Here in the US, on Monday we celebrated Independence Day. There are many inspiring quotations about related themes of freedom, liberty and the like, but one of my favorites is engraved around the inside of the Thomas Jefferson memorial in Washington, DC:
“I have sworn upon the altar of God,
eternal hostility against every form of
tyranny over the mind of man.”
It’s a powerful statement, but uniquely frustrating when the “tyranny of the mind” is self imposed.
For example, have you ever had one of those seemingly out-of-body experiences when you hear yourself starting to ramble, and think,
“I really should stop talking now. Their eyes are glazing over. Why am I still talking? I think I’ve made the same point three times, but I can’t stop myself. For heaven’s sake, stop talking already!”
It’s like a verbal runaway train: you can’t find the brakes, and can’t bring yourself to jump off, so you just sit there helplessly as it runs away, with you as a captive, full-speed ahead.
The irony is that there is a secret emergency break that’s easily within reach.
I often hear people lament, “I hear myself rambling on, but it’s not like I can just cut myself off mid-sentence, you know?”
But actually, you can!
It may be counterintuitive, but whether you're in a meeting, on the phone, or on a zoom call, all you have to do is to interrupt your own run-on sentence at any point and say to your audience, “Wait; let me stop myself there. Before I go on, what questions do you have so far?”
And just like that, you set yourself — and them — free!
Beyond that, what’s interesting is that knowing when to cut yourself off and having the confidence to do it (better late than never) actually reflects positively on you, because it shows good emotional intelligence (“EQ”), self awareness and control, and allows the conversation to proceed far more productively.
Plus, most of the audience will probably think to themselves, “Thank you!”
(If this hits home for you, you can get even more insights on when to stop talking and how to do it in chapter 8 of my book Speaking to Influence: Mastering Your Leadership Voice.)
The best part of it: You manage to use fewer words while making a bigger impact.
Having more impact is also the goal of Keisha Jordan, president and CEO of the Children’s Scholarship Fund of Philadelphia (CSFP), who is this week’s guest on the Speaking to Influence podcast.
Lack of safe, high-quality, accessible schools is its own form of “tyranny over the minds” and futures of children. The CSFP’s mission is to provide children from under-resourced families, in neighborhoods with under-performing schools, with financial access to high-quality, safe, K-8th grade, tuition-based schools, thereby increasing their long-term economic and social success.
Keisha shared how the organization was moving from a model of “more scholarships” to “more impact,” recognizing that short-term access to scholarships was less impactful than the continuity of access for the children served.
Of course, in order to provide that continuity of opportunity to the scholarship awardees without simply having fewer winners each year, Keisha explained how she had to challenge herself professionally and learn to be an even stronger communicator in order to do more fundraising and campaigning for the growth of the program.
If you’d like to fight “tyranny over the mind” by having a positive impact on a child’s academic opportunity, and economic and social future, check out their website at csfphiladelphia.org.
And remember, the next time you catch yourself rambling past the point where you know you should have stopped, hit that verbal emergency brake, and JUST STOP – yes, right in the middle of your own sentence.
After all, the real goal is to have a CAPTIVATED audience, not to hold them captive. So in the spirit of Independence Day, set your audience – and yourself, FREE!