Be Careful Of Sounding Like A Narcissist In Your Speeches
This article originally appeared on Forbes by Mark Murphy, Founder of Leadership IQ
One thing you need to watch out for when you’re giving motivational speeches, whether you’re in front of a formal, seated audience, or in a more informal setting like with a group of your employees (this even applies when talking to your customers), is violating the narcissism ratio. And the narcissism ratio, very simply, is the ratio of the number of times you say “I” and “me” versus the number of times you talk about “them.”
Folks just don’t get all roused and “Rah! Rah! Let’s go!” in support of something when you sound like a record stuck on “I” and “me.” But people do get inspired to do the big things you want them to do when you feed them words that are about things that are relevant to them. And even more specifically, when your words solve their pain points. They don’t want to hear all about you and what you think. They want the big picture and to know how all this is going to impact them.
You can listen to executive speeches, for example, a place where the narcissism ratio is often brutally violated, and count the number of times these CEOs talk about “me” and “I” compared to the number of times they talk about their audience. Too often the scales sway heavily towards “me” and “I.” And most of the time it’s not even intentional. You don’t have to be a narcissist to be in danger of violating the narcissism ratio. “I” and “me” pop up in all kinds of phrases, for example:
I think you should do this.
I believe 100% in this strategy I’m about to share with you.
I think this is the right thing to do.
I want you to believe in me.
Hop on my back and I’ll carry us all to the goal line.
Those exhortations may, on the surface, appear to be motivating, and they may even be spoken with the best intentions. But the reality remains that when people hear “I” more than they hear something that directly applies to them, whatever you’re saying becomes highly narcissistic. And that’s when your words lose their motivational thrust.
There’s another piece to this, because not withstanding that most people like to hear about their favorite topic (themselves), generally speaking, people also want to believe that they’re working for something slightly bigger than themselves. And they want to work for something slightly bigger than their boss. It’s not that they don’t want to do great things for you; it’s just that doing something solely for one person is not as motivating as doing it for a higher purpose, for customers, for the organization as a whole or for themselves as a group of employees.
The best motivational speeches are less about what “I can do for you” and more about “what we can achieve.” The more we talk about “we’re doing this for the customers,” for example, the more everybody in the organization is going to pitch in.
So the next time you’re preparing for a motivational speech, here’s an exercise that will ensure you keep the narcissism ratio in check. When you’ve got your speech to a polished place, record it and have it transcribed. There’s even transcription software available that turns human speech into a text transcript (just speak slowly and clearly when you use it). Then take two different color highlighters and go through your words and mark every time you say “I” and “me” and every time you talk about “them,” your employees, customers or whomever. If possible, get a second set of eyes to check your work. When you’re that close to content it’s just too easy to see what you think is written on the page instead of what’s really there.
Then you’re going to count, how many times do I talk about “me” and how many times do I talk about “them.” Count the number of times you say “I” or “me” instead of “we” or “customers” or “you” or “employees” – some other pronoun or noun that isn’t “me as an individual” but is about something bigger than ourselves. I know it’s not a fun exercise, but it’s necessary because if the “me” outweighs the “them,” you’re not going to get the audience buy in you need.