How do I speak abut a person without hurting their privacy?

Hello Buddies,

The title is a question I often get asked. You have been through a painful experience, and you’ve learned something valuable. It is worth sharing, but there was a person/people who wronged/mistreated you. They caused the pain. If you omit the experience portion, your speech becomes vague. So, what should you do?

Share What You Have Learned. Yes.

Let’s say, you were mistreated at work. And you knew the person who caused it. She/he was brutal to you, you became isolated. You had to go through a tough time, but along the way, you were helped by friends/mentor/coach/family. You also found yourself getting stronger and wiser. You’ve got favorite quotes, books, and movies. Because of the experience, you’ve got strength. You want to share the painful experience because the knowledge you gained might be helpful to the others as well.

Isn’t it true that we often learn valuable lessons when we face the difficulties? Oh, life!! Why not share your stories!!

Protect the Privacy. Yes.

“BUT if I speak about it, I must include the person in my speech. I’m not comfortable talk bad about the person now!” You say. Yes, you are right. I understand your concern, I admire it.

Your speech is not about revenge. The person who wronged you might be a different person than in the past. She/he might have regretted hurting you. The truth is, you don’t know. No one knows. So the person shouldn’t be punished because of her/his past mistakes, especially in your speech.

Good News: There is a way to speak about the person without hurting him/her.

Here is what you can do:

  • Change the name
  • Change the gender
  • Change the age
  • Use a nickname that wasn’t used publicly

“It doesn’t matter if it’s not factually correct, as long as the important portion of your story is true.” I learned it from my speaking coaches. If it protects the privacy of the person, I say go for it. Again, she or he shouldn’t be punished by his/her past mistakes. You confront with them personally if need it, but don’t use the stage.

I was once wronged by a person severely. It was caused by a part of our culture; I can’t really blame him or her (I won’t tell which one). It was considered to be “normal” at the time. I call the person Mr. Status Quo, or Mrs. Normal, Mr. Okay. It doesn’t matter who it was, while it DOES matter sharing what I learned. My audience gets value by listening to the knowledge I gained, but if I start venting about Mr/Mrs. Normal, oh, yes, you know it. Yikes!!

Summary: Change the person’s gender, name, age, or use a different nickname to protect him/her privacy in your speech. It is important to include the story of how you gained the knowledge, and it often includes painful experience. But remember, “who caused the painful experience” doesn’t have to be factually correct. Focus on the value you provide to your audience, always.

Please note: Take the only advice that empowers you, that helps make your speech better. Think of me is your grocery store. I offer a lot, but you have the shopping basket/cart. It’s your speech; it’s your choice.

Misako Yoke, Certified World Class Speaking Coach

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