To Be, Rather Than to Seem

Esse quam videri

To be, rather than to seem

This is North Carolina’s state motto, and I’ve always liked it. Realness and authenticity, rather than posturing. What’s at the heart, not on the surface. The motto speaks to trustworthiness and truth.

I hope I won’t sound too grand when I say that this Latin epigraph also summarizes Ignite CSP’s approach to coaching communication skills. We focus first on intention, the “why,” because it is the engine of communicating, and it affects every aspect of how we come across to others. We work on what it means to be connected, be engaged, be warm.

On the other hand, an approach that focuses on how we communicate, rather than why, necessarily relies on the ability of a speaker to seem confident, to seem trustworthy, to seem approachable. The coach might try to achieve this by suggesting specific gestures, reminding the speaker to pause after certain words, or telling them exactly how to move on the stage. Ultimately, this kind of coaching ends up as a collection of moments that may not gel, since there’s no unifying “why” behind the choices. More importantly, the audience can tell when a speaker is seeming rather than being.

When we can deeply understand our own intentions—good, bad, and ugly—we develop the ability to be, in any situation, rather than to seem. When we recognize our own tendency to deflect, to defend, to react from fear, we can begin to shift to a more productive intention. We’re not pretending when we adopt a deliberate intention; we are finding another part of ourselves that is also genuine.

To be, rather than to seem. Powerful stuff.

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