Witness Protection – Friends or Strangers?

When you do something scary or stressful — bungee jumping, public speaking, etc. — do you prefer to be surrounded by friends or by strangers? Why?

My first real attempt at public speaking came when I was selected to be a TEDxABQ Youth speaker. As soon as I sent in the application, I regretted it.

What was I thinking? This was a Youth event and I was 80!

I certainly could tell the kids about being volunteers. Hadn’t I been one at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center for 28 years? And an usher at the University’s Popejoy Hall since 1995? Not to mention helping the city’s RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program) all over the place.

But I did it; and I was – to begin with – surrounded by strangers: the other speakers, and the coaching team. We were encouraged to critique each other’s talks, but told to start with praise before the criticism which should be constructive.

That’s exactly how the coaches operated. Over several weeks we worked on our texts, gestures, voices, and before long we were with friends, not strangers. Our fearfulness turned to excitement.

Strangers are more likely to be critical, and don’t know what you are really feeling; or if you make a wrong note, or leave out an important line. Only you will know that. But even a friend can say the wrong thing, while meaning to be helpful.

So I believe that stressful and scary situations can be overcome depending on the way they are handled whether by friends or strangers.

A cup of kindness goes a long way.


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