The nuns at my convent school could channelise my tendency to be outspoken, into elocution and recitation competitions. I was confident of my ability to express myself, by the time I reached college. In the professional college where technical prowess was more valued than speaking skills, I was merely flowing along, participating in a random debate here, a recitation session there. But my general perception was that eloquence was something laughed at and not really appreciated in that environment.
During post graduation, one faced a totally different predicament. Although the Profs were really chilled out, during some study sessions, some no-nonsense batch mates told me that my accent apparently was so palpable that it dripped coconut oil all over the place. Consequently, in some team presentations, others with perfect accents spoke more. In fact a batch mate quipped, albeit jocularly,”You really over estimate your potential, don’t you?” Few around tittered. I was devastated.
What remained, of my fragile self confidence, totally shattered on the day the guest faculty for Presentation Skills said something to the effect of, “We all should get out of our little comfort zones. Your pronunciation leaves much to be desired and you have a strong accent… Improve all these before you do public speaking.Next person please…”
Eighteen years later, after many bitter and sweet learnings at multiple work places, and having been blessed with opportunities to speak in training academies of administrative, judicial, military, engineering , management streams among others- with my same old ‘oily’ accent and imperfect pronunciations, but still managing to communicate, I would like to submit the following observations:
- If you have something worthwhile to say, please go ahead and say it.
- Ask the person who laughs at your accent to take a walk to hell (and if possible pitch camp there permanently). If you can say that politely, all the more better.Because, I am proud that I can speak my mother tongue without an accent. And that is the only language which allows me that elegance. But I still can speak, read and write in two more. Imperfect diction? I can live with it, thank you.
- The world will not ever give you, your self confidence on a silver platter. You earn it, inch by inch, by simply not giving up on your self- belief. Over estimate or under estimate, it is your worth and not for anyone to pull down at their whims and fancies.
- In any language, with any accent, dialect, if you have a story to share, the spirit of your genuineness will give it wings. And there will be an audience who will listen to you- those who need your story to enhance their own inner spirits.
- There is tremendous strength in following your own light. Do share your failures too and how you overcame that to follow your own drum beat.You might warm a few shivering souls along the way. ( I had resolved to give up public speaking after those two very public feedback and had shivered literally all through that winter night in self hatred)
- When you speak for those less privileged, suddenly a new strength comes into your voice. That is simply a great spiritual law at work, by the way.
It is not the perfect pronunciation or the sweetest voice which opens a closed door at times. It could be the conviction in your voice. The confidence to look at your audience in the eyes, usually stems from a truth inside of you.
Perhaps, the best way to begin is by speaking aloud-what is burning within.