Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today my guest is Lee Glickstein. Lee lived with excruciating stage fright for more than 40 years before discovering the principles of transformational speaking, an entirely unique approach to public speaking that he developed and used to heal himself. He’s the founder of Speaking Circles International, an authority on authentic power and presence in public speaking. He delivers keynotes, seminars, and private coaching with the unique combination of inspiration and step-by-step innovation. With Sounds True, Lee has created the audio program Be Heard Now, where he teaches that you can end your fear of public speaking, and how to stop performing to audiences and how to start connecting to them instead.

In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Lee and I spoke about relational presence and what it might mean to connect with an audience through the earth. We also talked about early childhood issues that might affect us as public speakers later in life. Finally, we talked about the connection between listening and speaking and what it means to be an authentic presenter. Here’s my conversation with Lee Glickstein.

Lee, you’ve developed an approach to public speaking that you call Transformational Speaking. To begin with, I’m hoping you can tell our listeners what some of the basic elements are of Transformational Speaking.

Lee Glickstein: Yes, Tami, it’s about presence, sharing presence with people. It’s having what looks like public speaking be a relational event instead of a performance event. It’s about connecting at a level of essence, breathing, being with one person at a time, speaking to a live audience, and having more of a priority on the presence with the co-presence, the Namaste, than on one’s content. As it turns out, the content gets richer when less attention is being paid to it than to the natural connection between humans.

TS: Now, I can certainly imagine if I’m just speaking with one person, well that could be a relational event. But how do I create the experience of relationality when I’m speaking to 100 people that I’ve never met before?

LG: Well, it’s exactly as you kind of intimated. You know how to do it with one person. So, right now, together, we’re in this relational conversation and I’m actually intentionally sensing that I’m communicating down, that I’m talking through the earth, down, and breathing from the center of the earth, and meeting you through the great mother connector of the earth, rather than projecting out over the telephone line. Through the air, through the ethers, I’m resonating with you in this connection.

When I speak to a group, what I teach is to be with one person at a time, exactly the way we’re being—the way you’d be with one person. Somebody who’s good one-on-one can be good with a group if they practice speaking to a group exactly as if they’re speaking to one person at a time—by having their eyes available to one person at a time—and the name I’ve given it is relational presence. I’m present relative to you. I’m co-present with you. So, even if there’s somebody in the twentieth row, and I can hardly see their eyes, I sense that we’re already connected in humanity, either through the earth or one mind, whatever somebody senses how we’re all connected.

But the point is, I’m not talking about eye contact, which is a kind of a technique which I call surface eye contact—its eye service, like lip service. I’m talking about really sensing that we’re together and you’re the only person in the world, even if it’s only for three seconds, even if it’s only for one sentence, we are in a one-on-one relational event. And then I move to someone else. Now, I’m saying, even speaking to hundreds or thousands of people, to make it a series of exactly the one-on-one communion that we know so well.

TS: OK, so a couple of questions. First of all, I’m not really sure what you mean by this connecting through the earth, going down into the earth. Can you explain that to me?

LG: Well, a metaphor is trees—how a forest is one being connected through the roots. That’s where the connection between trees is happening. In fact, I heard that the largest living entity in the world is the forest, a particular forest somewhere. I sense that humans are connected through some sort of energy roots. Literally, scientifically, we are attracted to the center of the earth by the law of gravity. So, in a sense, we’re all falling, or our energy drops, towards the center of the earth, and we meet there energetically, or at least the metaphor, or sense of it, works for a person who lets themselves ground themselves into the earth—let yourself drop. If you’re sensing that you and your audience are attracted to the center of the earth, you can sense that we’re connected in some earthly way through the great mother connector, known as Earth. Does that ring a bell?

TS: Yes, I have to say that it does ring a bell, and in fact in the mediation practice that I do, I often work with dropping an anchor, dropping a taproot down to the center of the earth. I’ve never thought though that that had any application to speaking with an audience, so what you’re saying is very interesting to me.

LG: Well, I learned this through practicing relational presence. I haven’t read about it, but in being with one person at a time all these years, practicing in Speaking Circles, leading hundreds of circles a year, it’s being shown to me by the practice. I didn’t even realize a connection underground, or the sense of connection through the earth until a couple of years ago. And as I talk about it, it resonates with so many people that I keep talking about it, because it makes it easier for a lot of people to grasp that we’re really connected bodily through humanity without having this projecting over the air. There’s all this interference up here. [Laughs] There’s all this misunderstanding up in this level. But down, bodily, thorough the earth, it’s very clear, there’s a lot of clarity available.

I also talk about stillness—meeting in the stillness—which is good when people are going, “um” and “ah” and putting their sentences together with “and.” I say there’s such an opportunity for a moment of stillness and that makes us feel so belonging. The audience feels they belong when you can have little stillnesses instead of running on.

TS: Now, there’s still one thing I’d love to clarify, because it makes sense to me in talking to a group that you could drop your energy into the earth and relate to their earth energy or relate underground, if you will, and it makes sense to me that you could also meet in pauses and stillness. But I’m a little confused about this meeting a person, an individual person, in a relational way. If there are a thousand people in the room and someone’s standing up and presenting, are you suggesting that I actually take my time and connect to someone in the front row for a couple of seconds and then take my time and connect to somebody at the left side or the back of the room? Is that what you’re suggesting?

LG: Yes, and at first when we’re practicing this, we do take a little longer. I say finish a sentence with someone, notice you’re leaving them, find someone else, notice they’re looking at you, and you can speak with them. There are these extra pauses, but this is the learning. When you have it in your being, in your bones, in your body, that you’re with one person at a time, it gets more fluid. It’s like learning music. If you’re learning a guitar, you have to get the fingers on the chord before you strum. You don’t just keep moving your fingers and strumming. You get the chord and then you can strum, and the music comes out. Then eventually, you can change chords more quickly and it becomes fluid music.

Speaking is like that. If we can learn to be with one person at a time and wait until we get that connection—and I don’t even say make the connection. I say, allow the natural connection to reveal, because if you’re trying to connect, you’re coming from separation. If you practice very distinctly and discretely being with one person and then another in the practice field, eventually it becomes fluid. You know, they say, the piano, the great quote that anyone can play the notes, it’s the masters who know the space between notes. I didn’t quite get that right. You know that one I mean? It’s the silence between notes that the masters get. There are these little silences this way, but its fluid.

TS: I notice I feel like relishing the silences in our conversation.

LG: [Laughs] That’s where the pleasure of communication is—whether it’s one-on-one or to an audience—that’s where the pleasure is, and people are constantly stepping on those pleasure possibilities because of fear, because of anxiety of white space, silence, stillness.

TS: Well there are so many fears, I think, that come with speaking, especially public speaking. I know that in your work you actually make a pretty strong claim that you can help people end their fear of public speaking, so let’s go right into that. How can you help people who have a lot of fear about public speaking?

LG: I’m glad you asked this now. I just had a few Speaking Circles this past week where I had some really afraid people, and there are fewer coming along these days for some reason, but there will be someone occasionally who doesn’t even want to get up. I’ll have a class of eight people and I’ll do a three minute and a seven minute turn, and the new person goes at the end, because the ones who have been there—some of them have been coming for years—are over their stage fright. They just love being up in front of the room, not having a plan and feeling the flow and finding out what’s up for them and having fun—you know, the full pleasure. They also are always saying things that are useful for the newcomers. People are taking care of the field.

Then the person gets up and they’re scared. “I’d rather jump out of a plane than this.” And my coaching is, “OK, you don’t have to say anything. That’s what makes this possible. It’s not about speaking. Just stay with someone.”

“But when I stay with someone I can’t think. I don’t know what to say.”

I say, “You don’t have to say anything.”

The first instruction in my sessions is to the audience. I ask them to be available fully, in essence, listening, not to even nod and try to validate or coach or help the person. So if you have a class of eight people, and seven have been coming, and maybe five of them have been coming for months and a few of those have been coming for years, we get really good at establishing this listening field. It’s kind of heavenly. It’s kind of a special field.

It’s hard enough to get listened to by one person, but imagine getting listened to by a group and you’re getting this full-body listening and you’re just asking this person up front to surrender to the listening. Maybe surrender isn’t the right word—explore just being seen. You don’t have to do anything. We’re doing all the work.

In a way, what they’re being given is an opportunity to do nothing and finally, they take a breath and they start to say, “Gee, this isn’t so bad.” It’s just taking the tiniest step that makes it the easiest possible thing—no need to speak, no need to perform, no need to serve us. We are serving you. We are doing all the work, and we really love it when you just let us do that, which means that you have to do nothing but be there and see if you can receive our attention.

Now, what it is about is fear, because I had awful stage fright when I started this whole thing. That’s why I had to do this, because I couldn’t get over it any other way. My joke is I flunked Toastmasters. The problem people have, the fear, comes from not having been gazed at as infants. I mean, this is true for so many of us. We don’t get the mother-mirroring, the attunement gaze, fully—the full, unconditional, accepting gaze—because of all the stress that our mom or dad might be going through. So, we grow up with our neuro-pathways being wired to associate being seen with anxiety and contraction.

Really all we’re doing in this process, this relational presence speaking circle process, is getting re-gazed and building new neuro-pathways that associate being seen with expansion and pleasure. When it’s really as easy as seeing it that way, people can see their way clear to explore it in this friendly, supportive environment. Once they enjoy it a little, they see that this is going to get them through, and if they stick with it, it always does, sooner or later.

TS: Now, when I’m standing in front of this small group, and if I’m afraid of public speaking, I can imagine, OK, I don’t have to say anything, I can relax and just receive the support of this group. But what if I’m experiencing intense body sensations, like some people who have stage fright who are really afraid? Their stomach turns all the way over, that kind of thing.

LG: Well, it’s funny. You said you see you can relax, but the first thing people do is not relax. They’ve been told to relax. They tell themselves they’re supposed to relax. I say, “No, don’t relax. Feel the fear. Feel the body. Feel the heart beating. Feel whatever there is. We’re just here, we’re going to observe it with you. We’re not going to make it wrong, we’re going to make it where you’re starting, so feel it.”

As soon as people have the permission to feel the anxiety, they cannot get through the anxiety without feeling it. And once you feel it and let people witness and support you in it, and it starts maybe to tell its story, we start maybe to find stories to unpack—how it happened, what’s the history—if that comes to us. But, it’s precisely not having to relax that allows us to ultimately get comfortable in wherever the thread is leading us.

TS: How many times or for how long a period of time would it be necessary for someone who has a bad case of stage fright to work with a small group like this before they could go out and deliver a public talk without throwing up first?

LG: [Laughs] Well, I have a rule of thumb. You come to 10 of these sessions, and you’re changed forever. You know, sometimes people can do it in three sessions, but the toughest cases, after 10. I don’t know if that means they’re going to go out and speak. Some of these folks, they’re not necessarily looking to go out and speak. They maybe have to speak at work. They come because they have a toast they have to give at a friend’s wedding or something. The intention is not to become speakers, but to get over this thing that’s been in their way all of their lives. “I’ve never been able to be comfortable in front of a group ever.” And that hurts even if you’re not going to want to be a speaker. But, people who are motivated to go out there and give speeches, they can get there in 10 sessions.

TS: OK, now I want to make sure that I understood what you said, because it sounded to me maybe like a bit of a strong, global claim, so I just want to check it out. You were saying that people who are afraid of speaking in front of groups, it has something to do with early childhood, early infant wounding about not being seen and received in some way. Is that what you were saying? Do you think that’s true 100 percent of the time?

LG: I guess not 100 percent. Maybe some people pick it up in school or later in life. It might not be 100 percent. It seems to be, for the most part, true of just about everybody I work with, but I won’t make a global claim.

TS: Tell me how you came to make that connection.

LG: Well, to talk about me, I had the world’s worst stage fright. I was a deer in the headlights, even one-on-one, until I was in my 40s. I mean, this was pathetic, and it’s so easy for me to look back and see how that happened, because when I read about the brain research and what it means to be mother-mirrored, to have that attunement at age four months—infants start locking into the mother’s eyes, or whoever’s there, the father or somebody—and there’s this gazing, if the mother is totally available for it, there’s this gazing festival. It’s just mutually ecstatic. If your mother is overwhelmed and tense and isn’t there completely or is looking at you with—well, I’ll just talk about my case.

My mother was depressed, very sad, and we literally download their programs through our brain, because their eyes are the entrance to part of the brain. So, I got that from my mom. She was depressed and pitied me. She did look at me, so I got the eyes, but it was shot with depression and pity for me to have wound up in that family. As I grew up, when I would get in front of an audience, when I’d look at women—or in school, girls—I would see that they were sad for me, that they pitied me. And when I’d look at men, I’d see they had contempt for me. I’d project contempt, because that’s what I got from my father’s eyes.

What we got from our parents’ eyes was huge. Just imagine what you got from your parents’ eyes. You might have gotten a lot of good stuff and you got some other stuff. And some people got really downloads of the worst. But, for the most part, in the kind of folks who are functional in the world and show up at workshops and things, they project onto the audience something of what they got early on, and it’s not so hard for people to trace that back. In turns, when people are up there and they do start to talk about why they have that anxiety, it will inevitably get back to the kind of stuff that happened in the family that they can trace back to how they were looked at, how they were treated—through the eyes. There’s such a sense that’s imparted, and that’s where we get heard, that’s where our space gets violated, through eyes. You know, daggers. My dad was really angry, so I got daggers in my eyes. You can imagine what else comes through eyes in certain families.

TS: Now, in your Speaking Circles, people give positive feedback. So, if I was receiving someone who was a speaker, I would be open and receptive. If they looked into my eyes, they would hopefully see the eyes of a warm person, and I would then say positive things about what I heard. I’m curious what you think the role of critical feedback is in helping someone develop. Do you think there is a place for it?

LG: Well, yes. Maybe not around me. I used to call it “positive feedback,” and over the years, it turned into what we now call “essence appreciation.” That means we’re looking specifically, as the listeners, for a quality we appreciate in the person. Is there a vulnerability? Is there a radiance? We’re looking for something that is a quality that they might not even be aware of—magnetism—so many words—luminosity. In my classes, in Speaking Circles, that’s the only appreciation, that’s the only feedback you get. I have advanced classes where we work on content, and that’s with people who already have mastered relational presence and are comfortable just being, what I call it is “being easy-going in the not knowing”—being able to be quiet in any given moment and not worried about speaking at all.

There’s an opportunity for—but even there, that feedback is not coming from the other participants, because critical feedback from participants is like friendly fire. If they’re not gifted, if they’re not trained in giving feedback that’s useful, it could be very hurtful. There are certain speaking organizations where anybody can give feedback, and they might say something like, “You should speak slower.” And the person literally takes it to heart and starts speaking slower. It [just] looks like the problem if they’re speaking too fast, but when you’re trained at seeing where it’s coming from, the problem, or the true feedback, that’s useful isn’t that you’re speaking too fast, it’s that you’re not stopping between points, or between sentences, or between paragraphs to let us catch our breath. Somebody can speak fast if their energy—like I’m from New York. I’ve still got subway trains running in my head. Sometimes I’ll speak fast, but I’ll stop at the end of a sentence. [Breathes deeply] So that kind of feedback could set somebody back, and there’s a lot of that kind of feedback that’s hurting people.

Now, if you have somebody that you completely trust, whether it’s because they’re close to you or they’re trained, then critical feedback could be extremely useful. There are people in certain classes who ask me for it. I say, “I’ll tell you later. Not in the class. Not in front of people.” That’s another thing. Feedback that’s critical in front of other people is replicating a lot of the childhood trauma we had. So, that’s for private.

TS: Now, we’ve been talking, Lee, about working with fear, fear of public speaking, through your Speaking Circles, but I know you also have suggestions for people for how they can just work with themselves. One of them has to do with working with yourself in front of a mirror. I’m wondering if you could talk about that—what that practice is.

LG: Yes, this comes from—the nature of relational presence is a soft gaze. Actually I didn’t realize it for years. In fact, for many years I didn’t come up with the phrase “relational presence” yet, I just said “be with.” Then, finally, relational presence “existed” itself, maybe 10 years ago, as the words that cover it—it’s a relational presence. I didn’t realize again until two years ago, when I started reading about brain research, brain science, about the gaze of attunement of mother-mirroring, which is a very finely calibrated gaze. Mothers throughout history, in all geographic areas—it’s the same kind of resonance. And it turns out that that’s what I backed into. That’s what I was asking my audience to give. What the audience, the listeners, eventually give, when they’ve been to circles enough, is this certain soft, essential listening, which is the same as mother-mirroring, or the father gaze, as we say—the unconditional love.

If you want to practice the gaze, one of the ways to do it, if you are alone, if you don’t have a partner to do it with—on my website I have free videos of guidance into doing it with a partner—but if you go to the mirror and just be that way with yourself, you’ll probably notice that there’s a little bit of self-consciousness when you’re alone with yourself, when I ask you to just be co-present with yourself, just softly breathe and be with yourself, not have to smile, not have to wink, not have to look away. If you practice just a minute a day or a few times a day—a little practice goes a long way.

When I do workshops, I start with 15 seconds with a partner. Just 15 seconds, for some people, is very difficult to be with a partner just without having to laugh, or turn away, or wink, or nod, or get nervous, so even 15 seconds in the mirror—one big breath with yourself in the mirror—will help you assess your self-consciousness. If it’s something that’s a little bit challenging to just breathe for 15 seconds eye-to-eye with yourself without going through anxiety or defensive moods, if there’s a bit of a challenge, then that’s a nice exercise to keep doing as much as you can, little periods of time, until you can be with yourself in the mirror in a way that’s easy and maybe pleasurable—be pleasurable with yourself. Then, you can start talking to yourself in the mirror for, say, a minute. That might be embarrassing at first. It feels a little foolish, but eventually you can speak to yourself in the mirror, and level with yourself, eye-to-eye, tell yourself some truth—how’s it going? Just a minute of that in a mirror can mean a lot. That’s a good start.

TS: It’s funny in a way, for me to think of co-presencing with myself. I’m co-presencing with my image in the mirror. Now, when I’m looking at myself in the mirror, eye-to-eye, could you help me understand the type of eye gaze that you think is beneficial in this exercise, or does it not matter?

LG: Well, actually, imagine you’re looking at yourself as a baby. Find the infant in yourself. Or find the five-year-old in yourself. See what works. Since it is the same gaze as mother-mirroring, it might be nice to be your own mother, your own dad. Look at yourself in the mirror the way you wanted your mother or father to have looked at you.

TS: One of the things I’m noticing in our conversation is that I suddenly feel a little self-conscious about some of the pauses between us. I’m curious, why do you think, in general, people are so nervous, or fill the space, and the idea of having a long pause—in radio it’s called dead air and you want to avoid dead air at all costs. What do you think is going on in our culture here?

LG: Maybe it’s really live air. I kind of have one answer to everything. It’s occurring to me that you ask, because I’m thinking back—when we’re growing up, we’ve got a family, a lot of people, I hear—like in my family, there’s a lot of conversation and you’ve got to get a word in edgewise. If you don’t know how to butt into a conversation, if you don’t know how to get your full words in—you have to really work hard to fill those gaps, because somebody else is going to fill them. And the other thing which is more true for me—because in my family there was not that much conversation—was that if I was silent and people were looking at me, it’s kind of a, “Oh, cat got your tongue?”

I was the youngest of two, my brother is five years older, so here I’m the infant. I was terribly self-conscious and when I was very young I got very chubby and when somebody would look at me, my face would get red. I think it’s because—I talk about my first public speaking [being] around the family dinner table every night. I was the one who didn’t have anything to say. It wasn’t OK. When you’re the center of attention, if the attention would be turned—like if my brother would tease me—I would just get red and then I would get teased more. I think early on, if our family doesn’t know how to give us attuned eyes and doesn’t know how to give us space to express ourselves, those pauses are dangerous. Pauses, that’s where you get killed, in the pauses, right? Got to keep it going. We have a verbal society.

TS: You mentioned, Lee, that it was not until you were in your 40s that you actually started developing this transformational speaking work. What happened in your life that made the shift when you went from being afraid of speaking to starting to develop this work?

LG: Because I had such fear and there was something in me that wanted to contribute in the world, I felt I had something to say and I didn’t even know what it was. I was so stifled and humiliated. I was a typist, and I knew there were some other things I wanted to do in life, and I couldn’t speak. Like I said before, even one-on-one, I was a deer in the headlights. I used to say that it was personal humiliation, because I couldn’t even have relationships. I think I had what is now called social anxiety. So, it was personal humiliation and rejection along with desperation to do something in the world, to make a difference. I just started going to therapy and tried to go to Toastmasters, but like I said, that scared me worse than anything. I even became a stand-up comedian, but I didn’t have any real connection to the audience, so if they didn’t laugh at my first joke, I died a thousand deaths. If they laughed, I’d remember my second joke.

I started experimenting with how to get over this awful stage fright and it led me to—I had gone to some group processes, group therapy, recovery meetings. I knew how meetings could be useful. This was women’s lib days. You could see the kind of support people were giving each other. I just knew I needed support—to give and get support—around this terrible thing called stage fright that I had and so many people had.

So, I just started gathering some friends and—this was probably 25 years ago—exploring some modalities. Pretty soon on, I realized that what it took was finite periods of time—whether it’s a minute, or two minutes, or three minutes, or five minutes—that everybody would have an exact amount of time. If they had more to say, they would have to stop. If they had nothing to say, they would still get the full attention. That was key. So, I had that early on. Then, little by little, by trial and error, I started creating what became known as Speaking Circles—all because of my humiliation and desperation to contribute to the world and have a real life.

TS: You talked a little bit about your short stint as a stand-up comic. I can’t imagine that was a particularly lucrative period of your life. I’m just joking. But, anyway, you make—

LG: [Laughs] I once got fifteen dollars.

TS: —you make a comment about humor and transformational speaking—that in the transformational speaking world, humor is not about making people laugh, but letting people laugh. Can you explain what you mean by that?

LG: This is sort of parallel—I never saw this, but this is parallel—because I haven’t said that in so many years, even though it’s true. What I have said is that the way we connect is by not trying to connect, but by allowing the connection. Just like people are available to connect, it’s easier to connect with them if we’re just allowing it to happen rather than trying to make it happen. Laughter is something we all want. We naturally want to laugh. The best humorists say things that allow us to have our natural laughter rather than forcing it. It’s not so much punch lines as it is stories and sharing what truly amuses one—or two.

TS: You talk about magic and how magic can come in these spaces. I’d love to hear more about that.

LG: When a person is being given really good listening from a group of eight or nine people, and they surrender to the pleasure, to the listening, to the field of belonging, and there’s no more self-consciousness, and there’s no performance, there’s no act, there’s no pretension—then what wants to come through—when they know they are not trying to find something to talk about. Let’s say they have a seven minute turn, and they are enjoying not speaking. Then the words that come through, the story, the subject, is new to them. It’s almost as if that little voice inside that wants to be heard—that mixed idea, the next insight, the next story, the next sense of what’s so damn funny—just comes out.

It’s like you’re at a Broadway play that’s a brilliant play where there’s a magical moment or magical three-minute rant or something that was not expected and couldn’t have been predicted, couldn’t have been scheduled, couldn’t have been rehearsed, couldn’t have been planned. Those are the moments of magic that I love. Also, there’s always meaning in it. In other words, there’s a point, there’s kind of an inspirational aha that the whole room is part of. Like, oh, we all just understood some aspect of the human condition, some aspect of how do we get through some of the things that happen in life with the support of our [brothers and sisters].

TS: What would you say is the connection between listening and speaking, especially public speaking?

LG: Oh my goodness, that’s such a perfect question. I can’t believe it’s so—it’s listening. We lead with listening. Speaking—people come and say, “I’m a good listener, and I just can’t speak to groups.” I say, “Oh, come and listen. Come up and listen to us in our silence. Listen to the moment. Listen to each others’ essence.”

There’s a listening that leads the speaking. We have to listen first. I call it listening when you stand up and you look at people in relational presence. You’re listening to their being. You’re listening to their spirit, to their heart. It’s not listening to the words, it’s listening to the moment. The people who are good listeners of other people, when they get up in this situation and they get over the pressure to speak, like, “Uh oh, it’s my turn to speak.” No, it’s not your turn to speak. It’s your turn to be the center of attention and see if anything comes up. Take it or leave it. Then, when they start speaking, they’re listening as they speak.

The best speaking, you’re listening as you’re speaking. If you don’t listen as you speak in an intimate conversation, you probably spent a lot of time in the dog house. [Laughs] If you’re in a marriage, and you’re not listening as you’re speaking, something’s not clicking. I think they both happen at the same time. Make sense?

TS: It does make sense.

LG: Or have I gone too far?

TS: No, I think it’s interesting to inquire into whether or not I’m listening while I’m speaking. I notice that I am, so I think that’s interesting. I think I’ve never paid attention to that before.

LG: There’s another thing about that. People say “um” all the time and the only way you can say “um” is if you are not listening while you are speaking, because if you were listening, you would hear those “ums.” In fact, I tell people, “I’m not going to catch your ‘ums.’ I want you to catch your ‘ums.’” As soon as you catch your ‘ums,’ you’re home free. You start to—if you hear your ‘ums’ it means you’re listening to yourself.

TS: Now, here’s something, Lee, I’m very interested in. I’ll be curious to hear what you have to say about it. What do you think is going on when someone is just a fantastic orator—the kind of people who stand up and are the best speech givers of all time—certain politicians, those types of people? What kind of gift is that?

LG: It’s funny, when you said “gift,” the phrase that came to me, Tami, is “the gift of gab,” and it’s not that. It’s the opposite of that. They are—and right away I start to think of John F. Kennedy. He’s said to have [had] charisma—you know, that magnetism—and it looks to the casual observer like they’re flowing something out. They’re dynamically flowing—this personality, this character, this electricity—but when I see it, what I see they’re doing is receiving the listening. They’re magnets for peoples’ attention. They’re taking in—I’ve always heard that Bill Clinton, when he would speak to people at a gathering they said, “When he was speaking to me, I was the only person in the world.” Have you heard that?”

TS: Yes.

LG: That was many peoples’ experience of him. So, to me, he was really allowing their attention to come to him like a magnet. That’s a lot of what’s going on with people who are that comfortable to receive. When they speak, there’s complete fluency. It’s so far from me—it’s so far from my experience of myself—I can only guess.

TS: I have a final question for you, Lee. One of the things that you say in your program, Be Heard Now, is that the most compelling thing that we can do—whether it’s in life or in front of the room—is to be authentic. I think more and more, I hear people saying, “I want to be authentic. Authenticity is the most important thing to me.” What are your tips or ideas on how to help people be—whether it’s in life or in front of the room—more authentic?

LG: That’s another wonderful question, because that’s another misunderstood thing. There are many systems or protocol for being authentic. To me, a lot of it is about doing—like a way of speaking. Tell certain stories, intimate stories, vulnerable stories, courageous stories. Be yourself. How the heck? —I don’t know that there’s such a thing as being yourself intentionally. I do not believe that you can be yourself intentionally. I do believe that you can stop and be with someone intentionally, that you can be in essential attunement with a human being. Then, what comes through you will happen to be authentic. It’s one step lower than the word “authentic.” It’s setting the attunement field so that authenticity happens for you and the person you’re with. Authenticity is relational. It’s nothing anyone does on one’s own.

TS: That’s a beautiful answer. I really appreciate it.

LG: Thank you.

TS: I’ve been speaking with Lee Glickstein. With Sounds True, Lee has created the program Be Heard Now. It’s a two-session audio program on transformational speaking.

Lee, thank you so much for being with us.

LG: Thank you, Tami. This was really pleasurable for me.

TS: I’m relishing the silences.

SoundsTrue.com. Many voices, one journey.

Thanks for listening.