SMARTEN UP @ THE ADULT SCHOOL (REVISED)
NEWS-RECORD Thursday, February 22, 2018
From Rose Bennett Gilbert
RATHER DIE THAN SPEAK IN PUBLIC?
What do human beings fear more than death itself? Not dentists. Not snakes or spiders or taxes. What terrifies a whopping majority of us -- 74 percent, according to a 2013 survey of society's most pervasive fears -- is speech anxiety, aka speaking in public.
Emily Zacharias is out to change all that. Actor, director, performance coach to other
professional actors, writers, and clergy, Emily will be helping the shy and silent
find their voice and use it effectively in her classes, "Enjoy Speaking: Learn to Communicate With Confidence," beginning Feb. 27 at the South Orange-Maplewood Adult School. On Apr. 21, she's teaching "A Public Speaking Intensive," limited to five
students who want to further enhance their communication skills.
Emily emphasizes the verb, communicate. "Communication is not performance.
Communication is connection with the other. Lose the burden of performance.
Her classes are "designed to circumvent the pressure of our performance-oriented culture," Emily explains. "They are highly effective for anyone who needs to speak with groups of three or more -- sales associates, architects, township administrators, retirees, anyone interested in personal growth who wants free rein of their own expression."
Emily's first class begins with students sitting in a circle -- "Communication is a circle with everyone involved" -- and proceeds through six sessions involving verbal exercises ("a safe playground"), poetry readings ("so people can fall in love with the sound of their own voice"), and learning how to be what Emily calls "active listeners."
"Communication is a shared experience between active speaker and active listener,"
reminds Emily, who offers five everyday exercises to strengthen communication skills:
1. Read a newspaper article aloud. Clarify the story points and examine your own feelings about them;
2. Go to the website Poem-A-Day. Choose a poem and read aloud. Enjoy the sound of your own voice;
3. Surprise a colleague, friend or family member with an honest question of interest
to you both, then give them your full attention as they answer;
4. Make an impromptu toast (imaginary wine glass) to colleagues, family, or friends. Celebrate the experience of being in their presence. Initiate fun, an original viewpoint and style;
5. Improvise a short speech about what you ate at your favorite meal. Push the outrage. Engage the imagination. Stretch your expressive self.
To enhance your skills as an active listener, Emily advises:
• Be intent on listening. Keep eye contact with the speaker;
• Find interest in what you are hearing. Show respect for the speaker;
• Remember, you don't disappear when you stop talking.
"Realize that communication is not about you: it is always about the other. In class, with exercise and trust, we lose the burden of self-consciousness. This is the key to feeling free and learning to enjoy the process."