You have probably sat through a weekend conference or a training session at work listening to a presenter telling you to change your life, exercise more often, spend less money, or … fill in the blank. There is a question that always comes to mind when I hear that: ”what have you done in your life that gives you the authority to speak to me (and thousands of others) about that?” On the other hand, I’m always delighted when the presenter says something such as, “the reason I am telling you this is because I had ‘such and such’ experience and this is how I dealt with it”.
That is the same thought that goes through most young people’s minds when we adults stand in front of them to tell them how to live their lives. We can go and on about what they should do, or not do, but at the end of the day what really matters to a young person is what we adults do on a daily basis. In other words, what kind of life style do I live or what kind of decisions do I make? What gives me the right to stand in front of them and speak?
I have seen people with little training in public speaking who captivate a group of youth with their life stories; not because of the polished words they use but because of the challenges they have overcome. Whether we are parents or teachers or preachers, we can begin every “talk” with one single question in the back of our minds: what experience gives me the right to share what I am about to share? Ideally, we will only stand to talk when we have a positive answer to that question. And this applies whether we’re talking to just one child or an audience of thousands.