Like most modern kids, mine are addicted… to their glow-in-the-dark devices that connect them to the outside world. It’s almost as if they have to be using a device to do anything. Every fact is checked on the internet. Every friend is confirmed through a text. Every homework is shared via the cloud. Every interaction is recorded for Instagram. Gone are the days of remembering phone 2015.12.01.ItsNeverAs___AsYouThinkItIsnumbers (I probably had 100+ phone numbers memorized as a kid; I doubt my kids have two). No one uses a phone to make calls, it seems.

As a parent, I have concerns about my kids’ device habits and I’m pretty strict in enforcing both the time and manner of their usage. We have a rule they must log their time, and it’s amazing how much they “forget” to log in. When I ask them how long they’ve been on, their estimates are never accurate (I rarely ask on first observation. I mark the time and ask again later). An argument (usually fun, but not always) ensues.

“It’s never as brief as it seems.”

It’s never as ______ as it seems.

I’ve started using this phrase in my class to drive home Rule #2 (Mind the Gap). I start just a few minutes into class by having a group member stand up and give a one-minute speech on the topic at hand (that’s their instructions). When they are done, I ask them, “How long was your one minute?” It seems like a funny question, but I’ve had only one person accurately guess their time within five seconds so far. Then I ask the audience, “Are you taking the over, or the under?” While usually more accurate, even they can’t decide. I tell them, “It’s never as long as you think” (or short).

The phrase comes up again when we discuss volume. And smiling. And vocal intonation. And gestures. And standing still. And fidgeting. And pausing. Especially pausing.

It’s never as (loud, expressive, wild, big, weird, still, long) as you think it is. Which is the probable the root of all the troubles public speakers face. If we could accurately see ourselves the way the audience does, then we’d probably change (probably). But we don’t see ourselves accurately, and thus we don’t change.

By the way, this is true of most of the other failures we face in life: our eating habits, our friendliness, our driving (be warned: one of my offspring is on the road TODAY as a newly minted Driver’s Ed student!), our cooking, and our language.

Unless SOMEONE tells you the truth, you won’t know. Or maybe SOMETHING will tell you the truth (remember our newsletter about why you should record, and listen to, your speaking engagements, and our speaking tip from this newsletter on why you should watch your recording in fast motion). I’ve had people who love me tell me that I was overweight, mean to my family, and in danger of ruining my business/finances. I’ve come to love each one for telling me the truth. In each case, change had to happen, and it did.

Find your accountability partner, whether human or a device. But find the truth, so you can change it.

It’s never as ____ as it seems.

Communication matters.  What are you saying?

This article was published in the December 2015 edition of our monthly speaking tips email, Communication Matters.  Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today and receive our FREE download, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.