I believe that all of Western civilization knows that here in New England we are preparing for a storm, a blizzard with winds over 35 mph and from 12-24 inches of snow. It’s the buzz on the streets, in the work place, in the grocery lines, the dentist office, on FB, Google News headlines; it’s quite literally “in the air.” Everyone is checking their gadgets for the “latest update” and “has school been cancelled?” and ” the trajectory of this historic storm.” The anticipation and excitement is palpable. For those of us who love winter, this what we have been waiting for!
Which brings me to two points related to public speaking. The first is the importance of a positive attitude. Whether the storm is literal or a jazzed-up response to an upcoming presentation, attitude is everything. While I can never control the outcome of my presentation, I am in charge of getting as prepared and present for my audience as possible. In charge is NOT the same as in control and that distinction transforms everything. Especially attitude. In the long grocery line, I struck up a lovely conversation with an 85-year-old woman who was gathering perishables for herself and a few friends. Outside, an argument in the parking lot was comical. Seriously? Trader Joe’s? In Newton, MA? (OK all you cynics, I hear you!).
The second issue is the power of “weather” conversations. During our SpeakWell Partner networking trainings, we brainstorm good subjects for the small talk required to initiate conversation (and make a real connection) with strangers. Usually everyone poo-poos the cliché of weather chat, but it is in fact a powerful binder. Weather affects us and the more “epic” the storm, the more connected we are to having “been there,” “survived that.” I am still thinking about the conversation with the 85-year-old woman that progressed from weather to her weekend (cancelled) flight to Florida, to her strained relationship with her daughter (having just returned from a family reunion, I was particularly interested in her sharing). The point is we NEVER would have spoken had this storm alert not brought us together in that moment.
So please, next time you find yourself engaged in small talk with a stranger who uses weather as a link, please don’t roll your eyes; recognize their effort, add to the conversation and be prepared to see where that leads you. And for whatever storm is brewing, check in with your attitude.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..” John Milton, Paradise Lost
P.S NEWS FLASH! School is cancelled!