In a previous post we introduced the idea that openness is a magnetic ability shared by many exceptional communicators and performers. We explored how simply giving yourself permission and choosing to open up is a good place to start.
Now, let’s look closer at the first aspect of the definition of openness: Lack of restriction; Accessibility.
Restriction means limiting or controlling, while accessibility means being able to be reached. Part of openness then is about being free with our expression and reachable to our audiences.
Let’s start with how we can be more reachable to our audiences. One of the most important ways we can practice being more reachable to our audiences is by casting off our bulky, clumsy and heavy suits of armour.
Practicing openness while speaking or performing can, for many people, feel uncomfortable or even downright terrifying. In stressful situations in particular, like public speaking or performing, many of us react by raising our defences as a way to cope with the stress. Nerves often amplify the defence impulse.
In some contexts a bit of armour can be necessary and helpful. However many of us have hyperactive defence mechanisms that leave us straight-jacketed and impenetrable. We shut the windows, close the blinds, bolt the doors, and hide inside ourselves. Tragically, our very own seeming ‘protection’ completely kills connection. It leaves audiences feeling ignored, uninvited and unwelcome.
The temptation to disappear, shut off or check out when speaking or performing can be challenging to overcome. Many of us have built up deeply ingrained habits that can be hard to change. But the good news is we can change.
We can rally our courage and bravely throw open the windows, blinds, and doors to our inner life. We can cast off our unnecessary armour and let down our guards. Then we invite our audiences in, instead of slamming the door in their faces. Then we can be reached; we can be seen, felt and heard. Then we can let the magnetism of our openness pull our audiences into the stories we weave, whisking them away on an unforgettable journey.
Visualise. Practice developing your sensitivity and tolerance to vulnerability by imagining yourself speaking or performing without raising your defences. Many athletes and artists use the technique of visualisation as a way to practice or rehearse. Imagined experiences can activate and trigger impulses similar to actual experiences, so our imagination is a great place to practice and encourage new ways of thinking and feeling.
Symbolise. Try symbolising your armour with an object that you can leave behind next time you speak or perform. It could be a coat, a scarf, keys, a coin, a pencil, a notebook or whatever. The important thing is that you endow the object as a symbol for your defence mechanisms. Then simply leave it behind when you go to speak or perform.