How a Simple Performing Arts Technique Can Help You Understand the Power of Words
I was at a Masterclass at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London, where the Actor Mark Strong shared his experience of his industry and his WorkLife before hosting a Q and A.
One of the questions Mark was asked was how he gets into a character – to understand the essence of their being. He replied that it’s in the writing. He went on to say that he gets everything he needs from the words. He spoke in particular about his role as Eddie in the play A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller.
It was a very simple yet powerful answer because words are fundamental in our WorkLives and the medium through which we communicate who we are and what we stand for.
Just as Mark used the words written to understand who Eddie is, the people we interact with come to understand our beliefs, values and dreams through the words we use to communicate. Because as people, it’s what we can make with words – ideas, images, hopes, theories, fears, plans, understanding, expectations, a past and a future, culture, ways of seeing …. the list is endless, and the power is simply powerful.
Whenever we communicate, there is much at stake, perhaps even more so in our working environment. When you’re preparing for your next interview or networking event, presentation or keynote speech, to help your process, consider the following simple technique actors in training develop to hone their skills in understanding the words that will allow them to deliver them with the greatest impact:
Technique #Step1. Actors are encouraged to read play after play after play because script analysis is the nuts and bolts in the literal fleshing out to bring characters to life. Every line of dialogue, every movement, every action and reaction gives an understanding of a character’s motivations and objectives, emotions and desires. This allows the actor to step in and become the character.
You can apply this technique by following the ‘Thought Leaders’ in your industry. Study them as the actor does to gain valuable insights into their characters and stories. Most likely, you will find their stories will be similar in format to Mark’s Masterclass – in that they will begin by sharing their experiences in their industry. Their WorkLife stories within that will then unfold and go deeper in response to questions asked.
Make notes of what draws you into stories – what is it about each character that interests, intrigues and inspires you?
Pay attention to the manner in which people speak – the words, the phrases, the stories they tell.
Consider the most powerful words spoken (visually if you’re reading a story, auditory if you’re listening to a conversation or watching a video) that you can adopt and adapt if you were to answer similar questions about your WorkLife experiences.
These are your unique WorkLife stories. The stories that you can share at interviews or when networking, or when delivering a presentation or keynote talk. Capture them by writing them down.
Technique #Step2. When actors are learning their lines in preparation for performing a role, they’ll come to a point where they will ‘run their lines.’ This is a simple technique where they will speak the words slowly at first, and then on fast forward.
This helps identify words and parts of their character story that could potentially trip them up. It also helps to recognise what needs more or less emphasis. And it helps them to consider how pacing and pausing could help to tell the story in a more enthralling way to draw their audience in.
When you have crafted your story, speak the words out loud. You can do this to an audience of no one. The purpose of this exercise is to hear how the words sound when spoken aloud.
Begin slowly at first, and then on fast forward. As with the actors, the same principles apply:
This exercise will help identify words and parts of your story that could potentially trip you up. It will help you to recognise what needs more or less emphasis. It will help you to consider how pacing and pausing could help tell your story in a more interesting way to draw your audience in.
Continuous Learning Assignment
Use the same approach to understand what’s happening outside of your industry and sector. Tap into stories that help you recognise successful trends, practices, and behaviours that could make a difference to your world.
Adopt and adapt these stories to your WorkLife experiences. Write them down. Speak them aloud.
Words of Wisdom
Become a collector of stories. Other people’s and your own. This will help you find, develop and tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations.
This practice will also enable you to adapt your stories to add to your repertoire. As I have done with this story when I adapted it to teach a new lesson in 4 Powerful Steps to Help You Communicate Your Big Picture and Grassroots Story
This story was originally published on 12/3/15. I needed to republish it to add updates and also to tell you
… The Continuing Story …
The pandemic brought about a change in my WorkLife from delivering in-person individual coaching sessions and group workshops to creating resources to help people self direct their WorkLife learning.
In the last three years, I’ve published 30 books and over 200 stories.
Each book and each story is based on real life struggles and successes that people have encountered in their WorkLife. They also detail the exercises that helped navigate through these situations, which are set as assignments for readers to adapt to their WorkLife situations and learning needs.
I believe stories are a powerful mechanism for teaching, a powerful medium to learn through, and a powerful way to communicate who you are and what you stand for.
My inspiration for creating my work comes from a lifelong passion for learning. My work has taught me that the one thing in life that can never be taken away from you is your learning.
School of WorkLife Guiding Statement: To create resources that are helpful, insightful and inspiring in helping people to pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, purpose, passion and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes and resources that are accessible to everyone.
The resources I create will help you take ownership of self directing your learning in your own space and in your own time.
School of WorkLife helps you self-direct your WorkLife learning through resources that have been created to help you to take ownership of your learning in your own space and in your own time.
What is Self Directed Learning?
Self-Directed Learning is when an individual is motivated to take the initiative and responsibility on decisions related to their own learning. It is a series of independent actions and judgements free from external control and constraint.
Resources to Help You Self-Direct Your Learning
Fast Company, First Round Review, Inc., and Wired are good sources for promoting excellent communicators and leaders and people worth reading.
Another excellent source is podcasts. A few of my favourites are: Design Matters with Debbie Millman, The Tim Ferris Show, In Depth from First Round Review, otherppl with Brad Listi,and WorkLife with Adam Grant.
Ted Talks is a great platform to observe inspiring conversations within a global community.
You may find the books below from The School of WorkLife Book Series helpful in meeting your learning needs as a self directed learner. Tap the book title to see a preview of what’s inside each book.
How To Turn Your Story Into a Powerful Presentation
How To Embrace The Superpower of Self-Awareness
How To Fine-Tune The Superpower of Observation
You can view the complete collection of books here: The School of WorkLife Book Series.
Carmel O’ Reilly is a learning practitioner and writer. She creates resources to help people self-direct their WorkLife learning. These include a Collection of Books which originated from her first book, Your WorkLife Your Way and a Learn Through Reading Series of Case Studies. which originated from her latest book WorkLife Book Club.
That’s the power of writing (and reading, which is an integral part of the craft for writers). It helps you find, develop and tell the right story at the right time in all WorkLife situations – in day-to-day communication: WorkLife and feedback conversations, presentations, talks, and negotiations, at interviews, and when socialising and networking in building and maintaining good relationships. The practice of writing helps you to tell the stories that express who you are in an interesting and engaging way.