Peter Bregman is one of my favorite authors on issues of business and communication. I often quote him in the blog associated with my own communications coaching website (http:thebusinessofconfidence.com).
Last week, Bregman wrote a post forthe Harvard Business Review that was inspired by an experience he had at his wedding rehearsal. I thought his insight into why couples get nervous on their wedding day was brilliant.
Rather than trying to paraphrase him, I’ll let you read his story. . .it’s short and witty and I hope his insights help you put your own wedding worries into perspective!
The night before our wedding, Eleanor and I stood awkwardly in the center of a large room, surrounded by our family and our closest friends. There was no particular reason to be uncomfortable; this was just a rehearsal. Still, we were in the spotlight and things weren't going smoothly. Neither the rabbi nor the cantor had arrived and we didn't know where to stand, what to say, or what to do.
It had taken us 11 years — and a lot of work — to get to this point. Eleanor is Episcopalian, the daughter of a deacon, and I am Jewish, the son of a Holocaust survivor. The one thing our parents agreed about before the wedding was that we shouldn't get married.
A friend of ours, Sue Anne Steffey Morrow, a Methodist minister, offered to stand in for the Jewish officiants who were absent. She moved us through the rehearsal, placing people in position, reading prayers, and lightening the mood with a few well-timed jokes.
When the rehearsal was over and we were feeling more relaxed, she offered me and Eleanor a piece of advice that remains one of the best I have ever received.
"Tomorrow hundreds of people will be watching you on the most important day of your life. Try to remember this: It's not a performance; it's an experience."
I love that she said "Try to remember this." On the surface it seems easy to remember but in reality it's almost impossibly difficult, because much of what we do feels like a performance. We're graded in school and get performance reviews at work. We win races, earn titles, receive praise, and sometimes gain fame, all because of our performance. We're paid for our performance. Even little things — leading a meeting, having a hallway conversation, sending an email — are followed by the silent but ever-present question: "How'd that go?"