Because We're Always Performing for Someone ...
At the playground last week (before it got too bitterly cold to go) my older son was playing with some of his school friends. There was an argument of some sort, and as his voice rose in disagreement, I saw him look over my direction to see if I was noticing. A shake of my head made him scowl and look away, and they were soon off and running again. It reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently ... who is my audience?
Almost everything I do is done with the idea that someone else (present or not) will have an opinion about it. It might be my husband, the person on the other side of the street, God, my son, my neighbor, my parents, my in-laws ... the list is endless. I’m rarely conscious of the little voice in the back of my head that wonders how X will react to my actions, but it’s usually there. It colors what I do and how and when I do it. Am I trying to impress, entertain, irritate, soothe, or enthuse?
Depending on my motivation, the voice can be a good thing. In the case of my son at the playground, he paid no attention to me until he started arguing. All of a sudden he wanted to know if he had an audience that he cared about (me), or could he get away with fighting and not have me notice? He didn’t like my reaction, but my attention motivated him to make a better choice in how to play. As adults, the premise still works ... we usually work a little harder, sit up straighter, and act with more integrity when we’re aware of an audience.
Sometimes my motivation to change my actions is one that takes away from who and what I am. If I’m trying to impress someone so that I feel better about myself (at their expense), or irritate someone into reacting, it isn’t helpful to me or to them. We act out what we think will give the desired impression, when it’s actually not an image that represents the real us at all. Things like “keeping up with the Joneses” cause problems, and if we can’t sustain the image it falls apart.
How often do you find yourself gauging your audience? I’ll bet it happens more than you realize ... try to stay aware of it for just a day and see. Whose ‘voice’ do you hear? Who are you playing to? Are you making better choices because of it, or stuck in old ruts? In my coaching, part of my role is to become an active audience member in my client’s personal performance, and it can be a huge motivator for positive change. Make sure your audience is helping you make better choices, and not dragging you down.