Journey of Three - Stefanel Castro

Stefanel (R) pose

Along this journey I’ve shared many of my “aha!”… “oooh”… “aaaah” moments, but let me talk to you today about this biggest one yet…Speak to Persuade.

When I heard that our session’s name was “Speak to Persuade”, I was excited for what was coming. You see, my father – who is one of my greatest inspirations and role models – has worked on all aspects of the entertainment business for my entire life. Talk show, radio, and MCing is his forte and oh, is he good! I grew up observing and unintentionally learning how to paint pictures with words, improvise, feed off a crowd, come up with quick, witty responses, etc…in essence, how to talk my way into a desired state. As far as I knew, I was a decent public speaker and crafty persuader.

We were given 4 very simple questions. Three of these questions are part of our EDI introduction, so we say them every time we meet. We were recorded answering these 4 VERY SIMPLE questions, and then we played back the recording to assess how we did. I’ll tell you that I was disappointed at what I saw on screen. For context, the session was going great! I had been exercising my natural (inherited/learned) public speaking skills comfortably – cracking jokes and engaging in the discussion – yet what came through when I stood up to answer those questions was stiffness, over-analysis, and even defensiveness. My lively personality did not come through at all and it was not anything I said; the content was good. So…"what happened?", you may ask. My body language and tone of voice exhibited a persona that is not me. Our facilitator, Vanna Novak, looked at me and said, “I lost your personality…you were lost in your head.” Wow! This clicked in a profound way. In an instant, I started to think back at specific instances where I’ve given presentations or had to speak in public or to large groups. I was able to identify that sometimes I want to articulate ideas and thoughts so eloquently that I overthink. I was taken back to occasions where, as I talk, I am searching for fancy words to embellish my speech and end up awkwardly pausing with, I imagine, a confused look on my face until catching my train of thought. I now recognize that, in those moments, my audience did not capture the message as I intended to deliver it because I was not projecting what I wanted.  

Self-reflection on my previous experiences brought me to a bigger conclusion about public speaking and speaking to persuade. EDI’s backbone to leadership development is defined by three letters – A, E, I. Let’s talk about “A”. “A” is for authentic – a leadership characteristic that is very important to me. Whenever I don’t allow my personality to come through, it's because I’m trying to be “Mr. Eloquence” and I lose some of my authenticity. I am serious, driven, and passionate, but at the same time, I’m good humored and goofy. These sides ARE part of the PROFESSIONAL in me and need to co-exist in harmony. It does when I’m not putting extra effort into thinking about the correctness of my words; I am the most impactful because I am most comfortable, engaging, and, more importantly, genuine. I will end this with a thought/reminder mainly for myself, but I won’t be offended if you use it too: Big words don’t get the job done, connecting with people does.