Bleeps and Blunders!

“You are the reason I left Toastmasters!

I was facilitating a strategy workshop for a client one day, and one of the participants recognised me.

I remember you, she said. You’re a Toastmaster.
I was very proud that she remembered me. I’m used to making a positive impact on people. So I was shocked at what she said next.
“You evaluated my second speech.” she said. “You were so cruel, I never went back to Toastmasters.”

I couldn’t believe it. I am so used to thinking of myself as kind and supportive.
But what I realised at that moment is that I was used to dealing with much more experienced speakers — speakers that are used to hearing feedback that is tougher than many novices.

I was reminded that when people are new to Toastmasters they are doing something very difficult. They are making themselves very vulnerable. We need to treat new speakers with a lot of gentleness and kindness.

We are taught to be “brutally honest.” I think that’s wrong.
I think we need to display compassionate honesty, kind honesty, loving honesty.
I was deeply ashamed that day. Not only had I blocked a person’s ability to experience the growth that Toastmasters can offer, but I had also damaged Toastmasters as a brand. And I had also damaged a human relationship.

I hope I have become kinder as a result. It’s easy for us to believe that we know what we’re doing, especially when we are a bit more experienced. But the more experienced we are, the more compassion we need to display. Let’s remember how hard it is for people to stand in front of us for the first or second time, and treat them with the kindness they deserve

Eric Viedge

Past District Governor