Today, I interview Steve Sapato who shares stories from his past where he learned how important it is to put yourself out there and let go of your fear of being seen. Learning to speak brings confidence!
Steve discusses the way we learn and the mindset that has shaped the way the world interacts and behaves now. Sometimes we don’t realize what we have been carrying, but our past always plays a part in who we become. The key is to recognize that there is something that we need to un-learn.
When we see what we need to correct, we must decide how to fix it and choose to do it now!
Steve Sapato has been a professional speaker for 40 years. His own experiences led him to create several Signature courses and start SpeakerTalks of Tampa to help people become public speakers, gain confidence, get more opportunities, and enjoy self-confidence.
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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 #14 Steve Sapato
“The Confidence to Be Seen”
(00:03) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m with the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. And I interview people who have had some sort of struggle in their life around finding their voice. And we get to hear details, as much as they want to share, about what the challenges were, maybe what the cause was. And then how– what was the process? What path did they take to find their voice? And then finally, now that they have a voice and can speak up and speak out, what is it that they do for the world? What is the gift that they get to offer? So today, I have a very special guest here who is quite big in the field of helping people overcome their fear of speaking. Yes, his name is Steve Sapato. And he’s been a professional speaker for 40 years now. His own experiences led him to create several signature courses and start Speaker Talks of Tampa to help people become public speakers, gain confidence, get more opportunities—ahh, and this is the best part— and enjoy self-confidence. Welcome, Steve, thank you for taking the time to be here today and inform us. So, if you could start just by reflecting back on what might have been some of the challenges for you in finding your voice.
(01:32) Steve Sapato:
Thank you, Doreen. I think there’s a, you know, when we talk about finding your voice, I think you go through stages in your life where different things happen and create different yous, you know, we all have to move forward. I always, I call my mother Dorothy, and a while back, somebody said, “Why do you call your mom, Dorothy?” And I said, “Well, my mom and dad were fairly social creatures. And they would go out and my mom would always be talking to people, and she was like one of those organizers and stuff. And people would go, ‘Dorothy, we need this.’ And she’d turn and talk to them and help them and I would go, ‘Mom, Mom, mom,’ and nothing. So, I don’t know how old I was, 10, 12 years old, maybe when I finally learned that, you know, calling her mom, she ignored me. And I had to call her Dorothy. When I called her Dorothy then she’d look down to see who called her Dorothy. And so ever since then, I’ve called my mom Dorothy.” And now when I’m with her, of course I call her mom, you know, when there’s nobody around. She’s in a nursing home right now. So, nobody around I call her Dorothy. But, you know, that was the beginning of not being heard, not being seen. And I think that epitomizes a lot. You know, later on in life when I used to say all the time, “I’m not good with my hands” and people would ask me, “well, how many businesses do you own?” and I went “five?” And they went “Well. Okay, so one of them was a sporting goods store?” And I said, “yep.” They said, “what do you do there?” I went, “Well, I mounted skis. I did tennis rackets. I did all this stuff. I did that, I did that…” And they went, “and then you owned a nightclub in a banquet hall?” “Yep.” “And did you ever do anything?” I said, “Well, we fixed the roof. We fixed the toilet, we put in the new floor for the dancing.” And they went, “well, how can you say you’re not good with your hands?” And I started to think back again, you know, those are when you start to reflect. And my dad, one of his hard times was like a TV repairman. And those are the days when you plugged in, as Doreen said, I’m old, you know, you plugged in the knobs and tubes—you know, they weren’t circuitries then—and he would say, you know, “you’re just making a mess of things, go away, you’re just not good in here.” And so, I started to evaluate that as not good with my hands. And I took that with me. All this is stuff we bring with us. And what happens along the way is we lose that self confidence that we really need. I’ll tell you what turned a path for me, and I was a senior in high school and failing, you know, real simple. I needed an English course to pass this English course in order to graduate high school and my English teacher said there were three students who need extra credit. So, if these three students would go down to the auditorium and try out for the play, they’ll get enough extra credit to pass. And I was one of those three names. And she said, “So Mr. Sapato, you going to go down? And I went, “No.” She said, “Well, you don’t understand. You’re not going to pass if you don’t get this extra credit.” I went, “I don’t care.” That’s how averse I was to trying out for a play or being in front of people. And it was really, she finally had to say, you know, the dreaded words back in those days were, “Mr. Sapato, do I have to call your mother?” And of course, you go, “No…”
(4:25) Dr. Doreen Downing:
They called Dorothy.
(4:27) Steve Sapato:
That’s right. And so, then I went and try it out. And I got a little part. I mean, it was a walk-on part. And it started the process. And that’s why I evolved into this person you see today, because I love helping people evolve. What you will always learn and what I really push is, if you want to be more confident, become a public speaker. And people go, “I couldn’t do that.” That’s one of the things we teach you to do. You find the right person. I taught seven years of college, of junior college speech course. So, nobody there wanted to take speech. It was a required course, which of course made it, you know, you could say, “hey, you have to do this, you have…” You had to find a way to reach out to these students, so that they would actually find their voice. Because that’s what’s wrong with America today is, we sneak from behind, we hide behind things. I was just watching something, and it said, “somebody sent white powder to Rand Paul or somebody in Washington.” And I think that’s the problem, we hide, we want to send people, we want to hurt people, we want our voice to be heard. But we’re so afraid of being seen. That’s the reason, so much anger and hate on Facebook, I think. It’s because we don’t know how to say, “hey, look at me. I’m confident, I’m in control, and I want to share this with you.” Because once you learn how to share, you can see in my book Shut Up and Succeed. Once you learn how to share, the voice that’s inside of you, people will suddenly pay attention. And as Doreen said, suddenly, you’re going to be more confident. People are going to look at you differently. They’re going to take you as more of a leader, they’re going to start paying attention to what you have to say. So, if you’re struggling with being promotable at work, public speaking, changes all of that. So that’s why I became a speaker. And that’s why I help other people become speakers, because it will absolutely change your life. And people say, “not me, I can’t do it. I won’t ever do it.” Good. Get with me. We’ll work on it. We’ll get you out of that.” Because that’s our goal. Whether it’s abuse, if you’re suffering abuse, why do people suffer abuse? Because they don’t know how to be heard. They don’t know how to say, “Stop.” They don’t have the confidence to say, “don’t do that.” Right. So, we hide back in our little place. Because nobody sees us. We think nobody pays attention to us. And unfortunate that it is that we have to find out how to start educating people so that we all become more powerful, more visible, more confident, right Doreen?
(07:00) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Oh, yes. Just you said so much already. It’s amazing. And then to, for those who can’t see you, you are just an epitome of somebody who’s got a huge heart that wants to speak and be heard and help others do that very same thing. And the first thing that you mentioned in terms of your own challenge and your journey around having yourself be seen and heard by your own Mom, I think that that is something that a lot of people can relate to, not that they learned your technique, a Dorothy…
(7:38) Steve Sapato:
Everybody will see me now and they’ll go, “Hey, where’s Dorothy?”
(7:43) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Yes, that’s a fun, fun thing, isn’t it? Yeah, to have told that story and have it live beyond you. But the idea is that, yeah, parents sometimes don’t really get that that’s what we need as little kids. I mean, they’re raising us. But a lot of times, especially for those of us who are more advanced and came from raising that was quite a few years ago, parents just might not have said, “oh, I’ve got to make sure that my child knows that he’s seen and heard.”
(08:16) Steve Sapato:
Yeah, you know, what’s interesting about that is, I put away, I do relationship work, and I put it away for like, 10 years, and my wife was encouraging me to, to start teaching people about love and relationships. And I brought that back out about two weeks ago, because one of the things that we have to learn is that the only way we learned about love was either what we saw on TV, or what we learned from home. And just like my mom who didn’t know how to, you know, attend to her son, you know, she would rather attend to her friends, they made her feel special, they made her feel more important than I would. But it’s important that you understand that we learned love from people who may not understand what love is, we learn parenting, from people who don’t necessarily know what parenting is. There’s no classes. I mean, nobody, you know, way back when, when we were young, it was it was Home Ec and you learn how to, you know, do cooking and you maybe you took care of a baby, I was never one of those where you took care of a baby for sure. But there was nobody there to teach us discipline. There was nobody there to teach us the parenting skills, that when we grow up, we learned from our mom and dad. And that’s why abuse is so prevalent in so many relationships is because, they learned to hit because their mom and dad taught them to hit. They learned to scream and yell because their mom and dad screamed and yelled. And we need to come together and start learning how to interact with each other. It’s a skill. Everything we are today is a skill and it can be learned and, important enough, we can be– what we have already can be unlearned, so we can replace it with new skills that will make us even better than we were.
(09:56) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Oh, I really want to go further in that thought but before I do, I want to go back to the story about your dad also, because that was an important message to folks is, what we believe about ourselves and what we carry forward, sometimes is so unintentional. I’m sure he wasn’t saying to you, “you’re incompetent, and you don’t know how to do much,” but he didn’t mean to scar you for life. Not that you were scarred. But I guess what I want to point to for people is that those messages early on, live in and they become more self-confident, but what you just said is, “hey, by looking at yourself, you can do an examination. And if you learned it, at some point in your life, you can unlearn it, and you can learn something else.” And that message feels like what we’re moving into now. How do people unlearn and re-learn something new?
(10:58) Steve Sapato:
Great question? And that’s, that’s– first, you have to recognize that you have something that you need to unlearn. Let me give you an example. When I was in my late 30s, early 40s, somebody who was a good friend asked my wife and I, my second wife at the time, you know, you guys have someplace you want to go? And we’d always been talking about going to Hawaii. So, we’d been married 12 years, we– when we first got married, we said, “Hey, we should take a honeymoon to Hawaii.” We lived in Iowa. And so, Hawaii was a faraway adventure. And 12 years later, we still hadn’t gone to Hawaii. And the guy asked us, you know, I won’t go into all the details here. But he asked us, “why haven’t you?” Of course, we all said, “Well, we don’t have enough money. We don’t have this; we don’t have that.” And he went on to show us that we really could put it together. And two years later, we ended up going to our first trip to Hawaii. But it was important that he pointed out in a way that it opened our minds that we really, if we, IF we wanted to go to Hawaii, we had to change what we were doing. When you’re talking about unlearning something, if you recognize– and let’s say when I taught college, we did different speeches. And one lady was really interesting was talking about abuse. And so, I had this I had like 30 kids in one class. And I took a board, and we were talking about abuse and parenting. And I took a board and I hit it like 30 times real hard as I walked across the front of the room. And I said, “Now how many of you think that’s abuse?” And only half the hands went up? Right? Half the hands thought it was abuse. That means the other half didn’t think hitting your kid 30 times was abuse. Wow, that tells us a lot. And so, we got into talking about that, about what creates abuse, and what was the point of discipline, and all that stuff. So, if you if you realize that you hit your kid, and you don’t want to hit your child, then you need to start learning a new way to discipline. And the way to do that, of course is to find read a book, go to attend a workshop or a seminar and find out the different ways that different children need in order to be disciplined and accept discipline. I had two different boys one when you whacked him on the butt, straightened right up, you know, he just didn’t want to be whacked. And the other kid would look at you, three years old, I remember my son Zach looked at me, he goes, “That didn’t hurt.” And I hit him the next time real hard. And he just looked at me and said, “that didn’t hurt.” And I went, “well, it didn’t work then either.” And so, I learned that that son, if you took something away from him, well, you can’t have your Buzz Lightyear or something, then he threw a fit, you know, type thing. Different people require different things. But if you see something that you know, you want to correct, whether it’s you’re not loving your spouse the right way, you’re not getting along, you’re arguing all the time, then you know, you need to fix that. You want to correct it. Once you recognize it, I guess it’s like the alcoholic, once you recognize that there’s a problem, then you can start fixing it. And that’s what we all need to start doing what you really want to fix in your life. And when do you want to do it? Why not? Now?
(14:03) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Why not now? Great question. Well, what you also just said about knowing and recognizing that there is something you want to have a change about and with my listeners, it’s most likely about feeling like they don’t have a voice that they can’t tap into, that they don’t have confidence. And what you’re talking about today is well, look at, if you want to change that, if you want to become more confident, anytime anyplace speaking, whether it’s on a stage or whether it’s with a friend or whether it’s in small groups or large groups or just one person, you have to start there with the “I want to change,” and that is so powerful. And then to me, it feels like once you land in there, “I want to change,” it’s almost like the world opens up its possibilities, all you have to do is, what, Google, you know, follow other people who you admire, there’s just so many ways to, I think, find your voice and change your life. And what you’re saying today is, “Hey, you got to start with the desire to.” And I think one other thing, I’ll just say this, is, in my work with people is, it’s also important to believe that you can, which speaks to some of what you said earlier about your own system of what you believe about yourself. And sometimes that needs to be challenged. “Oh, I could never,” that’s what you’re talking about, “oh, I can never be a public speaker.” And I think today, what I want to really impart on people from you is the “Yes, you can, you can change.” So how, how do you teach people to overcome speaking anxiety?
(16:00) Steve Sapato:
I think everybody’s different. So, I really have to sit down with somebody and really do an interview. Because just like discipline, everybody has different reactions, if you just said, “Hey, we’re going to keep practicing until we get it right,” you know, they’re going to go, “I quit, I’m not going to do that anymore.” So, you have to, you have to delve into what do they really want? Right? Why do they want it? So, let’s just, let’s make it a basic, let’s make it confidence. If you become confident, as a speaker, I’m just telling you, it absolutely changes your life, it changes every aspect of your life. Because suddenly, instead of looking at your kids with your head down, you’re looking at your kids right in the eye, instead of looking at your partner with your head down, your lack of confidence, you’re looking them right in the eye, and suddenly they’re like, “wait a minute, this is a new person here.” And so, it’s important that you gain that confidence. So probably the best thing I tell people all the time, is you start with looking in the mirror. You just look in the mirror. I love having the opportunity to talk to new people, because when we’re doing workshops or seminars, I say, “how many people here wake up and are in a really good mood?” And I wake up in a really good mood every morning. And I’ve only been married five and a half years, my wife when she first met me, went, “How do you wake up in a good mood?” And the answer is, you decide when you go to bed, you’re going to wake up in a good mood when you wake up. Even if you’re like a, like I wake, I only sleep like four hours a night. So, some nights, you know, mornings, I’m just like, I need six hours, but you’re not going to get it because you’re up. So, it could be a “Gosh, I feel terrible.” Or you can just get up and go, “Well, I got four, maybe during the afternoon, I’ll find a way to get another two.” And you decide to be in a good mood. So that’s if you want to be in a good mood. Here’s the easiest thing I can tell people to do. You walk into your bathroom, you close the door, you turn on the light, you look in the mirror and you go, “Wow, Steve, you’re the best-looking guy in this room.” You know what, if you don’t smile at that, you’re not going to smile at anything all day. Not only is it a positive affirmation, and it’s true. Nobody else in the room, duh, right. But it also puts a smile on your face because it’s so fun to do. And when you do that, you wake up in a good mood. So, it’s the same thing with confidence. When you start looking in the mirror, and you start seeing yourself, what a big difference between just looking in the mirror, and ladies look in the mirror all the time while putting on their makeup doing all that, they’re always looking. But when you start to look in the mirror to see who you really are, some people are disappointed. They go, “Oh, I can’t look at myself. I’m ugly. I’m this I’m that.” You know what? I’ve seen ugly people, you’re not one of them. And so, you just got to decide that. And you have to start looking for the positive in you. When I can get you to do that for a few days, then getting you to look in… all these people do photographs, right Doreen? I mean for years, we’ve been doing selfies or getting our picture taken or somebody say, “hey, smile.” And people are like, here, they make all these terrible faces, because they don’t have the confidence to just look at the camera and smile and say “yep, that’s me.” The first time you ever heard your voice recorded, you probably said, “whose voice?” I remember saying that one way back when recorders were first invented. And I remember saying to somebody whose voice is that? And they went, “well, that’s you.” I went, “no that’s not, I don’t sound like that.” They went, “that’s you! What are you, crazy?” And it’s true with photographs to people who always stick their tongue out or make faces and pictures have a self-confidence problem. And so, we have to work on. Let’s look at you. Let’s see what you see. And then we’ll help you get better. And that’s a process Doreen, getting people to actually see that, “you know what, maybe I’m not the most handsome guy in the world. But maybe there’s something about my eyes. Maybe there’s something about the way I smile.” Maybe there’s you know, because I mean, I always tell people all the time I got crooked teeth, I’ve thought for 20 years I should fix my teeth and get them straight and then I never do. And so, I struggle with that self-image problem. But there’s so much more about me that I hope you all look past that part of it. And that’s what we try and work with people on, Doreen, is, let’s look at you, because I hope one day, you’ll see what I see in you. And that’s really important that you know that you have so much value to offer to everybody.
(20:21) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Oh, yes, what you’re talking about is putting up a mirror, when you’re talking about working with people as a coach, a mirror to them so that they see reflected in your eyes, and in your comments, the good that’s inside of them. So, I really understand what you’re saying about the mirror exercise. And I have one that I do, I get a small, ask them to get a small mirror. And I ask them to look only into their eyes into their eyeballs. And to keep on going to that place that you’re talking about, that inner bright spirit, the confidence that’s deep within maybe buried for years. But a lot of people start with “Oh, the wrinkles and you know, I got distracted and my color of my eyes aren’t, you know, they’re gray, they aren’t real clear blue.” So, they stop rather than keep on going to where the core of their strength, I guess their strength that is naturally there. And yeah, maybe lost and disconnected. But they can reconnect. And that’s what I hear you saying is, well, the “yes” to themselves. And carry that yes in their heart, in their gut, in their being. And then whenever they look around, it’s “hello world.”
(21:48) Steve Sapato
Oh yeah, changes everything. Wayne Dyer had used to have this thing he called it “I am.” He said I am part of the Great I Am. And if you can get people to start understanding “I am” rather than “I am not.” Right. What are you rather than what aren’t you? Like? I can’t do this. I can’t do that. Yeah, but what can you do? Everybody has an expertise. Everybody. I don’t care if you’ve been in a retail world working minimum wage job. Your expertise might be in how to fold clothes, you still have an expertise. And you know what some people make a living out of folding clothes and doing YouTube videos to teach people how to do it. So, we all have new things that we can discover. And when you start to look at the I Am, there’s a there’s a thing that I work on in a lot of my workshops and seminars, which is “don’t”. Our brain doesn’t understand. Don’t, won’t, can’t, that type of thing. So let me give you an example of that. You know, I say, “Don’t think of an elephant.” Well, most of the time you think of an elephant and then you start to think of a giraffe or something but your first thought of an elephant. So, wait, why did you think that if I said don’t think of an elephant. How about this, you ever go on a diet? And when you’re on the diet? I can’t have pie. What do you crave all day? Pie. You told your brain I can’t have pie; the brain doesn’t understand “can’t”. So, it only hears “pie”. So, all day long. We’re like, “I want pie, man.” This is crazy. So, one of the things when we talk about self-discovery is that’s the great thing about today’s like, you’ve got zoom here, we’ve got video cameras, we got our, our phones that are just phenomenal computers, and you take your own picture, and you do your own videos, nobody else gets to see it, nobody else has to see it. Just videotape yourself, doing whatever you want to do, saying whatever you want to say, and then look at it, and people who I would, I don’t want to look at it. That’s part of the process. You get to look at yourself, you get to see yourself, and then you’ll start to really see yourself. And some people hate themselves for a little while and you got to keep talking to them and say, “it’s okay.” A lot of us do that. Why do you think a lot of people still make faces when they get their picture taken? Right. And that’s part of what we have to learn as adults is, we have to learn how to enjoy ourselves, how to encourage ourselves, how to reward ourselves, even when there’s nobody else out there doing it for us.
(24:17) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Yes. And it occurs to me that the negative self-talk that people have is then what they project to the outer world. So, if they’re in their own positive self-talk, it seems like then they are less anxious about being out in the world because they are seeing, like what you were doing, mirroring back to themselves. People are enjoying because they’re enjoying. Well, this is fabulous. I’m sure you have so much more you can share around what you teach, how you teach…
(24:52) Steve Sapato:
I think I’m out of ideas.
(24:55) Dr. Doreen Downing:
And when you’re going to teach it. So, before we end, I’d like to make sure that people know what you’re doing now, where they can find you, and some easy links, something that you want to offer.
(25:10) Steve Sapato:
Oh, yeah, if you want to join me if you want any of my help, I do a thing called Speaker Talks down here in Tampa, Florida. So, if you drop me an email STEVE@STEVESAPATO.COM, I will be happy to share with you any of my courses, I’m happy to share with you how Speaker Talks put you on an eight-week journey to actually get in front of people and share a message that you might have to share. So many people, they say, “I want to write a book.” And you say, “really, what would it be about?” And then they tell you that because they got the idea already in their head, I want to write a book. And those same people then have an idea of what they want to talk about because what they want to write a book for is to change people’s lives. When you get the opportunity to change people’s lives, your world will change. And so, write to me drop me an email. You can look me up at STEVESAPATOSEMINARS.COM, but just reach out, get in touch with me and let’s see what we can help you become– the thing that you really want to become.
(26:14) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Great last line: “to help you become the thing that you want to become.” Well, yes. Thank you very much, Steve.
(26:23) Steve Sapato:
My pleasure. My pleasure, indeed. Thanks for having me on today.
(26:29) Dr. Doreen Downing:
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.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.