I am always excited to introduce you to other Bolder Sisters who I know will inspire you, just as they’ve inspired me. Amber Wright is definitely one of those sisters. She and I have been connected for the last couple of years and I think she’s amazing! She’s a communication coach and consultant who teaches college courses on public speaking, interpersonal, and small group communication. She is the creator of talktoamber.com and someone every bolder sister should get to know.
The Bolder Sister: Tell me a little bit about how you landed here, coaching others on public speaking?
Amber Wright: I got started in this journey when I was an undergraduate in college. Our paths call us long before we realize it. I was always that kid that was really quiet and would hang on to my momma’s leg. I didn’t want to be bothered with anybody. I was that way for a lot of my childhood. And then when I got to school age I was always just known as Ebony’s little sister. No one really knew me as Amber. It wasn’t until I started to go to my own high school that I realized hey, I have a little bit of a personality and people like me for me. That helped me open up a little bit and come out, blossom if you will. Fast forward into college, I took a communication studies class and I really enjoyed it. My teacher said to me “Amber you’re really good at this, did you know we have a major?” and I didn’t know that. And so I looked into it and decided to switch my major to communication studies. That was probably one of the top 5 best decisions I’ve ever made in my life, because the discipline really spoke to me as a person and seemed to be a good match for my personality and skill sets. I’m really outgoing and friendly. It just worked for me. I did that and then I got my grad degree in communication studies. I knew when I went to grad school that I wanted to teach and so I started my teaching career. I did it at night while working full time. How to Talk to Amber came about was because I had been blogging for several years and I really wanted to take the time that I was spending online and make it a profit-making venture. I started to think about how I could do that and about getting into life coaching. I asked you about it. I was quizzing everyone about starting that journey. I had that thought to myself and wondered how could I put a little more mileage on the degrees I already have. In doing so, I said yeah with communication a lot of people struggle with it and it comes easy to me. I remembered that what we struggle with is someone else’s gift. And so I decided to start my business based around that. The name came about because I was always the advice giver with my girlfriends. They would say, I’m having this challenge, I need to talk to Amber. That’s how I started the business. I got into coaching specifically because I realized the blogging industry and niche that I had come from. A lot of bloggers were great online, on their blogs they are fantastic people, but it doesn’t always translate in person. And when people want to start growing their blogs and getting more visibility a way to do that is through conferences and networking. But they might be a little uncomfortable not being behind their laptop. So I wanted to fill that gap and offer a place where I could work with people and it has expanded from there. I don’t just work with bloggers. It’s a variety of people that come to me for different needs.
TBS: What are some of the biggest fears you feel people (especially women) have when it comes to public speaking or even networking?
AW: I can say that this is true for women and men, but even more so for women. We all have a fear of being judged. That really is what it all boils down to. How that manifests itself looks different for each person. And so we’ll start telling ourselves things like “I don’t like the way I sound on camera,” or “what if I stumble over my words,” “what if I say uhm too much” or “if my outfit isn’t the best of the group.” “What if they don’t like what I’m saying.” That fear is growing bigger and bigger into these different excuses. Ultimately it’s us saying I don’t want to be vulnerable in front of these people. I don’t want to give them an opportunity to laugh at me. Or say I’m crazy or whatever the case, so I’m just going to mind myself. Then we convince ourselves that we’re not good at it. Or that it’s not for me and we begin to believe those things and that affects our behavior.
TBS: Yes, it’s what I’ve said, networking is awkward and I can meet and connect with people online. So why do I need to go to a conference?
AW: So what I’m trying to do is teach women particularly, especially when it comes to that networking piece, is that they have goals and ambitions. Whether you have a blog or a business or just a message you have a story you want to get out. People can’t hear it if you don’t get in front of them to tell it.
TBS: What has been the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career and what was the outcome?
AW: The biggest risk I’ve taken is leaving my full time job in Dec of 2014. The job was stable, didn’t pay the greatest, but sustained my family. The benefits were excellent. But after a while all of that became a trap. My husband had started working again after a season of unemployment and being a stay at home dad. I had been supporting the family and working two jobs. It had been about 4 years total and I was exhausted. I took a risk to say, babe I have to go. I can’t do this anymore. Now it’s your turn, I’m passing the baton on to you. I’m going to step down from my full-time job. I already had a second job. So I knew all I wanted to do was teach more classes so I could have a flexible schedule to be able to grow the business while still earning an income. That was a very big risk for me. It was scary because I’ve always worked. I’ve had a job since I was 18. So to leave a job, although technically I already had another one. Teaching on a college level can be kind of tricky sometimes. It’s not a stable gig. But I had to trust God and say ok I’m doing this to bet on myself for my well being. Because I was just exhausted. Taking that risk was a big one but I did it. I lived. I’m alright and good things are happening as a result.
TBS: Good for you.
AW: I think ditch the 9-5 is really glorified for entrepreneurs. But is that a decision that is best suited for you and your needs. Everyone has to assess that differently. I could have said I was quit the one job and quit teaching, but I wasn’t ready to do that.
TBS: Right. You said something interesting when you mentioned being shy and holding on to momma’s leg, I’m wondering what the trigger was, what do you do when you’re afraid or how did you transform from one space to the other?
AW: Well, we moved around a lot when I was a kid. I went to 3 different high schools in 3 different states. So that’s a lot of moving. If I wanted to make friends and not eat by myself everyday I had to learn how to stick out my hand and say “Hi, I’m Amber, what’s your name?” My first year and a half I was at the same school with my sister. But I started doing little things. I joined the dance team and was kind of finding my own way. Then we moved from Texas to Florida and I was all on my own. That was scary but it was the first time I rode the school bus and I just didn’t want to be lonely so I just started making friends. When you’re new, people are curious about you. So instead of having them just stare me down, I said hey, how are you and that served me really well.
TBS: When you’re planning your webinars or speaking do you have any of those fears?
AW: No. I have always been extroverted. I needed the environment for that to be fostered. I get nervous, I’ll be honest. Before certain engagements. I’m starting a new class and there is always that moment where you know people are evaluating you. What is she wearing, does she look mean, does she smile. These are the things they are thinking about me. When they think of what kind of teacher I’m going to be. There is always uncertainty when I’m starting a brand new class, but I just tap into my power in that moment. And those feelings kind of dissipate. But I recognize for some people, that energy never dissipates. They don’t know how to channel it into commanding the space. So they succumb to the energy. Instead of embracing it.
TBS: What has been the greatest advice you’ve received on being heard/raising your voice, not succumbing to the fear?
AW: It was twofold, both things came from my mom. She used to say “There is no such thing as a dumb question, so if you have a questions you need to speak up and ask it.” And that served me well. I am the type of person that asks a lot of questions. I need to be able to understand what’s happening, maybe it’s the Virgo in me. I love to ask questions and get the answers I need. The other thing is that the answer is always “no” if I don’t ask. If there is something I need from somebody, if I need help, the answer is already no if I don’t ask. Thinking that gently has really encouraged me over the years to open up my mouth.
TBS: I love that. You said something powerful too in the previous question where some people struggle with that nervousness. What advice would you give the shy girl on how to be bold?
AW: The first thing I would say is, I’m going to let everyone off the hook and just say that being nervous is normal and it’s natural. Your body doesn’t know the difference as to whether you’re being chased by a bear or if you’re standing up to speak in front of an audience. So when you think about that scenario think about being chased by a bear. You’re going to go into survival instinct to save your life. You’re going to use that adrenaline to save yourself. Similarly if you’re standing up in front of people making a presentation or just meeting new people, turn that energy into a positive thing and just know that even Beyonce gets nervous. Knowing that it’s okay to feel that way. It’s good to know.
Secondly, don’t try to pretend to be something or someone you’re not. I’ve found that my introverted brethren and sisteren talk about how they have to pretend to be extroverted because they live in an extroverted world. I was sharing on the Mentor Monday after party with Paul Brunson, the way that I compared the two was the fact that I’m left handed and I live in a right handed world. Because of that I don’t force myself to be right handed, I can’t. Being left handed is who I am. But I learned to make the adjustments necessary to stay true to who I am. Specifically and for example, I can only cut with my right hand because when I was a kid there were never enough lefty scissors left. I had to train myself to cut with my right hand and it’s still something I do till this day. Again, it doesn’t make me not left handed. I had to learn to adjust. I also want to let your audience off the hook to know don’t try to pretend to be extroverted, that will drain your battery that much faster.
TBS: We get the message a lot too, to fake it until you make it. Pretend that you are this, and sometimes we can get confused. What do you say to that?
AW:I swear I am trying to do my own research on what that looks like. I don’t like to tell people one thing and do something different. It’s so annoying when people say just act extroverted. It’s like how do I do that. For me honestly, since I don’t identify with introvert, I’m trying to study it in order to see what that looks like. and how to navigate that space. But I’ll give you an example because this might help. I co-presented at a conference with a woman I didn’t know; the conference organizer put us together. And I was very high energy and she was very low energy. She went before me. She was so low energy I had to fire on all cylinders just to get the crowd back up. And she asked me afterward how I did that. We talked about it and I said to her, what does comfortable look ike to you. I said to her if it’s a rainy day are you home in your fuzzy socks by the fireplace and she said yes. That space is ideal for her. I said when you get up to speak in front of a crowd don’t try to be Amber, because it’s only one me, like it’s only one you. Invite your audience into your space and say today, we’re going to take it easy. We’ll all put on our fuzzy socks, you have to set that scene for them. So that way you’re establishing these expectations. That really resonated with her by the way. So when you’re at a networking event that way people won’t look at you to be at a level 12 like me. It’s inherently who I am. Just like she talked very calmly, she did yoga. If you’re at an event, you’ll have to step out of your comfort zone just a little bit. We all have to do that in some regard. But that doesn’t mean that’s something you have to pretend to be. You just say, “hi I’m Tiya, it’s nice to meet you.” If you decide to go to an event, say you’re going to connect with 3 people. And you survey that space and see who’s there and who could you have a more authentic connection with. From fostering those connections instead of feeling like you have to talk to everyone in the room. Because again, your battery is going to be that much more draining. It’s harder to recovery from that. I understand not everyone in your audience may not identify with being introverts, but when we talk about being shy, they’re not the same, they’re different, but being more vulnerable fits underneath that umbrella.
TBS: I agree. Great advice. I love that being yourself and inviting people into your world. Not thinking you have to network with every single person in the room. I think that was my thinking. The goal was to talk to as many people as possible. I would go back and forth, what if they’re in a group talking, do I interrupt? It just started to wear me out mentality where it affected my actions. I would say it’s not worth it, I will connect with people online. You’ve just helped me a lot. So thank you so very much.
AW: I do want to be completely honest about this idea of faking it till you make it. One thing that shifted my perspective on that was the very widely popular Ted Talk with Amy Cuddy, who’s a social psychologist, It’s been viewed millions and millions of time. She was showcasing her research on how our body language. She said in that talk not to fake it until you make it, but fake it until you become it. So, the way that can be interrupted for this conversation is to say ok, I’m not going to fake introversion until I make it. I am going to fake confidence and I’m going to fake being bold. Because those are the things I desire. So I’m going to fake those things until I become bold and become a person who can speak up for herself. and not say I’m going to fake these things I want. Shifting that perspective is a little more inviting.
TBS: Great point. How can the bolder sisters learn more about you and what you have upcoming?
AW: They can always visit me on the website talktoamber.com I’m on all social media @talktoamber. And I use all those platforms differently, but I’m present and available everywhere.
I do have courses online, I have one on public speaking and one on how to get comfortable recording video. Those are the two main things if they were interested in working with me. Or they can send me an email amber@talktoamber and we can start that conversation.
TBS: Thank you!!