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Give the Nod

When my daughter Bailey was in first grade, all of that grade level was invited to dress up as and present a speech about a famous person in history. It was a fun day, and as I gathered with other parents in the elementary cafeteria, I made sure to sit somewhere she could see me. She met my eyes and gave her speech and ended with a big smile and ran off stage. It was a special moment, and I was so proud of her.

A few other children spoke, and then a little boy came to the podium. He was visibly nervous, and I could see him scanning the room of grown ups to find a familiar face. To this day, I do not know who this child was or who he was looking for, but as he got started he just happened to catch my eye and I smiled at him and nodded. He locked into me. I don't think he looked at anyone else in the room, because I don't think he could find anyone else. Throughout his presentation I smiled and nodded and he held my gaze. I made it a point not to break our fragile connection. It was clear that for that moment, that kid needed someone. Honestly, I don't think I ever even saw him again in all those years at elementary, but I still remember the moment. When he finished, he smiled so big at me and I felt tears come to my eyes.

I didn't know his story, but I do know how much it matters to have a nod. I do a lot of public speaking, and even very recently I spoke to a group of adults where I didn't know many people. I found myself centering on three people around the room who were nodding at me, smiling, encouraging me. They kindly spoke to me afterward, but it left me thinking of how I always look for the nodders.

According to the National Social Anxiety Center, The fear of public speaking is the most common phobia ahead of death, spiders, or heights. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that public speaking anxiety, or glossophobia, affects about 40%* of the population. The underlying fear is judgment or negative evaluation by others. No matter how comfortable you are in front of a crowd - we are all drawn to the nodders, the unspoken connection across a room, usually from a stranger that encourages you to keep going.

Recently on Instagram I saw such a great post about this from @upworthy. The post featured the comments of others about the importance of nodding. @markcoddington shared, "If you are a college student who likes to nod intently at your professors while they're talking in class, just know that all of us them adore you and think you are the absolute greatest." @mstewartsloan said, "I'm a nodder. If you are giving a toast or doing any public speaking, I want you to know I'm listening and that I'm impressed you have not passed out from the fear I would be having in the same situation." The other shared posts were equally inspiring, all in honor of the nodders.

I guarantee you that someone needs your nod today. That eye to eye encouragement across the room that needs no words. The smile that says 'you're doing great, you're on the right track, you've got this.' All it takes is your awareness and a small move of your head, a small move of your lips. A nod is worth a thousand words in certain situations.

Where is your nod needed today? Never underestimate the power of small things.

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