Thursday, January 3, 2013

Live with passion

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
As a professor of speech communication I lectured to thousands of students during my 22 years at Bowling Green State University — over 1,000 per term in a basic speech course and close to 300 per term in a 300-level interpersonal-communication course.  In some cases the terms were semesters, and in others the terms were trimesters.   I was often asked, “How do you do it?”  And the best, most concise, accurate answer was always, “passion” — strong emotion.  

The surprise. however, is not just the passion I had for the subject and for teaching, it was, too, the passion I attempted to instill in my students.  Indeed, what is education worth if you cannot instill in students the need and desire to grow, develop, and change beyond the classroom — in the real world.
There is little difference among the techniques used for stimulating passion in students and doing it with co-workers or employees, group or team members, congregations, friends and family members, or relationship partners.
In my mind there is one overriding technique that surpasses any other in importance and influence.  It is simple to say, more difficult to do.  The first technique is to model passion yourself.  It is essential to let others know — whether by saying it, showing it, hinting at it, or giving examples of it — what it is that excites you in life.  What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning, drives you tirelessly toward your goals, and gives you satisfaction and pleasure on a regular basis?  It is what stirs, inspires, motivates, encourages, influences, and energizes you.
When I stood before my students, I felt compelled to use examples that were vibrant and exciting.  The personal experiences I shared had to be meaningful and relevant to the material I was teaching.   Also, I had to demonstrate that the subject matter was special in the way it had contributed to my life, could have a practical, real effect on the lives of my students, and could, too, have a serious, positive, and worthwhile effect on their future.
When you are the model of passion, others cannot help but be impressed and influenced.  It is similar to what I taught students in public-speaking classes for close to 30 years: If you cannot show your listeners, whether by example or through emotion, your own commitment to your topic, then you cannot hope they will leave your speech with any commitment to your topic, purpose, or desire.
After modeling passion yourself, the second most effective method for generating passion in others is connection.  In the speech-communication discipline there are entire books that adopt as their sole focus an audience-centered approach to communicating with others.  That is, indeed, how important it is.  When others perceive a bond, association, or some kind of attachment — no matter how small — they are more likely to listen to you, respond to you, and even follow you.  The connection can be demonstrated in your identification with their needs and values as well as or in addition to their beliefs and attitudes.  The point is, they must feel like you are one of them, understand them, or want to help them.  When this occurs, they feel engaged.  If there is no connection, it is unlikely that you will touch their feelings or affect their behavior in any meaningful manner.
Following modeling and connection, the third most effective method for generating passion in others is knowledge.  Your credibility does not depend on what you know; it depends on what others think you know.  If you are always learning, re-inventing yourself, and exploring new things, you will develop a sound base of information from which to operate.  Through your sharing of ideas and information with others, they will quickly discover how much you know, whether your observations can be trusted, and whether to come to you with ideas and suggestions.  Knowledge alone can pave the way to greater understanding.
One thing that you need to know is that people appreciate hearing or learning about new information.  Ask the question, what can you offer your listener/audience that is new?   There is no doubt that you have the potential of winning  plenty of friends by offering practical advice. When people feel they have learned something from you, your knowledge and enthusiasm will be convincing, and people will see and feel your passion.
Speaking of enthusiasm, in addition to modeling, connection, and knowledge, the fourth method for generating passion in others is enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm is sometimes used instead of the word passion.  It can also be revealed when you model passion, in the way in which you connect with others, your eagerness to learn new things, and in so many other ways.  Passion without enthusiasm, however, is like having logs in the fireplace but no fire.
In teaching and writing about public speaking, I have always emphasized the importance of substance in a speech over delivery; however, you have to understand that delivery without some substance to deliver makes no sense; it serves no purpose.  Effective delivery sells content.  It is your enthusiasm that audiences first perceive; it is your enthusiasm that people judge, and it is enthusiasm, indeed, that will be remembered.
Throughout all of these traits of passion, there is one key essential, the fifth method for generating it in others is genuineness.  You cannot pull the wool over others’ eyes — at least not for very long.  People are not stupid.  When you pretend to be someone you are not, the fraud is quickly detected; most people see through it almost immediately.  

The key to being genuine is simple: Be yourself.  Use natural language, normal gestures, and a comfortable, relaxed approach.  Some would say, “Speak from the heart.”   I have told people that one of the purposes of education is to create skeptics.  Graduates don’t need to be pessimists, prophets of doom, or nonbelievers, but they do need to possess and use a questioning mentality.
You may have noticed it throughout, or you may have come to the conclusion at this point: Passion is a composite quality.  It emerges from a gestalt (separate elements that taken together, function as a unit that is more than a simple summation of its parts) that is the essence of your persona.  When you have passion you demonstrate it in everything you say and do; thus, it becomes a way of life.  You live with passion.
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At the web site Career Thought Leaders, there is a delightful essay by Debra O’Reilly titled, “How to Use Your Organs to Show Your Passion,” that covers such organs as the brain, mouth, vocal chords, larynx, eyes, ears, heart, torso, and limbs.  

From Legacy Magazine (December 27, 2010) there is a short essay, “Let Your Passion Show,” by Ethan Rotman.  Rotman talks about how to fill your talks with passion, and he begins his essay saying this: “We often feel being ‘professional’ requires being sterile—keeping emotion and passion out of our work and out of our talks. Yet heartfelt stories of personal tragedy, drama, discovery, loss, and triumph are universal experiences that help build rapport with audiences.”
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Copyright January, 2013, by And Then Some Publishing, L.L.C.

1 comment:

  1. If you love and believe in what you do, it is much easier to inspire others to your passion. Besides passion, I also enjoy passion fruit. Very tasty.


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