, we flow and glow with authentic presence in public and private moments.”
This same attention to attunement can be applied whether we’re the ones listening to seniors with authentic presence, or sharing what we know about senior living possibilities at local Rotary Clubs, senior centers, retirement communities, or business lunch-and-learns.
Here are seven steps to deactivate podium panic and speak from the heart:
• Prepare. While the Speaking Circles model is extemporaneous, this only works in practice when you’re an experienced speaker who’s given a similar talk numerous times. Most people who appear to speak impromptu are actually well versed in their material. Create some index cards with the salient points you want to cover, depending on your audience and the time allotted. Then practice your talk beforehand, ideally with someone supportive who can help you enhance your presentation.
• Adapt what you know. Your senior marketplace expertise can unfold numerous speech topics. For instance, you could draw from your knowledge of older adults and hearing loss, how best to work with seniors, and even this article, to develop a talk for business professionals in complementary fields about the importance of listening with the ear of the heart to senior clients.
• Gear your topic to your audience. If you’re speaking to a group of seniors who may have heard the term “reverse mortgage” but don’t know much beyond the phrase itself, it makes sense to craft an introductory talk that explains what a reverse mortgage is in simple language, perhaps with bullet points that are available afterwards as a handout.
• Customize your content. With a little planning, you can adapt the same core message for different groups. The talk about listening with the ear of the heart can be a “how to” for loan originators that uses HECM jargon, and a more general piece on the best ways to work with seniors, for a Rotary Club meeting.
• Animate your talk with a terrific title. If it’s humorous, so much the better. Here are a few senior-specific ideas: “How Shifting Into Reverse Can Help You Move Forward”, “You’ve Paid for Your House; Now Let Your House Pay You!”
• See the audience as your support team. No matter how many butterflies are hatching in your stomach, remember that the people seated before you have come here with one purpose: to hear what you have to share. They want you to succeed! View the audience members as your allies, and don’t apologize for being nervous.
• Reframe anxiety as enthusiasm. Excitement and nervousness are identical emotions in the body — it’s all a matter of perspective. Keep your focus on how the information you have to share will help your listeners improve their lives, grow their businesses, or whatever your topic is designed to do, and this intention will come through. Speak directly to one individual at a time, and speak from the heart. Your public speaking jitters will be perceived as enthusiasm for your subject — which, in fact, is true.