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What are you expecting?

Like many people, math was never my strongest subject. My math-loving brother-in-law despairs of this, convinced that math is not really all that difficult – it’s just taught ineffectively. I can’t really argue with him as I look back on the vast majority of my math teachers. And while I’m weepingly grateful that I haven’t had to crack a math book in – gulp – over 35 years, I do wonder sometimes what would happen if we told every child from Day 1 that they were absolutely fantastic at math. What would happen if we reshaped everyone’s expectations? How would student achievement change when it comes to math?

Dan Ariely is a researcher in behavioural economics at Duke University. In his fascinating book, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, he discusses how our expectations truly do shape our reality. In a somewhat amusing study of beer tasting among college students, he offered groups of students a choice between two kinds of beer: one was a regular Budweiser brand, and the other was the same but with a few drops of balsamic vinegar added.

Those who didn’t know about the added vinegar happily drank the ‘tainted’ beer, noticing no difference. Those who knew about the vinegar screwed up their faces in disgust as they took their first sip, rejecting the vinegar beer in favour of the regular Budweiser. The only difference in the students’ tasting experience was knowledge – knowing about the vinegar influenced their tasting experience in a negative way. It made me think about not only how many of us experience math, but how we experience everything.

Seeing as we don’t have time to cover everything in one blog, let’s focus on one aspect of modern life that seems to unite people in mutual fear and loathing similar to math: public speaking.  “Absolutely not” is a common response to being invited to speak at an event – any event. Even being asked to say a few words at your brother’s wedding strikes fear in the heart of many. The reasons behind this fear are numerous and varied, but it often comes down to two key fears: 1. Fear of public humiliation, and 2. An inner belief that no one would want to hear your message.

The first is relatively easy to address through training and preparation. The second is a tougher nut to crack because it gets to the heart of our beliefs about ourselves and how they shape our expectations. Women, in particular, seem to suffer from this fear of not being relevant or interesting to their audiences. Having suffered from that particular issue myself, I have reflected deeply on where it came from. 

Even in the 21st century, females are still socialized to feel inadequate, to believe that anything less than perfect is unnatural. So when it comes to public speaking, it’s not surprising that they edit themselves, believing their message isn’t good enough or strong enough to share with the world. I spent years expecting that my message wouldn’t be openly or positively received, and I was often right.  But when I started learning how to be an effective speaker, my expectations began to change – and so did my results.

Over our many years of teaching public speaking, my partner and I have seen numerous women make amazing breakthroughs time and time again. They arrive in our classes seriously doubting they have anything worthwhile to offer and leave feeling like there’s nothing they can’t do! The key difference? Expectation. Through experimenting, learning, and building confidence, they develop the expectation that of course they will do well, of course they’ve got something important to say. And because they expect it, it happens.

Should you still be doubtful, I’ll share that we’ve taught public speaking to many women who live in countries that actively work to devalue the voices of women – and still they have great outcomes. All because they’ve changed their expectations. When they expect their message to be positively received, they get heard. And change begins to happen. 

Each of has unique experiences of life, love, career – you name it. There is not one other person on the planet that experiences the world in exactly the same way as you, and there’s a huge audience out there with similar experiences to you that would greatly benefit from your unique take on things. Your message will resonate with those who are ready to hear it. And with 7 billion people on the planet, ‘your people’ will find you when you put that message out there.  You just need to expect it.

Ready to reshape your expectations and embrace your unique message? Join Shona and her partner Jan Bailey in partnership with XcelerateHER & Sandbox Centre for Empower HER Wisdom, a 6-week program that helps you identify, craft and launch your important message to the world. This limited registration program runs September 14th through October 23rd – reserve your seat today. The world is waiting to hear from you!

About the contributor:

In their highly interactive workshops, OVATION speaker trainers have helped countless individuals transform their ability to connect to their audience and deliver authentic and meaningful messages with impact. Now, more than ever, communication with some oomph is an essential skill. At a time when our emotions swing from overwhelmed to irrational, our ability to communicate effectively follows suit and it can be hard to remove the anger, frustration or even fear from our voice, let alone from our message … and that can have all manner of consequences.

Shona Welsh, BA, MCEd, CHRL, CCC is a communication and speaking expert who has won numerous speaking, writing and learning design awards. The author of several books and designer/facilitator of hundreds of international workshops in speaking and communications, she has held international senior executive positions over three decades. She teaches extensively about leadership, communications, and innovation with numerous universities and colleges.

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