Public Speaking and The Law of Relativity

By James Chase

The Law of Relativity states that “there is nothing essentially good or bad until we related it to something else.” How can something be neither good nor bad? It comes down to perspective.

In my communication classes one of the subjects I teach is perspective. The technical definition states that perception is “the process of selecting, organizing, and interpreting information considered valuable enough to give importance and meaning to information one receives.” How one person perceives a situation can be entirely different to another person.

To illustrate this I like to use the “Old Lady/Young Lady” optical illusion above. As audiences look at the picture, some see an older lady and some see a younger lady. It depends where your perspective.

In my youth I was relentlessly teased for volunteering to give speeches. It was my desire to become a teacher, which required public speaking. Because I was teased, I viewed public speaking as a something to dread. This perception then became my reality.

In the end, I believe if I had not been teased I might have viewed public speaking as something to enjoy. Every semester I have students who come into class with one or the other viewpoint or perspective on public speaking. My experience and understanding of perspective has helped each of them get over their fear and become better public speakers.

I can become better by choosing how I look at every new situation. The Law of Relativity helps me remember that I can always find a perspective that will lead me to more rapid progress and greater joy.


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Dr. James B. Chase, Jr., EdD
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