When I was little, the only time the parents could talk to their children was when they returned home from the rice fields. But at the table, we were not allowed to talk. And away from the table, the parents would be busy farming. They slept early and got up very early. All the year round, there was always something to occupy their hands and their minds. Therefore, we hardly had a conversation. Our home dialect was mostly built around a very basic daily life. And our emotional dialogue was through eyes or in silence, not words. Still I can only speak half the language, and cannot communicate well with my family. So you know I was never much of a talker.
Luckily I could play with words in my diaries and talk to my imaginary friends. But this didn’t help me build communication skills with real people in real situations. There would always be a barrier or a gap. Even four or five years ago, an English friend told me on the street, “Hey! I can’t hear you if you talk with your back to me.”
I know it was a sign of my inferiority. My weakness. Until tonight, I’m going to share with you how SH Leadership TMC has made me confident and drives me crazy. It’s the people, the people and the people.
Most of my life I was discouraged from speaking – like one interviewer who interrupted my self-introduction, saying that I was too short to be a teacher. But when I first stood on this stage, it wasn’t that scary. In fact, I felt welcomed to be recognized with nice people, including that night’s Sharing Master Steve.
After joining several times, I observed that there are many great people in this club. Not only speakers and leaders but also guests. I decided to become a member so that I would have more chances to learn. My positive-change intention then was just to make one proper speech, as simple as that. And I did my icebreaker speech Transformations. It was poetic as the most handsome president Brian evaluated, but it was disconnected from the audiences as I made no eye contact at all. This was assured by Michelle Wu, who evaluated my second speech Aftertaste and told me, “Novel language is all about liberating the soul of the author, while public speaking is about making an instant connection with different souls.”
That was really useful to me, and I took all the feedback seriously. As Suhail once suggested, “Your speech is too much like a speech. Your mind is framed by the concept of speech. You should jump out of the box, and talk to the audience instead of yourself.”
Believe me, it was hard. But I tried hard too. And what Alvin emphasized about the purpose of a speech opened a window for me. I had only grasped half the meaning of a speech. What is speech? Speech is the communication or expression of thoughts and ideas in spoken words. I knew expressing my feelings on the stage is just like talking to my imaginary friends in a diary. But how about communicating ideas or interacting with you?
This is something I wanted to learn. And later, I understood that it’s not just about a speech, not just about me. It’s about me becoming one of you, one of us. We are not only guests in this room or members of this community, but also real people who would influence or empower the others. I never thought I would connect with you in this way. But you know what? This enthusiasm or motivation of mine is not originally mine. It is yours. You make me crazy. Thank you to all the leaders of this club, and to all of you lovely people. Thank you all for driving me crazy.
About Heather Cai:
Heather is the daughter of a subsistence rice farmer from Fujian Province, China. She tells stories from her experience as one of the poorest. She writes her dream to share with the world, a very personal place. She has now written two English literary novels and is looking to being published in the UK. Her passion is a splendid cocktail or milkshake of word, image, music and art. She likes collecting books, DVDs, papers, stones, shells and leaves. She desires for all forms of natural beauty. She is currently living in Shanghai and serving as Sergeant-at-arms (SAA) for Shanghai Leadership Toastmasters Club.
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