By Guest Blogger, Gill Robertson*
I joined toastmasters because I wanted to converse confidently and intelligently with others. To some degree I could do this already; after all I speak and I’m intelligent. However, the pressure to perform and be rewarded with ribbons and stickers is disheartening. It is appropriate to reward an animal with an enticement of food or a stick. It is not, should not and never will feel right to do the same to humans. The days of stickers and ribbons should long since been abandoned along with tassels on banners.
The best motivation is self-motivation, a sense of deep-rooted satisfaction and accomplishment in one’s own achievements. Real self-motivation and a sense of accomplishment are measured not by strips of fabric or bright stickers. This motivation happens when a room full of people or even a single listener who within fifteen seconds of the start of speech are listening, really listening and not only listening, but hearing the words uttered.
Similarly, only saying “good job” is patronizing for all ages. Ribbons and rewards can be just another patronizing pat on the head. “Good job” in any dialect can open up the gateways for competitiveness. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with competition but when it spills over into an assumption one club is greater than another because they have won more prizes, it’s unfair. Perhaps the playing field is uneven. Maybe members have had more years to accumulate prizes or live in the city. We are forgetting the real reasons for being a toastmaster. Individual achievement, personal growth and being part of a community where individuals together build each other up without a physical reward are among the reasons.
Constructive feedback is rewarding, it lasts longer and fuels growth as a speaker. Unlike a ribbon, it is impossible to shove to the back of a drawer. It resides in us as a personal reward. Unlike a physical reward which fades, the colours of true achievement deepen over time.
*Gill has been a member of District 64 Toastmasters almost a year.