From the moment we can walk, we are taught to control our emotions. Society likes us to act and respond in safe and predictable ways. Show too much emotion and we become ridiculed, too little and we’re considered cold and inhuman. On Wednesday I am giving a speech in Brussels on an emotional topic and I sincerely hope that I can do it while staying in control. But how can I be sure?
The answer is ‘Emotional discipline’. The great pianist Alfred Brendel once said that the difference between an amateur and a professional pianist is emotional control. He believes that the professional knows how to balance their intellect with just the right amount of emotion; too much and it becomes sentimental and slushy, too little and it becomes dry and uninteresting.
Standing up in front of a crowd and talking on a personal topic is never easy but I have learned that it becomes easier if the speech is pre-written and well-rehearsed. But what if you are like me and prefer to improvise rather than read from a script, what then?
The beauty of improvisation is that you can connect with your audience in your own words in an honest and natural way, adapting and embellishing as the mood fits. When you do it well, the audience is not just listening, they are deeply concentrated and connected; feeding back their energy to you. In this scenario you are skating on the thin layer of ice that separates intellect from emotion and it can be very dangerous indeed. This is why going to a live concert is so much more powerful than just watching the DVD at home, you feel and believe that anything can happen.
In the work place, our emotions are expected to always be under control but sometimes I wish that we could share them a little more. I am not advocating a box of Kleenex in every room and regular group hug sessions, God forbid, but I believe that by keeping them in a tightly shut box we can never really understand just how important a person feels about a specific topic or what they are going through inside. Some say this is good but I am not always so sure.
So, as I go off to prepare for Wednesday, here’s a video that I think sums up what I am most scared of, letting the power of the moment overcome me…
Have a nice week,