Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The all-in-one on tears while speaking

Showing emotion when you talk--especially when it involves tears or tearing up--has long been a double-edged sword for women speakers. Speaking with emotion is usually a woman's strong suit, an advantage. Yet women (and sometimes men) who cry during public speaking appearances are ridiculed as weak and unable to control their emotions, particularly when they're running for election.  So are tears while speaking a bad thing?

Not necessarily.  This post rounds up several different perspectives on tears while speaking from discussions on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook as well as the blog's vault of previous posts, to give you a well-rounded perspective on the topic:
  • Understand how crying evolved:  This NPR piece looks at the purposes crying serves, physically and emotionally--and how we've evolved  to perceive it in others. The concluding line: "Tears help reveal the truth. And that's because along with the tears, we've evolved a very sophisticated ability to interpret them."
  • Get the science behind why we cry:  Psychology, culture and biochemical reactions play a role in why we cry, and why women cry more easily and more often than men do, according to researchers.
  • You can expect tears in some speaking situations:  Delivering your mother's eulogy is one of them, and in this post, a reader on Facebook asked for help in figuring out how to do that. Read the advice we gave her, and her report back on how it went and what she learned that might be useful for others.
  • Think through how to approach a tough topic in advance:  I have five ways to approach a tough topic, and crying might be part of that approach for you. No matter which tactic you adopt, taking the time to plan ahead will help you get through it.
  • Understand one reason women get criticized for crying in high-profile speeches:  This post during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign cites a journalist who wanted female candidates like Sarah Palin to strive for a professional look--perhaps because women get so few high-profile opportunities.
  • Can women cry in public? It depends, said former U.S. Representative Patricia Schroeder during the 2008 campaign, citing evidence that male candidates shed tears without negative reaction more than did female candidates.  She noted that Hillary Clinton, then a candidate for U.S. president could not afford to cry during her campaign; this post looks at the aftermath when she did, eventually, tear up on the trail.
On The Eloquent Woman on Facebook recently, I asked readers whether they have cried during public speaking. Here's what some of them said:
  • Christine Heidenreich Kless simply shared, "I have." 
  • Wendy Collins said, "Yes, and it's really hard to keep going when the emotions take over! I've had times when I had to pause and bite the inside of my cheek to get a grip so I could go on. The pain seems to help. Emotions are very honest and good. They often convey more than words can, but I try to practice things enough so that I can at least keep myself under control while I speak about something that I know will cause me to cry."
  •  Maria Elena Poulos said she cried "During a 9/11 speech."
Do you have experiences, tips or advice to share on shedding tears while speaking? Leave them in the comments.

This post made it into Andrew Dlugan's roundup of the best public speaking blog posts for the week ending September 11, 2010 on the Six Minutes blog. Thanks, Andrew!

Related posts:  The all-in-one on using emotions (all kinds) when you speak

Check out the community on The Eloquent Woman on Facebook, and sign up for Step Up Your Speaking, my free monthly newsletter, here.