Political candidates and other public persons need to make the best of every opportunity to present themselves. They need to make sure that each appearance shows their best side. I have found that preparation and presentation reinforce each other. Mastery enables an air of confidence, while projecting confidence sets the stage for mastery.
Before saying anything in public, study, prepare, and practice thoroughly in private. If issues are unclear research them carefully or be briefed until you can argue both sides while firmly presenting your own position as the best balance. Practice speeches and probable questions in front of a camera and review your performance afterward. Focus on reinforcing your best moves, and imagine how improvements will make your appearance even better. Study the attitudes and values of your audience and be able to adjust your presentation to resonate with them.
Now that you are prepared, stand tall and speak with an air of confidence. If you are not feeling confident, you need to “fake it until you make it.” Demonstrating a behavior actually helps you to authentically create the appropriate attitude. In public, dress, move, and talk as if you have already won the office you are seeking or the argument you are making.
As a political candidate, you should not dress over-casually but wear suits that are closer to what you would wear when receiving voters in your office. If your posture or speech are weak, practice standing proud and speaking with authority. If you lack warmth, practice looking people directly in the eyes and smiling.
While volunteering at an elementary school, I helped with a rewards party. Most children had qualified for end-of-school parties, but some, because of behavior problems, etc. had excluded themselves. I was asked to read to groups of about four students at a time in the non-party classroom. In one group, we got into a discussion of attitudes and behavior. For instance, one boy said that he got into fights on the playground because his papaw said that he should never let someone push or take advantage of him; that he needed to always stand up for himself. Of course he often got called to the wall and disciplined by the teacher. I explained that it was actually showing greater strength by keeping control than getting mad at small offenses and letting his anger loose – that others, including his teachers, would notice his greater self-control and that it would bring him more respect, not less. He didn’t think that he could want to do differently. I told him about behavior leading to attitudes and suggested that he just decide to not attack others and that, in time, science had proved that his attitudes would start to change to match and it would all work out better in the end.
Among the first things we learn is to change our personal image to appeal to others. We learn that Momma likes us to smile and drool when she makes musical baby talk. Daddy likes for us to squeal when he raises us into the air. Big brother doesn’t pinch us so much when we stay out of his way. As we grow into our school years, we especially imitate peers and conform to their expectations. Some teachers expect us to sit still and listen; others want us to interact thoughtfully. We put on a different personality at home for dinner, a different personality out hunting, and a different one when we’re trying to impress the opposite sex.
Although we may feel that there is a true inner “us,” we very rarely show it to others. We each own too many public faces to plausibly maintain that there is only one authentic self. When one of the faces that you present in a given circumstance is not working for you, consider deliberately adjusting it. The new and improved you will gradually stop being something you wear and become genuine, authentic and automatic.
Copyright 2011 David Satterlee
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