Today's Guest: Peter George
Today, I interview Peter George who as a young child had a speech impediment. Because of this, he learned to stay quiet and kept his circle fairly small. He was shy and rarely spoke up in class. But he decided he could become very proficient in all kinds of sports, as the athletic kids rarely get picked on. But that was okay with him at the time, because he really enjoyed sports anyway.
Then, he was forced to work with a speech pathologist who gave him very vigorous, exhausting conditioning exercises. He hated them, but they did help the speech issues to subside enough to be barely noticeable now. As is true for many people, Peter could talk easily with family and close friends, but was introverted when it came to connecting with new people at first. He was seen as snobbish by some in high school because he was athletic and successful but hardly spoke to anyone.
Entering college and the workforce without sports as his shield, he had no choice but to speak in certain situations. When it came to keeping a job he truly valued, he stepped up and spent his work commute educating himself and working to improve his speaking abilities.
Of all things that Peter has tried, he says that personal coaching made the biggest difference for him. His biggest takeaway has been learning that the people listening to us aren’t thinking the horrible things we think about ourselves. They’re just there to listen. If we focus on what we have to offer the listener, our perspective shifts and the fear goes away. Today, Peter works with others to show them how it’s all about the audience.
Find Peter here: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Learn How to Speak Without Fear!
Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode #45 Peter George
It’s All About the Audience
(00:35) Dr. Doreen Downing
Hi, I’m Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m host to the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. What I do here is to interview people, I asked them to come on and pretty much unzip about where they feel like they didn’t have a voice, but also to point to the path where they did discover their voice. So, you get both you get both the struggle as well as the transformation here. Today, I have a guest that I’ve invited. Peter, you are somebody who is a public speaker. So, this is going to be fun. I mean if you started out with the situation and then struggle, and then now a public speaker, you’ve come a long way. So, let me first introduce you what you gave me all right, Peter George, as a child, Peter had speech impediments a lisp and a stutter. Consequently, he grew up to be shy, introverted, and reluctant to speak in front of others. However, when he entered the business world, he realized that public speaking skills are essential, which is so true. Ironically, Peter is now a speaking coach, helping others learn to communicate more effectively, so they can share their experience and expertise and benefit others. Well, Peter, that sounds a little like my journey. So, this is going to be fun to hear yours. So, welcome. Welcome to today our show, Peter.
(02:15) Peter George
It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
(02:17) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes. What drew you to want to be here today to speak about your situation.
(02:24) Peter George
When I learned about your podcast, I just thought it would be a great opportunity for me to possibly help some of your listeners if I can add some knowledge, experience, and advice that helps them. That’s great. I would love to do that.
(02:38) Dr. Doreen Downing
Oh, I appreciate your openheartedness and willingness to use yourself as a vehicle for change. So, because I’m a psychologist, like I said, I’m always curious about early development. We come into this world, and then we are out there saying “hello, look at me, look at me.” Sometimes the world either doesn’t or you’re born with a certain kind of impediment and that’s what I I’d like to hear more about first.
(03:11) Peter George
All right, going back pretty far to when I was about nine years old. Around there, if you grew up– I grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. I live just outside of Providence now. But when you grew up in the city, if you have speech impediments, you’re bound to get picked on a little bit. So, you learn to do two things fairly well. One is keeping your mouth shut. I didn’t speak to many people outside my family and friends. That includes in school, I didn’t answer questions if I was called on or anything like that. The other thing you learn to do is be fairly proficient in sports, because if you’re good in sports, you generally don’t get picked on. So, I played baseball, football, and hockey, so I was playing sports year-round. That helped me get through that time. I still didn’t answer questions in school or speak to people other than the people I was fairly close to.
(04:00) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, what a strategy that was intuitively very smart. I’m not sure, did your parents say this will help you? Or did you just kind of bottom line say I figured it out?
(04:14) Peter George
No, I don’t think there was any figuring it out at all. I think one, I just wanted to stop talking. Because I was afraid people would make fun of my stutter. The other was I like sports anyway. I realized that if you are good in sports like I said didn’t get picked on or people seem to favor you a little bit more.
(04:36) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, usually people learn that lesson about getting picked on if it happens, so I’m curious even before nine years old, you probably had that speech impediment. Is that where you learned it that you did get picked up?
(04:54) Peter George
No, I never really did. Thankfully, my friends were pretty good about it. Like I said, I didn’t speak in front of people much before that. So, it was really an evolution, I’m sure. I’m not sure I can go back any further than that. I just remember being around eight or nine and knowing that I wanted to do something to avoid instead of dealing with it the way I should have I was a nine-year-old kid or eight-year-old kid, whatever it may have been. I wanted to avoid it and the more I could avoid it, the happier I was. It’s different.
(05:32) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yeah, I think that awareness, what you’re talking about is the awareness of having some sense of being different. You don’t even have to be told that you’re different. You figure that out really, pretty soon and then you make those adjustments. It feels like by nine years old, consciously, you’re making the adjustment to not speak up to hide, you hide your voice.
(05:58) Peter George
Yeah, I picked that age when I speak about it, probably because that was when I went into school one morning on a Tuesday morning, fourth grade, and my teacher said go down to Room 101. 101 in an elementary school like it is a lot of places, especially in older schools back east here are a little more than a broom closet is where they kept all the AV carts and things like that. But in this particular case is to where the speech pathologist, I’m assuming too as the pathologist happened to be, who isn’t, again, nothing more than a closet and I went in there and I stood there in tears every Tuesday morning for an entire year, saying things like “the slippery Sammy serpent has seven silly sisters,” I had to say that 1000 times, let alone every other torture tongue twister. So, that was what they did back in the 60s. They just had you literally stand there for an hour at a time repeating phrases like that.
(06:59) Dr. Doreen Downing
I’m really glad that you open that up, because obviously it doesn’t seem like our educational system does that to children nowadays. But you’re right, you know that it could have been a different system. I know my mother had some mental challenges– mental illness, and she was in the hospital and this was during the 50s. They gave her shock treatment. It’s unlike any kind of shock treatment that’s nowadays. So, I understand that the times are different luckily. But still, what you’re saying is the challenge was really you tried for a year, you were attempting to change something that made it difficult for you to feel comfortable and speak up. What happened next then during high school did you also kind of do sports and not speaker up.
(08:03) Peter George
I played sports. I didn’t speak up much at all in high school. But by the time I got to high school, both impediments had receded a great deal. So, as much as I hated those Tuesday mornings and learned to hate Monday nights– because I knew it was coming the next morning, that year– it worked. To some degree it worked. No one really hears the lisp with a stutter much anymore. I’ll stutter if I’m speaking about something that’s truly near and dear to my heart. I hear the lisp but no one else does anymore.
(08:35) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, I think there’s a beauty in how our voices come through us. So, I think that if the lisp is there, and however it comes out that that’s your unique voice and it’s got a character, let’s say.
(08:53) Peter George
Yes, it does. The other thing when you ask about high school, back in high school were the days of being so called “stuck up”. I was an athlete, I did pretty well in school and I didn’t speak to people. So, I had that reputation of I thought I was too good to speak to people. But I grew up, and to this day. I’m both shy and introverted. I’m an introvert. Incredibly so. I’m still fairly shy. I have a hard time speaking to people who I don’t know.
(09:29) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, what you said just a second ago too is that the stuttering sometimes shows up when you are speaking from your heart and already just spending a few minutes with you never having a face to face or any kind of connection with you prior to this. I feel your warm heart.
(09:50) Peter George
(09:52) Dr. Doreen Downing
You’re welcome. So, if stuttering happens, I know we’re close to your heart.
(09:59) Peter George
It most often happens, I loved both my parents and they are both gone. My dad’s been going since I was 30. So, over 30 years, and if I talk about my dad in certain ways, I’ll stutter all the way through it. Was he an athlete? Yes, he was. He was and his older brother was a tremendous athlete, I mean, professional quality athlete. But as you can see, wrong shoulder over this shoulder is a fire helmet and that’s one of my dad’s fire helmets and I have several of them, but that’s the one that saved his life once so I keep that near and dear to me as well.
(10:34) Dr. Doreen Downing
Oh, my goodness. Is that a guitar back there? What is that
(10:42) Peter George
Nope. That side too.
(10:43) Dr. Doreen Downing
That side. Yeah.
(10:44) Peter George
Those are three exact replicas of three of Eric Clapton’s guitars.
(10:50) Dr. Doreen Downing
All right. Before I go back to voice you have to tell me that story.
(10:56) Peter George
I grew up. I’m a guitarist. I’ve been playing incidentally, since I was nine. But I grew up loving Eric Clapton’s music still do, to this day, I listened to it every single day. Those are exact replicas, including if he had a nic on the guitar. It shown on those replicates. They were taken from the last known photos of each of those guitars and they are marked up that way.
(11:23) Dr. Doreen Downing
Oh, how fascinating. Well, you also brought forth on this platform now that you like to play the guitar. Do you also sing? Or was it just the playing of it?
(11:36) Peter George
I sing when no one’s around. I play every night. My wife goes to bed around 9 to 10 o’clock each night and I go to bed between one and two and during that time I play and sing and every once in a while, I’ll hear the door close upstairs, which I think means you’re singing too loud.
(11:57) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, sometime we’ll have to schedule a podcast at midnight so that we could come in and listen to you. Oh, well, thanks for sharing that. I think that music is a voice in some ways that it’s not just words that come through us. It’s the music that comes through your body, your fingers, because you’re making a sound. The guitar has a voice is what– I mean isn’t there a song my guitar sleeps or sings my guitar weeps.
(12:31) Peter George
The Beatles – While My Guitar Gently Weeps.
(12:34) Dr. Doreen Downing
(12:36) Peter George
One of my favorite songs to play?
(12:38) Dr. Doreen Downing
Oh, well, we’re really getting on here. I have to get back to what the struggle was. Okay. So, we’re in high school, and you are moving on in life kind of figuring out that you’re a good, solid athlete, and you’ve got some confidence around that. Then you move on into what college or did you start. Tell us about that experience. I know–
(13:07) Peter George
Very much the same my life didn’t– I didn’t play sports in college, but very much the same. Still shy, still introverted. One of the first classes I ever went to, as a freshman had 300 people. It was the last day I went to that class. I transferred out of it the next morning; it was just way too many people. So, that’s how I spent much of my life. I was fortunate enough that from school, I went to work for a major electronics firm. A firm that’s a leader in the field. When I got there, I had to present.
(13:46) Dr. Doreen Downing
Hello world. I got to step up in there.
(13:53) Peter George
There was no way around it well, there was one way around it and that was to leave and it was too good a job to leave. So, what happened there, this goes back to the days of cassettes. I had an hour commute each way to work and I used to put in a cassette and I would listen about public speaking and how to become better at it. I probably progressed a little but not as much as I wanted to and certainly not as quickly as I wanted to. So, I went from there– plus you get no feedback on how well you’re doing. So, from there, I went to group coaching which was good. From there I went to personal coaching which was tremendous.
(14:33) Dr. Doreen Downing
Was the group coaching in person.
(14:35) Peter George
(14:36) Dr. Doreen Downing
With other people.
(14:38) Peter George
Yeah, there were probably 45 of us.
(14:40) Dr. Doreen Downing
(14:41) Peter George
Yeah, it was a big class, which didn’t bode well for me not liking a lot of people and being an introvert. That didn’t bode well. One on one coaching was amazing.
(14:52) Dr. Doreen Downing
Okay, I’ll hear about that in a moment. But I want to just ask about that group coaching business did your business pay for that, how did you cover?
(15:03) Peter George
Yeah, the company was an awesome company to work for. They paid for that and the other coaching as well. But that yeah, they paid for that.
(15:11) Dr. Doreen Downing
Sometimes those speaking trainings can be all about speaking rather than about really moving through whatever issue is for you and it sounds like then you tried individual, how did you find an individual coach?
(15:31) Peter George
Through the company, I had connections, and it was down in the city down in Manhattan. I got help there and that was just eye opening. What I learned actually, is I had been studying communication, speaking my entire life. But while I was avoiding it, I was watching and learning in all, and it was the coach who brought that out in me and said, you know a lot of this instinctively, because you’ve studied it so closely, without realizing you were studying it.
(16:03) Dr. Doreen Downing
I think that’s a profound message. I hope that the people who are listening can hear that, if you’re struggling with any kind of communication issues, that obviously you might have been looking around for answers or help all along.
(16:24) Peter George
Yeah, it’s kind of like to really avoid it. Well, you have to know what to avoid. So, that’s what I was doing much of my life, my young life anyway.
(16:33) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, one of the things I hear from people is that the avoiding is the issue, they just don’t show up, they get sick, they, in some ways, make some kind of excuse up for not being in a situation where they have to speak.
(16:53) Peter George
What I learned was that if I spoke about music, or sports, which we’re doing a lot here, and then later on business, I didn’t stutter. It was sort of like, from back in the 60s and 70s, I guess Mel Tillis, who was a country singer, used to see him on television, when I was a kid, he would stutter stammer like crazy and then as soon as he would start singing, it was wonderful. Then as soon as he stopped, the stammer came back. So, I would realize that if I spoke about sports, or music, and again, later on business, I really didn’t stutter. I often wonder if people I knew, especially back when I was in high school, college or in business, at that corporation, if they thought I couldn’t speak in depth about other things, that those were the– and I would always drive conversations back to those.
(17:52) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, I’m really glad to hear because I know that a lot of people don’t have that kind of arena where they feel like they can be comfortable and confident speaking without that, impediment. So, yes, you said music, and sports and business. So, how was it that business became a place where you could speak confidently?
(18:18) Peter George
I loved business; I still do. I love the whole idea of business. I love how it works. I think it’s right up your alley. Business is just psychology. I believe, I think it’s just psychology. I actually wanted to go to school to be a psychologist and it didn’t take me long, though. Yeah, you’re not going to be good at that. So, I went into marketing, which is the psychology of commerce and I really, really enjoy business the way some people geek out, if you will, on politics, I do that in business, and I love to watch corporate business, I love how small business works. It’s just something that I got so immersed in that it just came fluently to me. So, that was pretty good.
(19:07) Dr. Doreen Downing
I like that word fluently. It feels like for you, and maybe this is a message to listeners find your passion and that’s where fluency might exist.
(19:19) Peter George
Yeah, I would agree with that. Speaking about public speaking, what most of us do is we put the honors on ourselves. What if I screw up? What if they don’t like me? What if I make a mistake? What if I forget what I’m going to say? That’s an awful lot of weight to carry? Why would you do that to yourself, when we can just shift the focus a little bit and put it on the listener and how you’re going to serve them how they’re going to benefit from your words, and how you’re going to communicate those words to them. That’s a much better way to look at it, as far as I’m concerned is what I teach my clients. Take that weight off your shoulders and think about the others benefiting.
(19:59) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, I remember when we first started today, and introducing you, you were gracious and said, that’s what you were here for is to serve people, the listeners and add whatever you could to their learning. So, you walk your talk, sir.
(20:19) Peter George
I hope so I’m actually writing a book, and I’m getting closer to being done with it. It’s called Public Speaking Calling, because I want that in the title. But the real title is, It’s All About The Audience. It’s not about us, it’s always about the audience. So, just keep that in mind, for your listeners, just keep in mind that you’re there to serve them, and what better honor in the world than to serve others. If you’ve been asked to speak to others, you did not win the lottery and end up in that position, someone thinks enough of you and your knowledge and your ability to help others, to ask you to be in front of others and share information with them. That’s a pretty cool thing.
(21:04) Dr. Doreen Downing
So, we’re moving into you finding the voice of a speaking coach somewhere along the line. How did that happen?
(21:13) Peter George
Once I started speaking, I left the corporate world and opened my own business. I learned that the more people I could get in front of, and speak in a way that would serve them, so they were finding benefit of it the more business I did, and that was a pretty cool thing. Then some big corporations asked me to speak at their events and the like and it just kind of evolved. It wasn’t– I’d love to say I have this grand plan, not whatsoever and it just evolved. I spoke to build my business, and it works so well. Then when I sold that business, my wife and I it was our business. In 2005. It was like, well, what am I going to do for the rest of my life, because I got to make a living somehow. I was still speaking on stages, which was kind of cool. About 17 years ago, actually which was about that time, my wife said to me, you love to help other speakers or people who are just starting out and speaking, what about that and I thought, who can make a living at that. Then I thought back to my experience in New York, I thought, that’s what I’ll do. As I built that business, I did some other things, I had another business, but because I built that business, I still spoke, I don’t speak as much anymore, I’m getting too old to do that. This current state of being in COVID, isn’t helping that a great deal, which is fine with me. But I just love to help people. The reason I love to help them with this is because for many people, it’s a fear or something they’ve never been taught to do. I’m a firm believer, the confidence comes from competence. As you become more competent in public speaking, you’ll become more confident about it. But not to the end of just public speaking, I truly believe that if I can help someone accomplish their goals, then maybe that’ll also help them accomplish their dreams. So, if they do well, in business, or whatever it might be, let’s say they can up their income, the revenue for the business, and the business where they work, and increase their own income. Maybe they get that second house on the water up in the mountains or somewhere. Maybe they send their children to better schools, whatever it might be. So, I really think that if I can help with goals, I can help with dreams. I might never live long enough to see them, especially for my young clients that are in their early 20s. I’ll never see the peak of their careers. I’ll be long gone by then. But just knowing that you had something to do to help them out, I think is a pretty cool thing.
(24:01) Dr. Doreen Downing
That’s wonderful. Yeah. Well, you said something about people who have fear of speaking it’s either about the fear or they haven’t learned. Say just a little bit more about what you’ve come to understand about fear of speaking.
(24:18) Peter George
The way I try to frame it for my clients and I get it. I get a few have a fear no matter if I say it’s real or not, to you it’s real. It is reality. But I also think about what when we get excited about something, the flow of adrenaline, which is one of the things that makes us fearful about public speaking or anything else we fear, the flow of adrenaline, whether you’re fearful or excited, is pretty much the same. I mean, if I can say to anybody, yeah when you get up to speak, your heart races, your blood pressure goes up. If you’re light skinned like me, you can actually see the red go through the throat up into the cheeks, all of that your knees, get a little weak handshake, your voice quivers, and everybody was yep, yep, yep, yep, 90% of those things are true with me. Okay. What happens when you do something that’s a little risky, but you really love jumping out of a plane going on those modern-day roller coasters, all those things? What happens to your body before you do it? Let me see. Your heart raises, your blood pressure goes up, you can see the blood drives into your cheeks. Your voice quivers, your knees get weakened and your hands shake, exactly the same thing. We label it differently. We label that is excitement. We label, the other rush of adrenaline as fear. Again, one we’re being taken on a ride. The other one speaking. We’re not being taken. We are the person directing, conducting.
(25:45) Dr. Doreen Downing
We are doing the ride. We are.
(25:49) Peter George
We are the ride. So, we put all that on us again. As opposed to I’m just here to help people.
(25:57) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, the idea about the similarity between the physiological of what happens in our bodies is true. I certainly agree with that and the people who then can say, I’m excited, I’m excited. It feels like the other thing you said skill, then they need to learn a few things about how to– it’s not just how to speak when you’re excited. It’s just how to speak more clearly. What would you say about what needs to be learned, then?
(26:31) Peter George
There’s a difference between speaking and communicating. It sounds like semantics. But speaking we’ve been doing since we were what 16 months old. A lot of people think I don’t have to get better at this. I’ve been speaking since I was a baby. Okay, well, you’ve been able to sing since you were about 20 months old. Can you go on stage and make a living at that? Can you build your business through your singing? Odds are no, you’ve been able to run since you were three or four? Can you run in the Olympics and compete? Odds are no, just because we started young doesn’t mean we’re proficient at it. Speaking and communicating, like I said, are different. It’s learning how to speak with people. So, they open up their minds and willingly accept what you have to share. That’s communicating.
(27:19) Dr. Doreen Downing
Oh, I love what you just said and I hope people are listening to you and really get impacted by that message. It’s important, what you just said about us being able to speak in a way that others expand their minds and that goes along with what your messages kind of fit seems like today all along it’s all about the audience.
(27:46) Peter George
(27:48) Dr. Doreen Downing
You could say it’s all about the listener, because a lot of times, fear of speaking or communicating isn’t just about being on a stage or being in front of a group. It’s oftentimes speaking to one person and doing that in a way that is effective and more about the other person.
(28:07) Peter George
Yeah, I agree with that. We often think public speaking is speaking to 10, 20, 100 or 1000 people. It’s one person across a desk 10 people in a conference room, your significant other across the kitchen table. It’s any of those, it’s speaking to your children and your parents or relatives. Any of those is public speaking, and how you communicate with another mind has a lot to do with it. So, learning to do that and the other aspect I work with my clients on is not just the conscious act of speaking, while listening. It’s the unconscious act, all those little things, the body language, the facial expressions, all the little things that go along with communicating, that often aren’t taught. If we’re going to talk about speaking, we’re going to say, speak at this rate, use intonation, pause all these different things. But we often don’t teach the unconscious acts both what we’re doing and what they’re hearing or seeing. That’s one of the things levels I work on because that has a great deal to do with it.
(29:11) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes, I understand I do somewhat similar kind of, with speaking from the essence of who we are, but you have to know what that essence is you have to be comfortable dropping down into full presence and one of the things I can say since we’re nearing the end that I feel like I’m touched by is your smile. I feel like when you communicate and you communicate from a warm heart in a really beautiful smile. It feels like I’m melted. Just keep on talking. Tell me more.
(29:50) Peter George
Well, it’s funny that you mentioned that because if there’s one thing I’m self conscious about is my smile. It’s crooked. One side goes up higher than the other. All those things and when I met my wife and we met on a blind date. After probably a few months, I said, what was the attraction? She said, your smile and I said, If I could have listed 10 things of what might have been the attraction, that never would have made the list, it wouldn’t have made the top 50. So, it’s funny. I think you’re the second person ever to say that. You’re probably just as flabbergasted now as I was then.
(30:26) Dr. Doreen Downing
Your wife and I have a similar kind of taste. Let’s put it that way in people who are genuine, and it shows up and they aren’t afraid to smile. So, thank you tell me how people can get ahold of you, Peter.
(30:42) Peter George
Easiest way is my website, which is petergeorgepublicspeaking.com.
(30:48) Dr. Doreen Downing
Great. Well, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much.
(30:55) Peter George
Thank you for having me.
Also listen on…
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Podcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.