Cathy’s Dirty Little Secret

Meet Cathy. Cathy is a bright, competent, well-educated, well-read woman with many interests and hobbies. After a long career in public relations, she retired, opting to put her heart and soul into parenting her three almost grown children. Cathy has volunteered her considerable talents at her children’s schools, in her town government, at her church, for medical causes and in support of social justice issues. Not surprisingly, Cathy is beginning to think about what she wants to ‘do’ during the next stage of her life. Like many of us, she has tons of ideas but is not sure how to make them happen.

Cathy also has a secret, and she walks around all day, every day, hiding it behind the bright, energetic smile on her face. Having her secret exposed causes her so much fear, she’ll do just about anything to avoid it. Avoidance and diversion have become her allies. Her best protection, the most successful way she’s learned to deflect attention away from herself and her fear? Like many of us, it is to talk about her children, their worries, their accomplishments, their lives and goals.

ImageCan you guess what Cathy’s secret is? Here’s a clue. Cathy lives in fear of a simple question, one that is asked daily, almost every time any of us meet someone new in any social situation. Cathy is afraid of the question “So, what do you do?

Here’s Cathy’s strategy: When she meets new people she immediately takes control of the conversation, asking others about their lives and the lives of their children. She’s learned taking about your kids is a sure-fire way to avoid the dreaded question. Of course, Cathy also hates cocktail parties and avoids them like the plague. Unfortunately, the more Cathy avoids these situations, the more paralyzed she gets.

Cathy is not alone in her fear of this question; many of us share it. But what would happen if Cathy could move through her fear of that question, hear it differently, learn to answer it differently, perhaps with a few questions of her own? What would be different for Cathy?

Cathy would learn she’s been missing out on opportunities to connect with people who might help her to move forward with some of her own ideas and interests. She would learn how to open doors to possibilities. She would learn that even people in transition have a story to tell, an interesting history to call upon, a future to work toward. In conquering her fear of the question by being comfortable with an open-ended answer, Cathy will draw in her listener and become an active participant in shaping her future.

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I introduced Cathy to my version of the tried and true business practice known as the elevator pitch. This tool has been used effectively for decades to introduce a product or service to a stranger in a clear and engaging way. I call my version the “one minute of me” speech. Quite simply, it’s a way to help my clients feel more comfortable in starting a conversation about their dreams and goals.

Here is the “one minute of me” speech Cathy and I developed: “I have a background in Public Relations and have used my skills in numerous community projects while raising my children. I am exploring using these skills in the non-profit world. I’m kind of stuck on how to proceed. How would you go about researching potential opportunities?”

Cathy and I practiced her speech many times so that it confidently rolled off her tongue. When she was ready to road-test it in the real world, her experience was so positive that she began to look forward to situations where she could use it. Ultimately, as her confidence grew, so did her speech, and not unexpectedly, referrals, connections and ideas started rolling in.

So, how comfortable are you answering the question “what do you do?”

Is it time to develop your own “one minute of me” speech? Request my “One Minute of Me” worksheet. Follow the instructions and craft a speech that you are excited to share.

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