In the movie Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey, Jr. plays Kirk Lazurus, a 5-time Academy Award-winning method actor who’s had “pigmentation augmentation” surgery to darken his skin for his role as an African American. Downey never breaks character, leading a cast member to question his authenticity. Lazurus defends himself saying:
“I know who I am. I’m the dude playin’ the dude, disguised as another dude!”
Have you ever been the dude playin’ the dude disguised as another dude when communicating? Whether it’s addressing your team, working with peers or updating your boss, are you seen as believable or insincere? Authentic or calculated?
The ability to communicate authentically is important to success as a leader, manager and team member. Authenticity inspires. Yet many presentations, meetings and discussions are perceived as self serving or promoting the status quo.
Sometimes it’s the words but more often than not it’s the delivery—our non verbal communication. When our spoken message and body language don’t match up, the audience follows the non verbal message every time.
How and why does this mismatch occur?
Some people say “I don’t want to look scripted so I’m going to wing it,” then their body language conveys discomfort and a lack of confidence. Others actually over prepare and come across as stilted, leaving the audience apathetic or uninspired.
Unfortunately, total spontaneity and traditional practice methods won’t produce authenticity. In both instances our nonverbal conversation makes more of an impact than our spoken words. Instead practice these 4 Steps to Authenticity:
- Convey your Big Idea in their terms. Your audience will think “What’s in it for me?” so practice your answer.
- Craft stories that create connections. Keep their attention and thoughts on you by relating stories to them.
- Embrace your passion. Show them how deeply you feel about the subject. If you aren’t passionate about it, you can’t expect your audience to be.
- Listen and adjust. Practice how you will assess their body language. Think of how you’d adjust based on their responses both non verbal and verbal.
Preparation focused on them—your audience—leads to the authentic you.
Or as Kirk Lazurus said:
I don’t read the script. The script reads me.