Speak Eagle

2 Things We Can Learn From Brian Williams

(To listen to my audio recording of this post, click on the white triangle below)

A client remarked offhandedly in a rehearsal session yesterday, “When I actually give my talk, I’ll embellish that part of the story.”

I laughed sarcastically, “Yeah! You could say you were hit by enemy fire!”

I’m a public speaking coach. I help people tell their stories in compelling ways. Sometimes this means suggesting that they add sensory details so that the audience is able to experience a scene, or fleshing out the plot of the story to define the conflict and the transformational moments.

The challenge is to stick to the truth. We’re all tempted to add details that would increase the drama, to make it seem like we were in more danger than we actually were. I imagine we’ve all done it. But when someone else is in the audience who has information that counters our details, we suddenly find ourselves in hot water.

And that’s where our friend Brian Williams finds himself this week.
I could rehash his mistakes, but I won’t. There are plenty of other bloggers out there to do that job. What I want to know is…as communicators, what can we learn from Mr. Williams?

I suggest that we can learn two things.

1.  First, LIVE BRAVELY. I applaud Brian Williams for risking his life in Iraq, flying over war-torn territory in a helicopter because he was committed to his work.   I want to live bravely, too, to take risks for the good of others. What does that look like for you? It doesn’t have to mean going overseas to war-torn territory. Maybe living bravely for you would be inviting the neighbor with the annoying dog over for coffee. Or having a conversation with a homeless woman on the street. Or maybe calling that relative you haven’t talked to in years. The truth is, when we live bravely, we will naturally have stories to tell. Stories that capture the heart of the listener and inspire them to live bravely, too.

2.  Second, SPEAK BRAVELY. Sometimes brave means telling a true story that’s tough to tell. But brave also means stopping at the truth, not embellishing, trusting that in God’s economy, the truth is enough. Enough for what? Enough for us to rest in the honesty of who we are and the truth of our experiences despite what others might think of us. Sometimes that kind of resting takes a brave zipping of the lips. And if others don’t think we’re a hero? That’s okay. And if others don’t think our story is as funny or as exciting as someone else’s story? That’s okay, too. Because it’s our story. Our true story. And there’s meaning and depth and beauty and bravery in the telling of any true story.  God will take care of the rest.

I’m thankful for Brian Williams and the bravery he showed during his years as a reporter. And hopefully, anytime we’re tempted to embellish a story from here on out, we will have a moment of silence for him.

So…I have a confession to make. To be honest, I didn’t laugh sarcastically or say anything at all to my client yesterday about enemy fire. But I wish I would have. It would have made a great blog post.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.