Yesterday we talked about the importance of knowing why we were doing whatever it is we are doing. Those underlying reasons — almost always emotional and sometimes painful — are our human connection to the path we’ve chosen for ourselves. In sharing these reasons with others, even in part, we allow them to connect with us on a much deeper level which in turn strengthens that relationship tremendously.

So, yes, knowing the “why” is important, but how do we get to the “why”?

Not surprisingly, the question contains it’s own answer. We must start by asking ourselves “Why?” and each time we come up with an answer, we have to ask more questions. In the end we want to be asking, “Yes, but how does that apply to me?” You know you are done when you come to an answer that makes you experience emotions which make you uncomfortable. Then you’ll know you’ve reached your true “why”.

There’s nothing like being your own psychiatrist.

Debby Peters, in her networking classes, helps her students go through this process. On that day, she makes sure that there are boxes of tissues on the desk — the process can be that painful.

So, we start out. “Greg, why do you want to help people with networking?”

“Because there’s a lot of bad information out there and people aren’t getting what they need from networking as a result.” That’s a nice safe response. I don’t feel threatened or uncomfortable — and no one else will feel any emotional resonance with it. So we go a little deeper.

“Why is that a problem?”

“Because they’ll be frustrated and never understand why it isn’t working.” OK, now we’re getting a hint of emotion. “Frustration” is still a safe emotion and it’s applied to other people, so it’s no danger to me. Keep digging.

“How do you know they’ll feel that way?”

“Because I’ve gone through that. I remember showing up at the networking events and not knowing anyone and feeling like a complete outsider.” OK, now I’m attaching the emotions to me. That’s better. I’m starting to feel a little discomfort now. Keep going a little further.

“So why was being an outsider bad?”

“Because I felt completely alone, like no one understood what I was going through. Feeling alone in a room full of people really sucks.” This is actually a pretty good level. Not great, but a lot of people can identify with these feelings. For casual conversations, this is actually not a bad place to go. Of course, I’ve abbreviated the process for the sake of space. It usually takes a little more effort than just four questions. After all, we usually try to shield ourselves from the answers to the difficult questions.

Now, the best speakers I’ve seen go one or two steps further. They can relate these emotions to a particular moment in their lives. Often these are painful and personal memories that they share with an audience.

And why would you want to put yourself through this?

Because you are sharing powerful emotions. Believe it or not, most will be touched by your story and drawn to you, which achieves the ultimate goal of presenting in the first place — to get them to like you.

Is it easy? No. Is it fun? No. Will it make your presentation, whether in normal conversation or in front of a group, more powerful than just about anything else you can do?

You bet.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about how to craft and present the story which ties in with your “why”.