This is common refrain for most acting teachers who want their students to let go of the results of their work while on the stage. The idea is this, in order to give our best performance, we must not measure the success of our choices by the audience’s reactions. The reason is that the more that we chase the laughs, the big reaction or the applause, the less authentic we appear. Oddly enough, the more that we try to change our behaviors to garner the audience’s approval, the harder it is for us to make an interesting and meaningful connection.
Audiences become bored and some may even feel insulted.
“Don’t expect applause,” however, always sounded to me more like an admonishment than advice, and perhaps a clearer way to say this is, “Applause cannot be our goal.”
What is the goal? Well, that is really up to each of us. A playwright has often set out specific goals for the characters, which makes it easier and harder for the actors to let go (assuming they understand and accept those goals).
As long as we make the goal of everything we do be validation of any kind, we will most likely experience a profound disconnect with our audience (our peers, our senior leaders, our staff, our clients, etc…). Communication that seeks to only give something in order to get something is merely transactional and cannot move, inspire or excite people to action. This style of communication works fine as long as each person has something that the other one wants (trade you my pickle for some potato chips). But we cannot trade for validation, no matter what People Magazine seems to suggest.
The clearer you are about what you are offering and why you think it is valuable, without getting caught up in how they will receive it (out of your control), the more authentic and resonate your communication will be.
This quote from Martha Graham (a famous choreographer who revolutionized dance) gives you a sense of the power of communication like this:
“It is not your business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”
Let go of the result and experience the power and freedom of trusting the value of what you have to offer.