Recently, I watched a speaker patiently gather and connect with a group of disheartened and skeptical managers. His influence was a combination of a strongly formed outcome to connect and energize, and some very simple tools for effecting change. He asked people to move, and he gave them the opportunity to laugh at themselves and one another.
Studies show that more people fear public speaking than fear death or taxes. As much as human beings are designed to pay attention to one another, they are terrified of being conspicuous. They are afraid of being misunderstood or ridiculed or left frozen in the glare of the headlights. Public speaking accentuates those fears; it's not the only situation where they change attitudes and actions.
When we move, we displace the fear of being frozen in the headlights. As soon as we stand up, our spirits rise with our bodies. As soon as we change positions, we change perspectives. As soon as we move forward, we think forward. We give ourselves tangible evidence that we are not stuck.
When we move in ways that encourage us to laugh at each other, playing silly games or yelling funny slogans, we replace the fear of being laughed at with the pleasure of laughing together. When we are laughing at ourselves, we expect others to laugh, too. There is no shock of embarassment, no feeling of vulnerability, no awful moment of isolation. We say to ourselves and to those around us, "life is funny, isn't it?"
After playing silly games that involve laughter and movement, the managers addressed real issues with productive thinking - sometimes with answers and sometimes with questions. They set the terms for their success, and presented them with confidence. They left with lots to think about, and they left their leaders with lots to think about.
It's likely none of them noticed the simple tools that made the difference.
Laugh. Move. Move forward.