Our Readers' Opinions
September 9, 2016
The unmasking of me

by Kathy Ann Latchoo

WE all wear masks.

We present different faces to our bosses, families, friends. We have to. If we went to work like sourpusses because we had a quarrel with our sister, we would never get that coveted promotion.

Problems begin, though, when we hide behind the masks and never find our authentic selves. When I became a toastmaster 18 months ago, I learned to celebrate the different aspects of my personality, polishing my rough edges and showcasing my more alluring qualities.{{more}}

Working through the 10 projects in the Competent Communicator manual, I re-discovered the natural storyteller inside me, and became adept at using humour to convey a serious message. One of my first speeches was a re-telling of the Cinderella fairy tale, from the viewpoint of the ugly stepsisters, who were greatly misunderstood, by the way. I have provoked discussion on fashion, feminism, ethnicity, and the justice system — all in a jubilant environment, where everyone’s point of view is respected and no one feels left out.

The Authoritative Me, the Fun-Loving Me, and the Mentoring Me all find their voices at Toastmas-ters meetings. Through the leadership programme, I got over my fear of delegation and my tendency to micro-manage. I revel in receiving feedback (fresh ideas for improvement!) and I learned how to deliver it too.

How do you tell a co-worker his last project was below par or your best friend that her poor grammar is holding her back? Use the “sandwich method’’ when evaluating performance – begin and end with the positive. Also, critique the person’s performance, not his or her personality.

People say, “But you are a lawyer. You already know how to talk.’’ Ha! Lawyers are great at pretending they know it all. No one sees the somersaults of their hearts as they grope for the right phrase. Before Toastmasters, I hated impromptu speaking. Now, I see it as a cool brain game: how smoothly can I speak on any topic for three minutes without using verbal crutches, such as “errr’’ and “ahm’’?

Best of all, I have made new friends who are clever, funny, creative and who let me be myself.

Now, I only wear a mask for the fun of it.

The Achievers Toastmasters Club meets every 1st and 3rd Saturday at the Paradise Beach Hotel in Villa at 4.30 p.m. For more information please visit www.svgtoastmasters.com or find us on facebook at www.facebook.com/achieverstoastmasterssvg