Tears while speaking: Lessons from Obama

The president, in talking about the heartbreaking school shootings in Connecticut, gave way to emotion. Here’s what to keep in mind the next time you face a difficult speaking event.

Putting yourself and your emotions into a speech is generally good advice, as audiences can better relate to a speaker on a sad topic who seems to reflect that emotion. (Think of how you’d view someone who spoke about the death of a loved one without showing any emotion.) But crying, once it begins, is hard to stop—like blushing.

Even if your mind doesn’t like it, the action is a natural response your body is making to the stress you feel. The result for speakers is an internal tug-of-war: You’re supposed to be up there representing and channeling the grief or trauma of others. But it’s that moment when you are most successful at summoning up the emotion and it starts leaking from your eyes that many speakers feel, “Whoops, I just let that go too far.”

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