Those clashes can tell you a lot about what style you are — and what style you’re dealing with.
For example: When I was a kid, my mother used to call me “Sarah Bernhardt.” Sarah Bernhardt was a famous silent movie star (yes, before the movies had sound, let alone HD and 3D!), known for her intensely emotional performances. What my Mom meant was that I was a drama queen.
She didn’t understand my (Helper) emotional intensity, and I didn’t understand her problem with it.
There have probably been important people in your life who couldn’t quite connect with how you expressed yourself. (This is true in our professional lives as well: For a great discussion of how your public speaking personality impacts your ability to ask for donations, check out Asking Matters — a site for fundraising professionals — and the video comment on “Kindred Spirits,” a/k/a Helpers, by yours truly). The chances are good that these people have a different public speaking personality than yours, just as the chances are good that, when you find yourself talking to a new acquaintance as if you’ve known each other for years, you share a public speaking personality.
Helpers: “I’m here to help!”
The Tin Woodman, who desperately wanted to have more heart, was a Helper (or, in Keirsey’s words, a Visionary).
If you think a lot (or even worry) about how well you treat other people — about whether you are kind enough, sensitive enough, helpful enough — you may also be a Helper, because those are Helper concerns.
- The great communication strength of Helpers (I’m one) is our uncanny ability to intuit, and respond to, the feelings and needs of others.
- This strength can become a weakness when Helpers get trapped inside our own emotions, or decide that we’re going to “save” another person who may not even want our help.
Helpers are also distinguished by a profound desire to live a purposeful life. Reliables, Improvers and Experiencers can work for a company that doesn’t reflect their personal values, but that type of compromise is agony for a Helper. More than any of the other public speaking personalities, we want every aspect of our lives to reflect whatever personal values we hold dear.
So How Do You Talk to a Helper?
Personally. Helpers view “objective” arguments with great suspicion, because, at bottom, they don’t really believe in objectivity. The harder you try to persuade them with logic, the more you will persuade them that something must be wrong with your thinking — or, worse, that you just don’t care. If, on the other hand, you show Helpers that you do care, they will open their hearts to your position — and their minds are likely to follow.
Positively. Making life better for other people is a Helper creed. Don’t talk to them about how your idea will save money or revolutionize your field until you’ve told them how it will improve people’s lives.
Passionately. While others take pride in doing their duty, innovating, or pushing the boundaries of physical courage, Helpers pride themselves on the depth and passion of their feelings. You can get close to a Helper without sharing your feelings, but it’s faster (and more satisfying to them) if you share.
If You Have the Helper Public Speaking Style
One of the toughest lessons for a Helper communicator to learn is that your passionately emotional focus will work against you in many situations.
This may be, in part, because 70% of Helpers are women, and feelings (considered primarily a woman’s domain) are still disdained by many people who think they’re messy, unreliable, and inappropriate for business settings. (Feelings also make many people uncomfortable, but that’s a whole other conversation.)
To reach the widest possible audience, gradually increase your ability to:
- Make factual rather than emotional observations. For instance, try calmly noting that “No one is responding to my suggestion,” rather than blurting out, “What, do you all hate my idea???”
- Give other reasons beside “This will change people’s lives.” Changing people’s lives is a prime motivator for Helpers. But since we are only 12% of the population, this argument leaves a lot of other people standing on the sidelines wondering why we don’t address their concerns, such as return on investment, or how outcomes will be measured.
- Carefully note who you’re dealing with. As Helpers, we want so much to find common ground with others that we sometimes trick ourselves into thinking it’s there when it’s not. Stand back and watch before jumping in; you’re less likely to make a mistake.
Every Public Speaking Personality is valid and valuable — and the most valuable thing of all is to understand your own group’s strengths, and how to deploy them.