Secret #9 – Be Human

Do me a favor: Bring water with you when you speak. I don’t know why, but people seem to think that it’s a personal failure that the moisture in their mouth isn’t sufficient to support a lengthy discussion without re-hydration. Don’t we have enough to feel bad about without adding thirst? The fact is: It’s nearly impossible to concentrate on listening to someone suffering with cottonmouth, and the speaker is hopelessly distracted by it, as well.

Why should we interpret a basic biological (and predictable) need as a source of shame? It’s like being embarrassed about breathing. It’s one of those silly things that we think without…well, thinking. It begins when our mouth gets dry, our tongue gets pasty and our lips begin sticking to our teeth. There are two options:

A) You (inner monologue): This is terrible! I couldn’t moisten a stamp for all the gold in Fort Knox! Everyone is looking at me try to lick my lips but my tongue feels like a rice cake. It’s not just dry, it’s a chamois! Now, I’m making weird clicking sounds like I’m speaking that African Bush dialect! Oh, great. I’m starting to sweat and tremble. My heart is racing! Oh, GOD! I’m having a stroke!


B) You (inner monologue): My mouth feels a little dry. (sips water and continues)

It’s easy to see which option to choose. (B!) So let’s put this to bed. Drink water—as much as you need—when speaking.

You may be happy to know that this section isn’t just about dry mouth. It’s about understanding that we are people and that’s OK. When we attend our basic human needs, giving ourselves the best shot at meaningful communication, everyone wins.

Most of what can happen while speaking is predictable—verbal stumble, cough, burp, stomach gurgle—you get the idea. Instead of panicking, we can silently recognize, “My stomach just made a really strange noise,” say out loud, “Excuse me,” and simply carry on. If we keep from becoming frazzled and get back on track, the whole thing will likely be forgotten. Let’s agree to give these episodes exactly as much attention—and not one bit more—than they deserve.

If you’re thirsty, drink some water. If you need glasses, pause to put them on. Think ahead and use the restroom before you have to speak.

Seems reasonable, so what’s the problem? I would posit, if posit I may, that the difficulty comes in when we eschew our humanity in the interest of achieving an unattainable ideal.

There is no logic to wanting to be “perfect,” yet I am often confronted with highly intelligent clients who proudly admit, “I’m just a perfectionist—I’m never satisfied.” No wonder they’re frustrated—this standard dooms them to failure! Really, if there were such a thing as perfection in human behavior, athletes would stop when they reached that perfect point, and that would be it. No need to improve techniques, try harder, or attempt to break records. But there is no such point, so striving for perfection in this scenario is like entering a race that has no rules and no finish line. You can’t win.

You: There she goes again with the metaphors. Next she’ll be talking about cooking!

Why is it a chef continues to revamp a menu? Is it to approach “perfection” or to grow and evolve and discover new flavors and textures?

Maybe human perfection is an oxymoron because, if possible, it would be boring? Or maybe we’re all perfectly unique, with boundless possibilities? Maybe I’ve been watching too much Oprah? Regardless, we’re human and human performance is not measured by standards of perfection. Period.

I’m happy to report that perfection isn’t interesting anyway—at least watching people trying to attain it isn’t. “Perfectionists” spend most of their time either beating themselves up or turning their unreasonable judgment on others. If this sounds like you, do yourself and everyone around you a favor and knock it off.

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