Coaching communication crisis Education public speaking

Face it: you need to fake it. Authenticity is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Authenticity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. To show our care and compassion for others, we often need to put aside our feelings.

There are higher truths that need to be served. Ask a mother whose child has fallen off a swing set. The child is bleeding and crying.

Does the mother give in to her worst fears? Does she start weeping and screaming? Nope.

“You’ll be OK, sweetie. We’re going to take a quick ride to the emergency room! Won’t that be exciting!”

In business, we often find ourselves in situations where we need to be brave. We need to show confidence we don’t feel.

Let me share three situations where this can happen:

  1. A novice speaker feels terrified. She’s never stood in front of a group of professionals before. She has wonderful knowledge to share, but she has butterflies. 🦋 She feels so nervous, she’s scared she might throw up.

  2. A seasoned pro feels confident. He’s stood in front of groups a zillion times before. Minutes before a critical speech, however; he learns of a grave personal tragedy. 💔 Heartbroken, he feels like bursting into tears.

  3. A mid-career pro is on stage, wowing the audience. Suddenly, an alarm sounds. A flurry of text alerts go off, advising everyone in the room of a weather emergency. 🌪️The on-stage performer is so afraid, she feels like fleeing.

When “being authentic and keepin’ it real” means puking, crying, and/or running away — you’ll want to consider other options. If you feel afraid: it’s 100% OK to muster up courage and instead show confidence.

A one minute video, where I offer a little pep talk to a nervous speaker…

If you’re standing in front of an audience, you’re in a leadership position. Your fear can spread like a contagion. For the good of your audience, you can’t risk starting a panic by acting on your worst fears.

You need to show courage. You need to be brave.

It you want to be self-deprecating, you can call your real bravery ‘fake it ’til you make it’. That’s cool. I get it. I think it’s a shame, though…

Social pressure forces you to re-frame your “real bravery” as “fake confidence”.

…but I see you. When you say ‘fake it ’til you make it’ – I know who you really are. You’re my favorite kind of person.

You’re brave. When you feel scared, but carry on with confidence – that’s almost the dictionary definition of courage.


So let’s say you’re faking confidence…does this mean you’re an impostor? In a word, no.

I know social pressure can be a monster, though. You’ve probably heard voices say “fake” anything is wrong and bad.

Social conditioning may have laid a vicious head trip on you. It’s an ugly voice telling you any display of confidence needs to be “real” not “fake”. It’s this dreadful and simplistic notion of:

“fake always bad; real always good!”

News flash: sometimes, real confidence can be a real disaster. Further, a wellspring of heartfelt self-assurance is not likely to magically radiate out of a real expert who is suddenly thrust into a completely unfamiliar situation.

It’s why experts practice and drill. It’s why we rehearse and edit. It’s why we put ourselves in new and challenging situations.

We need to develop more than a shallow “just be authentic” form of self awareness. How can you “just be yourself” if you don’t really know yourself… or how you might act in unfamiliar situation? How do you work with authentic “fight or flight” instincts that might not serve you well?

Thoughtful, introspective people choose continuous learning. They’ll often pick an environment like a classroom or workshop to build experience, knowledge, and confidence.

Smart people don’t sit around and hope for confidence to magically appear when they need it the most. They go out of their way to develop and nurture it with training and practice.

Consider these three learning scenarios where almost everything is fake:

  1. In beginning public speaking classes, we practice physical exercises in a friendly environment. When we work on techniques and gain experience speaking in front of others; we start to feel less afraid. 🦋
  2. In speech workshops, speakers receive feedback. They may decide to tweak their content structure and word choices before going public. Editing and coaching often improves messaging.  ❤️
  3. In crisis communication sessions, we drill on worst case scenarios that have yet to happen. We role play to be mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared to face tough challenges. 🌪️

In each case, we’re not being 100% authentic. The classroom is a simulation, not reality. Through learning, we build confidence.

When you’re navigating through difficult and complex issues, be aware of nuance. Instead of a clinging to simple gut-level truisms; consider serving a higher truth.


Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a #LinkedInLearning author. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking. New this month: Establishing Credibility as a Speaker.

You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Coaching communication

Hate meetings? Try implementing this one simple rule to change the way you feel forever.

I love meetings. But I understand why you might not.

A friend recently shared a workplace anecdote. One day, she and her colleagues gathered together for a meeting.

For the first few minutes, they shuffled papers and fumbled with their phones. Then they stared at each other.

Finally, someone said it.

“Hey, what’s this meeting about?”

And no one in the room knew! After 15-20 minutes of griping, they went back to their offices.

Wow. I told my friend that was crazy.

Was it a meeting or an experiment? Absurd theater, maybe?

Waiting for Godot? No Exit?

Alas, no. She said this kind of thing happens at her workplace ALL. THE. TIME.

Sheesh. If that’s the kind of thing that happens “all the time” — no wonder people say they hate meetings.

If you work in this kind of crazy culture, I get it. Chances are, you can’t fathom how great meetings can be in organization that actually respects time, talent, and teamwork.

Cultural change is hard, though. You can’t just put up a sign that says “respect my time and talents” and expect it to happen.

Someone needs to make change happen. Someone needs to set some boundaries.

And that person? If you hate meetings, it might actually be up to you.

What if you took one brave step to change your company’s culture? And what if it started with your hatred of meetings?

Early in my career, I worked for two organizations. They both followed a strict “if no agenda, then no meeting rule.”

Going to a meeting without an agenda? Unthinkable. For years, I never thought there was any other way.

No agenda? No meeting.

It’s that simple. Don’t go to meetings where you don’t have a written agenda.

It’s one small rule, but it can start a conversation. It can change the way people in your organization think and talk about meetings.

Because once you get going on the “no agenda, no meeting” framework, you’ve set a constructive boundary. From this, other positive changes can start happening.

Meetings, after all, are a team activity. And if you’ve got a team, you need to play positions. (Who’s the leader? Who’s keeping minutes? Who’s following up? Etc.)

And of course, you make rules. (How long? Where? When? Standing? Sitting? Etc.) And if you have 1) a team that 2) play positions and 3) there are rules, then guess what?

You have all the basic ingredients for gamification, my friend. You can make your meetings challenging and (gasp) fun.

Remember: the word “goals” is a sports term. If your meeting has goals, you might have a game in play.

For example, you can keep stats on meetings with all the passion you have for keeping stats on your favorite sports teams. (Go, data!) You can define metrics for winning a meeting. (Hurray for innovation!) You can run spirited interdepartmental or by-client competitions. (Yay, team!)

Bottom line? You can make meetings productive, useful, and fun.

Adopt the “no agenda, no meeting rule.” You might find you don’t hate meetings so much after all.

Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and LinkedIn Learning author. New course released this month: Establishing Credibility as a Speaker 

communication fun

When businesses thank you for your patience, they’re treating you like a dog — one of Pavlov’s dogs.

I often act patient, even when I don’t feel it. I’ll bet you have, too.

We’ve been conditioned.

Let’s say you been on hold with customer service for what seems like forever. One of the first things the phone rep might say is “thank you for your patience.”

They’ve been trained to say it. But you?

You’re not feeling patient. You’re feeling the exact opposite of patient.

“Thank you for your sarcasm,” you want to reply. But don’t.

Because that’s not how we’ve been trained to play the ‘thank you for your patience’ game. The rules of this social situation say “You can’t be authentic. You must pretend to be patient.”

So you sigh, choke down your fury, and move the conversation forward. You’re also aware the ‘thank you for your patience’ game took another 3 seconds of your time. This further erodes your already frayed pretend-patience.

The patience game is oh-so tedious. You’d rather not play it, but what can you do?

Always a dog, tugging a rope

The other day, I saw a sign attached to a velvet rope. A business was training customers to snake through a queue to get to three harried customer service reps. The sad little sign read — you guessed it:

“Thank you for your patience.”

But few people looked patient. Most looked annoyed and/or weary.

Some looked resigned to their fate. These more placid people had whipped out their phones and were amusing themselves while they waited.

But you? You have some degree of emotional intelligence. You know ‘resigned to your fate’ is a far different feeling than ‘patience’.

The sad little velvet rope sign could have more truthfully read,

“You might be waiting in line a long time. Management would appreciate it if you could resign yourself to this fate.”

Why don't you thank me for my patience one more time?

Businesses who ‘thank you for your patience’ plan to inconvenience you. They know in advance they have a problem. They could have invested in resources. They could innovate. They could choose to handle your issue promptly — but they didn’t.

They decided it’s cheaper to make a sign. Or it’s easier to tell a frazzled front-line employee to utter some clichéd words in an attempt to soothe you into compliance.

“Thank you for your patience” relies on behavioral conditioning. It’s a blatant attempt to cow customers into acting in a way that’s not authentic.

It’s Pavlovian. You hear “thank you for your patience” – and you might actually simmer down for a few seconds. You know it’s not the front-line rep’s fault. You want to snap — but you probably won’t.

Not yet. But all that’s changing.

You might not have to play the ‘thank you for your patience’ game too much longer. Some new signs are cropping up. Your natural, authentic impatience is being recognized and rewarded.

  • Wait in line at a movie? Or download it instantly from home?
  • Wait in line for returns? Or download an app?
  • Go to the store? Or have the store come to you?

Industry leaders in customer service are putting out new signs. All these signs say:

“Thank you for your impatience. You’re inspiring us to innovate as fast as we can.”

Consequently, your behavior will change. You will find yourself losing an enormous amount of patience with businesses that thank you for your patience.

You will not be loyal. You will not comply. You will not be obedient.

But for the moment, you might still have to work with a company that relies on you to fake some patience. Take heart. These companies might not be around much longer.

Until they’re gone for good, play your own game. Count how many times you hear and see ‘thank you for your patience’ for the rest of the year. Note the businesses that have invested in this Pavlovian practice.

Then, see how much longer they last. Maybe our impatience will finally be rewarded.

Laura has decades of experience as a business communication coach. She has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and leads workshops on effective communication. You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Check out her courses on LinkedIn Learning: Crisis Communication and Public Speaking.