Actor, art director, screenwriter, and movement specialist, Gail Sixsmith joined me to talk about her perspective on conversations – what makes them good and what makes them frustrating.
As human beings we are transmitting messages all the time, whether we are aware of it or not. An actor, says Gail, has to learn to embody those messages in how they portray a character through gesture, posturing, quality of voice, intonation and so on. Unless there are layers of subtext in play, what they are saying in words has to be congruent with what their body is transmitting. She reminds us that this is something that inspirational communicators do really well.
Gail coaches Performing Arts students to use their bodies effectively in becoming expressive, potent, and versatile actors. She draws on a wide range of physical practice which reflects her eclectic and extensive line of artistic enquiry: Dance Theatre, Choreographic Performance, Body Weather, Butoh, Alba Emoting, Rasaboxes, Physical Improvisation, Suzuki Method, Capoeira (Brazilian Fighting Dance), Laban, Elemental Transformation, Motion Capture, Mime, Yoga and 5 Rhythms.
As you listen to Gail, perhaps you’ll hear the energy in her voice – or even imagine what her gestures might be or how she is communicating through her body as she emphasises certain words or ideas. As a former Lady Macbeth, an artistic collaborator, and now an acting coach, you can hear how important it is to Gail to choose her words very carefully, to be precise in what she is describing to us. She wants us to understand her, clearly, with no ambiguity and it’s important that what she says is as close to the truth, to reality, as possible.
We meandered across many aspects of conversation – what makes for a good conversation, what inspires her, where joy sits, honesty, ego, difficult conversations, and even her worst conversational habit.
We also exchanged thoughts about how dismissive we can be of each other, what we may be in danger of writing out of our conversation culture because of the presence of addictive technologies or the way, in the workplace, we are able to read body language less and less. Add to that our preference for avoiding conflict or avoiding having that difficult conversation or the fear of getting caught not knowing something, it’s easy to find ways to disconnect or even over-react in situations where we feel uneasy or exposed.
I also asked Gail if she thinks it’s possible to be animated and dishonest, or at least hold something back, at the same time. Her answer brought us back to her trade in congruency between our words and our body movement, and between our energy and our impulses.
Better Conversations, with me Sehaam Cyrene, is where my guests open up with disarming honesty about what’s important to them about conversations, what’s hard, what frustrates them about poor conversations, their own worst habits as well as their best conversation skills, and what they wish more of for all of us.
Each of my guests is an expert in their field and brings a passion to what they do with their time on this earth. It’s a complete honour to learn what’s important to my guests and an indulgence for me to dive deep into what makes for a better conversation.