Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thinking on my feet

The last several weeks I have been taking a class where occasionally I am called upon to give opinions on topics I don't know much about and have no warning about: impromptu topics.  

I knew it before and bemoaned it, and in the last few weeks I have re-discovered that I don't think very well on my feet.  I need time to reflect, to ponder.  More than just a few seconds.  This is one of the reasons I write rather than use any other means of communication.  

Often, I'm just not interested in the topic at hand.  Current events bore and depress me, so I usually refuse to read or listen to the news.  I haven't listened to radio on a regular basis since I was in my 30s.  I got tired of listening to twenty songs I hated to hear the one I hoped they would play.  And I found talk radio filled with nothing but idle prattle which might put me to sleep rather than stimulate me.  

This came home to me yesterday as I had to give a three to four-minute presentation on one of three given topics which were given to me just two minutes beforehand.  The two minutes were for preparation of what I wanted to say and how, and then I was to launch into it.  Moreover, the person who asked me to do this was a virtual stranger to me.  There was absolutely no rapport with this guy.

To top it off, I really wanted to do well, because in mid-January, I will have to do it for real - to keep my French-speaking levels up.

So I stumbled, backed up, repeated myself, made all the classic mistakes, and when I had exhausted all I could think of during the speech, couldn't figure out how to end it.  By the end of it, I was doing what is commonly known as "bullsh**ting." Grasping for words - literally not knowing what the next words out of my mouth were going to be.  

My problem was that I knew that my skills were being judged and I got nervous and insecure.  To top it all off, the presentation wasn't in my mother tongue and I knew that my grammar would be scrutinized as well.  I braced myself for the criticism I would receive.  But all the fellow said was that I had gone over the time, and that I had gone into too much detail while using a personal example.  

I know he was being gracious.  But the fact remained that this realm of not being able to articulate what I think "on the spot" is a known weakness of mine.  I knew it; I've always known it.  And I have always settled for just living with it.  

The Serenity Prayer says, "God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference."  I'm getting better at accepting things I can't change.  I still need a LOT of Wisdom.  And I'm finding that there are more things I thought I couldn't change ... that it appears I can.  

Like thinking on my feet.  Apparently it is a skill that can be learned!!  Who knew?  I went looking on Google this morning briefly, before anyone else was awake, "how to think on your feet."  I was surprised that there was so much written on the subject, and came up with some simple strategies to help me relax and structure my thoughts "on the fly".  As I get closer and closer to my real impromptu presentation, I hope to be able to use some of these techniques.  

One more way to grow.  On my feet.  Huh.

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