By Denise Cook, The ORACLE

I was asked to speak at a small gathering of women and young adults, ages seventeen to forty-five. I was excited as the topic was Writing For Greater Happiness. I am an author of positive, motivational and inspirational poetry prose and song. When I speak, I use poetry, prose and sometimes I sing, to help get my points across.

On this day, my “normal” enthusiastic, bubbly and sometimes over the top approach, didn’t have the same positive outcome I had become accustomed to when speaking. Here in this small gathering of about fifty or so, all I saw from the podium, were frowns, and attendees leaning and whispering to one another.

My heart sank. What was I doing wrong? I had just started my speech, surely “happiness” was nothing to frown about. How was I to determine the root of the problem? Here I am at the podium with no clue and no out, right? Wrong.

Although I could not fathom what the problem was, I knew what the solution had to be. I stopped in my tracts. I apologized to my audience and told them there was something perplexing me and I simply had to ask, “Why are many of you frowning? What questions do you have for or about me that you would ask your neighbor in whispered voices? I assured them I had a thick skin and could take it, that I was truly concerned that my speech on ‘happiness’ didn’t seem to be making people happy.

One brave soul raised her hand and said,”We think you’re too happy, you don’t seem authentic. Life is hard right now, most of us are here because we have major issues in our lives and you’re just a little too Pollyanna. How could you possibly relate to us?”

I had failed to lay the foundation for my speech. I hadn’t told them about “me” and what made me like them. I had begun my speech at the end of the story, without first sharing some of my hardships, failures; examples of my life which would tie me to those in the audience. I took note and realized I didn’t appear “authentic” because I wasn’t. I was putting on “my show” and not connecting with my “sisters”.

From then on I vowed to remember to lay a foundation for trust with my audience. Needless to say, I started again, with a renewed focus and the back of the room sales were the best ever.

Denise L. Cook, known as The ORACLE, is a published author, motivational speaker, actor, singer, spoken word artist, poet, choreographer and dancer, and is well known as a healer in the field of massage therapy. Denise earned an M.F.A. and M.Ed. and teaching credential. She is a sight to behold.