Humans are inherently emotional creatures, but in today’s fast-paced society, knowing how to tap into, process, and communicate what you are truly feeling deep down can feel like rocket science to many. It can feel exhausting, confusing, and downright scary as we begin to try and acknowledge our feelings within the safety of our private minds. But, if you make it past that first marker, then the real work begins – allowing your emotions to be seen and expressed to other human beings.
Have you ever found yourself thinking along these lines?
- “When I’m trying to communicate with my spouse after a long day, I often feel numb or stuck in my head worrying about work, chores, the kids, etc.”
- “When I’m trying to make a sale or pitch an idea at work, I often become ‘a talking head.’”
- “When I’m on stage giving a speech, I often feel I’m losing the emotional connection to my audience.”
- “I can’t even begin to imagine a life that’s any different from this. This is just how life is.”
Well, you’re certainly not alone. The core issue in all communication and personal transformation is emotional disconnection. The solution: emotional connection.
As a Juilliard Theater Graduate with over 20 years of working on the stage, TV, and film, I’ve spent many years studying the art of people, emotions, vulnerability, and expression. While not everyone can relate to the lens of performing arts, I’ve found the underlying philosophy and approach that many actors use to tap into their emotions, transcend to all walks of life.
Here is an effective question that many actors (as well as lawyers, leaders, and other members of the human race) use to become authentic, believable “communicators from the heart.” Which is something we could all use a bit of practice in mastering.
For those unaware, the Stanislavski system has had an enormous influence on the American theater. Konstantin Sergeievich Stanislavski (1863–1938) was a Russian actor and theater director. One of Stanislavski’s methods for achieving the truthful pursuit of a character’s emotion was his ‘magic if.’ Actors are required to ask ‘magic if’ questions of their characters and themselves to find the emotional truth on stage.
For example, here are a few questions an actor might ask themselves to emotionally connect with a person or situation:
- “What if I were a murderer walking toward my next victim’s house and that victim was my best friend?
- “What if I were in love with a woman who was secretly in love with my father?”
- “What if I were a child who could not use their legs but longed to dance again?”
When it comes to the rest of us, who are not actors, asking a version of this magic what if question will allow you to align yourself to a particular emotional state. This can be whatever state you need to be in to take your partner, your audience, or your listeners – whoever they may be, to where they need to go emotionally for a successful interaction.
Ask yourself: “What if I were to awaken those I spoke with and help ignite the feeling of genuine excitement in them? What if I were to inspire them or help them feel safe?”
When it comes to moving our children, our team members, or audiences into action, we spend far too much time asking how to get them on their feet instead of what if they did get on their feet? What if creates the possibility. What if gets to the jackpot: the feeling place.
And what if your focus is not about transforming your audience or anyone outside of you. What if it’s the man or woman staring back at you in the mirror?
“What if my life looked different right now? What if I were living in a different place? With a different person? A different life? What if I were a different me?”
The magic if gets actors out of the dreaded overthinking place that puts all actors (and all of us humans) in a bog. None of us want to get trapped where we only connect intellectually rather than emotionally to the idea that needs to be expressed. The magic if gets you out of your head and into your heart. Through the magic if, you are able to ground yourself within your imagination where there is fertile ground for possibilities to take root.
This is the missing ingredient that will transform your relationships at work, in life, and with yourself into something exceptionally meaningful.
The magic if allows actors to use (and lose) themselves entirely in the role. It is the doorway into the realm of personal connection on stage, and it’s a doorway into the powerful personal connection you can make with your clients, your family, your audience, and with yourself right here, right now. Bonus – no, you don’t have to have any acting experience whatsoever to dive in and start playing with the magic if in your own life!
What if you were caught at the crossroads of the greatest decision point in your life? What choices are you going to make from here on out? Are they going to be overintellectualized decisions or ones that feel expansive in your heart? What if… you finally made the choice that was on the other side of your fear?
Jesse Wilson is a Communications Specialist, Jury Trial Lawyer Consultant, Author, and Keynote speaker. The CEO of “Tell The Winning Story,” Jesse has given hundreds of transformational storytelling workshops and seminars across the country, helping people make communication breakthroughs with their authentic selves and their audiences. A Juilliard Theater Graduate and author of the soon to be published “Witness Preparation: How To Tell The Winning Story” (Trial Guides), Jesse shares how the lessons from the stage can help ANYONE step into a much more powerful role when you can envision your greater role, and your greater story, waiting to take center stage. You can connect with Jesse Wilson at www.tellthewinningstory.com or visit