In this Episode
- [00:30] Stephan introduces Mike Domitrz, an internationally renowned speaker and critically acclaimed author. He is one of the world’s leading influencers and thought leaders on respect and consent.
- [01:53] Stephan begins with the story of how Mike founded The Center for Respect.
- [04:42] Mike shares about the moment he realized he needed to speak out on the important issues of sexual assault.
- [07:00] Stephan wants to hear some of the most important data points, stats or trends that Mike shares during his talk.
- [15:03] Mike emphasizes that people should be able to say yes or no without guilt.
- [20:24] Stephan expounds on the thought of giving energy versus taking energy when you show up for your partner.
- [25:53] Mike points out that the only way sexual assault happens is if somebody commits sexual violence on another person, no matter what the other person did.
- [26:49] Mike shares the pivotal moments that skyrocketed his passion and focused on consent.
- [28:58] Mike shares his mic-drop moment, which happened during a speaking event at a packed auditorium, and somebody asked him if he is asking for consent from his wife.
- [35:10] Mike and Stephan both agree that asking for a kiss is more romantic, and it does make a difference.
- [42:36] Stephan recalls his learning in Kabbalah about how you don’t get brownie points if you’re also harming at the same time.
- [43:47] Mike shares that the key to your success is setting up the room in a way that you know will be the most successful outcome.
- [49:40] Stephan wraps the interview up by asking the last question about where improvisation fits into the system.
- [53:32] Check out The Center For Respect’s website to learn more about respect, consent, and romance and to learn more about creating an impact on stage, visit the Peak Impact Speaking website.
Mike, it’s so great to have you on the show.
Thanks, Stephan, for having me here. It’s an honor.
I’d love for us to start with your origin story. How did you end up founding The Center for Respect and focusing on this important issue that I don’t think gets enough attention, especially in media, on stages, and so forth? Maybe you could start there and then help us to understand how you ended up going into the professional speaking room.
Sexual assault was not mentioned in schools.
Yeah, happy to share that. At least in my era, you didn’t grow up thinking about, oh, I’m going to live my life working to end sexual violence. You didn’t even hear about that growing up. It wasn’t mentioned in schools. Sexual assault was not mentioned in schools.
If you ever heard about it, you heard about it on the nightly news. You heard about somebody in a park or an alley. That’s the only version you’ve ever heard of. I went away to college and I received a phone call. It’s the start of my second year in college. It’s my mom telling me that my sister’s been raped.
I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I am in shock. I am outraged. I am lost, confused, hurt, and I’m just in shock. You know you can get that phone call that someone’s died. You prepare for that, like, okay, now that can happen in life. You didn’t prepare for this phone call.
People don’t tell you this could happen, especially back then. What I would learn over that time, over the next few months, is that I was struggling to understand even what the issue was, what the topic was. I was furious at what was done to my sister, but I didn’t really understand the topic.
As I started to look at what the perpetrator was being prosecuted for, and I looked at the laws, I started to go, wait a second, we were never taught that. We were never taught that without consent. What does that mean?
Typically, consent means you ask someone, right? If I need your consent for anything, I ask you. I started to think, well, wait, we weren’t taught that. So then if we weren’t taught that, who was?
I started asking my friend, were you taught this? They’re like, no one asked. I would ask all genders. I’d be like, do you ask her? Are you asked? No one ever asked me. Are you kidding? That never happens.Consent is not the standard of excellence. It's the bare minimum requirement. The standard of excellence is mutually amazing consensual sexual intimacy. Click To Tweet
I started to go, wait a second. Oh, my gosh, we have a culture where this is rampant, because people just assume what they can do with each other’s bodies. That’s where the wake-up occurred. Because of the trauma and the harm that was done to my sister, it forced me to look into the law and go whoa, whoa, whoa. The law and reality are two different worlds.
The law says this is the standard. In reality, nobody’s following that standard. That was a huge and massive wake-up call for me as an individual, not just to teach others. Then I would hear speakers speak about it for the first time ever in my life.
I was a college athlete. We were required to go to the session and I would go, wait a second, I can do something about this. That’s where it all really, really began. That’s where it really hit home.
Did you hear a little voice in your head or something saying, get on stage and talk about this? Was there some sort of moment that shifted everything for you to go from, okay, this is an important issue and nobody talks about this and that’s not right to, okay, I’m the one. If not me, then who? And if not now, then when?
Yes, there was. When I was listening to that speaker, I was surrounded with my teammates, my friends. The speaker said, ‘you all know I was a survivor of a sexual assault. Keep in mind, this is 1989–1990-ish.’ They’re all like, no, I don’t. They knew my sister, but they just didn’t know what they didn’t know.
I need to speak out about this. I need to use my voice.
I was sitting there going, oh, my gosh, they don’t even know how many survivors they know, because we haven’t created a safe environment for survivors. We will talk about this and be able to come forward. They’re just totally naive to this. I need to speak out about this. I need to use my voice.
That was the moment when I realized. I went up to the speaker and said, I want to speak on this. Anybody who’s ever speaking professionally will tell you this is a common thing. Somebody comes and goes, I don’t want to speak on this, and then you never hear from that person again. That often happens.
He said, well, if you’re really interested, he happened to live an hour away in Madison, Wisconsin, meet up with me. I’ll give you what I got. I showed up. He was like, nobody ever shows up. He gave me everything he had. I took all this data, all this research, and just started writing my first talk.
I went to my local high school where I graduated from and said to a teacher that I trusted, could I present this to the class? Thankfully, she trusted me, so she said, sure. That’s where it really began.
After that session, it was my first time ever doing it. She’s like, ‘Mike, this is where you belong. This is what you should be doing.’ That really, really lit the fire at that point.
That’s so cool. Madison, Wisconsin. I went to school there. I started my first business there. I found new ways of Madison.
I have a son who lives there now. I had another son who graduated from there.
One of my daughters lives there now, too.
Very cool, small world.
It is. There are no coincidences. I would love to hear some of the most important stats, trends, or data points that you share in your talk for the sake of our listener, who probably knows quite a number of survivors and just doesn’t know who they are, but they’re close friends, family members, et cetera, who have just never shared what happened to them. What are some of the most important data points for our listener or viewer to know and understand?
The research shows that when we look at this topic, one in three to one in four women will experience sexual assault by the age of 18 or 21, depending on what research you look at. When they look at men, they say one to six, one in six. Those are the numbers.
With that said, I don’t share those numbers in my program. Because unfortunately, what happens with human psychology is people go, oh, one in four? That means one, two, three, not me. The odds mean this won’t happen to me. It’s 25%. Now, 25% is horrendous. We all know that, but the mind plays to safety.The law and reality are two different worlds. The law says this is the standard. In reality, nobody's following that standard. Click To Tweet
It says the big numbers, the 75%, it doesn’t engage human psychology to talk about stats. What I do is I say the opposite. I go, all right, let’s pull everybody into a room here. Let’s say that everybody has been sexually active and everybody in the room is 22. They’ve all been sexually active.
Let’s just say that I ask this room, how many of you have had a partner sexually advance on you without asking, like they start touching, they start kissing? Maybe you said stop and they stopped, but they were already doing stuff.
Out of this room of 100 sexually active people, how many people do you think you’re going to go, of course, somebody’s made a move on me without asking. What do you think the number is going to be, Stephan?
Audiences actually say 95%–100%. That’s personal, because then people go, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait, is that what sexual assault is? Somebody is sexually engaging with me without asking me? Now we have a conversation, versus the stat, which they think that did it or did happen to me, and they only relate based on that.
Versus, hey, you gave me a real example there that I can relate to that absolutely either I’ve done myself or has been done to me, neither of which I want. I don’t want to do that to somebody else. I don’t want it in any way, form, any kind of sexual violence or violate someone’s boundaries. And I certainly don’t want it to happen to me. It really engages people in the conversation.
When we talk with parents about this as an example, the worst thing you can do as a parent is go, oh, this is how often it’s happening and this often it’s happening. Just stress those numbers versus talking about the nuances of how it’s happening, so that your child can recognize it before it happens or when it happens. Both are important. You want to talk about the details versus just the scariness.
What would be some actions for our listener to take? Let’s say that somebody’s married happily for the last 10 or 20 years. They’re not out there in the dating world. Maybe they don’t even have kids of dating age. What can they do? And then what can somebody do, who is a parent who’s listening to this?
I get to work a lot with the US military all over the world. Sometimes those audiences are young, sometimes everybody in the room is 30 to 55 to 60. And they’re married, like you just described, or they’ve been married. You’d be amazed how many times somebody in their 40’s, early 50’s, or mid-50s, comes up to me and goes, ‘Mike, during your session today, it was the first time I ever realized I have the right to say yes or no without guilt.’
They were taught that they have to say yes out of guilt.
They’ve been married 30 years. They were taught that they have to say yes out of guilt, like that’s my job, versus I get to choose when I want to be sexually active. Even somebody who’s been married a long time can think, well, our marriage is great. My partner never complains.
I’ll pause and I’ll say, okay, did you ask them for feedback? Can you give them any opportunity? Because if you didn’t, and they’ve never given feedback, there’s usually one of three reasons this occurs. One, they don’t think you can handle the feedback. In other words, you’re going to give them sexual feedback, and they think you’re going to take it personal, and you’re going to be crushed.
Two, they’re afraid of your reaction. They think you could become violent. That’s a real fear for some people.
Or three, hey’ve never been taught that it’s okay to have a sexual voice. Of course, they’re not expressing any sexual discussion with you, because they’ve been taught that’s not something you should ever use your voice for.
Any of those are not healthy, any of them. What we recommend people go home tonight to do is look your partner right in the eye and say, hey, what do I do that you really love? What do I do that you wish I didn’t? I don’t want to do the things you don’t want me to do.
And what are the things that I tend to do before, maybe, even leading up to that you don’t like, like, hey, just don’t do that, I don’t like that? What are the things you do like? What are the things you do find attractive? Have this open conversation and people go, what does that have to do with consent? Now I’m not going to try to talk you into or ask you for things that I know you don’t want to do.
Healthy consent is not just getting someone’s permission, which is the phrase we used to hear forever. Healthy consent is understanding, is this mutually wanted? Does my partner want to do this with me, or have I talked them into doing this with me? There’s a lot of married sex happening that is talked into sex, versus we both want this to occur.
That’s on the marriage side. Now you asked also about, how do we talk to our kids about this? One of the things we can do with our kids is, first of all, do have the conversation if this ever happens to them. Most parents do it this way. ‘Anybody ever touches you, I’ll kill them.’ That’s the kind of phrase that parents tend to roll with.
What does that do? That scares the kid from ever coming forward. Because now they think, well, if I come forward, I have to fear not only what happened to me, but what my parents are going to do next.
They happen to go to jail.
Exactly. That’s really scary. Versus saying, if anybody ever sexually touches you against your will without your consent, I am always going to be here for you. Always. That’s powerful, because that says I’m focused on you.
I want my kid to know I’m focused on them.
The other version—I’m going to kill them—says I’m focused on the perpetrator. I want my kid to know I’m focused on them. I might even add on no matter what choices you made that night, no matter how much you drink, I am going to be here for you. No one has the right to ever do that to you. You can add that in there.
Those are just some subtle ones. There’s a lot more we can get into, but those are just starting points.
I have this feeling that the one in three, one in four number is vastly underreported. I just have that sense about it.
Yes, it is. Part of the problem with that topic is, it works around words like rape and sexual assault, which a lot of people truly don’t understand. Even when they’re answering the questions, it can be misunderstood in what they’re answering to. You go back to the question I asked.
If you had a partner that sexually touched you before they asked, most were like, yes. Now suddenly, we’re at 90%. Whatever those numbers would be, that would be dramatically higher. In most states, that’d be a fourth degree sexual assault or fourth degree sexual battery, depending on what they use in their state. But it’s a form of sexual assault. It’s not the same as second degree or first degree. That’s where we have to have a conversation more. That shouldn’t be acceptable.
I know, it shouldn’t be. I remember this really important point. I don’t remember where I learned it, but ‘no’ is a complete sentence.
You should be able to say yes or no without guilt.
That’s correct. We talked about that. That’s right. You should be able to say yes or no without guilt. It goes back to the statement I made earlier. What a lot of parents will do is say, you always have the right to say no, you always have the right to say no.
By the way, I say a lot. That’s what a lot of progressive parents will say. Most parents aren’t preaching that, which we need more of. But even lesser parents are saying, when you believe it’s right for you, you should not feel guilty to say yes.
If they do not feel safe saying yes, they’ll play a game of why I can’t say yes, but I want this. Consent gets very muddy and gets very confusing, because I don’t feel comfortable saying yes, but I want this to happen. How do I get this to happen without me saying yes? It’s ugly and confusing. We don’t want that. We want somebody who will be able to say yes.
If they absolutely feel that comfortable wanting it that they can enthusiastically say yes, I want them to say yes or no. That’s part of consent. People hear consent and they think, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Consent is actually yes. If people go, I teach my kids consent, so you talked about how to say yes. Not just how to say no, you also taught them how to say yes.
Yeah, that’s great. Clarity is king and queen.
Yes, it is.
Wow, what a great way to raise your kids or to have a long-term relationship, whether it’s marriage, domestic partnership or whatever. Essentially, it’s a no or a yes, maybe it’s no and a hell, yes.
That’s the best, without a doubt.
Then lack of clarity means it’s not a yes yet.
That’s why we like the word mutual because mutual says you didn’t talk me into this, yes. I wanted this.
That’s exactly correct. We use the phrase, enthusiastic. Enthusiastic yes. That’s a huge, huge difference. That’s why we like the word mutual, because mutual says you didn’t talk me into this yes. I wanted this.
A great question for a married person to ask the partners is, what would you love me to do in bed for you right now? Notice it’s not, what can I do in bed tonight? Because that is, what can I get away with almost, versus what do you want. There’s a massive difference.
This is a tall tale. Anybody watching this will relate to what I’m about to give as an example. If you say to your partner, hey, do you want to have sex tonight? If they don’t want to, what’s the first word do you think they say? Sorry, I’m not in the mood. Sorry, I’m not feeling well. It’s sorry.
Sorry implies, I owed you this. I should feel bad for not wanting it right now. One of the things we want to teach our partners is don’t be sorry, that’s why I asked you. I don’t want you to think you ever have to do this. I asked because I want to know that you want to do it or don’t want to do it. Whatever, I don’t want you to feel sorry. That’s really powerful as an example to teach kids, too.
You’d be amazed. I get to speak in middle school and high schools all over the country. Students want this information. They want to have more tools to be empowered to be able to say yes or no in the right circumstances.
They want to have more tools to be empowered to say yes or no in the right circumstances.
It seems you say that. Some parents freak out and go, what? They’re all getting tools on how to ask for what they want? Yeah, but what does that also mean? They’re going to have a new standard for whether they really want to do these things or not.
The standard is going to be much higher. They’re going to be more likely to say no, because you’re going to recognize the standard they’re in is not healthy. Oh, this person is pressuring me. That goes against all mutuality we just learned in the assembly. This is a no. This is not something I want.
It’s okay for me to say no for the first time. Now, I can say no anytime I want. Now, I’m more empowered. Students say this over and over again. They feel more empowered to say no, because now they have the skills. But when they have no skills, they’re afraid to say anything. The perpetrator tends to take advantage of that. That is not the survivor’s fault ever.
When students have more skills, when they’re taught specific strategies and lessons, they feel way more empowered to honor their boundaries, which means they’re more likely to feel comfortable saying no when they absolutely do not think it’s an ideal, awesome situation.
You ask most high schoolers, Stephan, is most sexual intimacy an awesome, incredible situation? They’re like, nope. There’s often alcohol or drugs involved in the back of cars, back of rooms at homes and parties. If I wanted it the way I wanted it to occur, it would occur way less often because I’d want it to be a better circumstance. So you’d actually be improving.
Even when they look at sexual statistics for high school students, they seem to forget that a lot of the sexual experience students are talking about involves alcohol and drugs. It wasn’t even consensual necessarily. Someone do go, 50% of high schoolers have had sex, has been sexually active, or 70%.
We didn’t have consent because they were incapable of giving consent.
Oh, let’s look at those numbers. How many of those were actually of sound mind? The students were like, well, a lot of those cases were not of sound mind. We didn’t have consent because they were incapable of giving consent. Those are the deeper conversations.
Yeah, very important topics. One thing I don’t know if you cover in your talks or not but I’d love to hear about it, is this idea of having a giving energy versus a taking energy when you show up for your partner, on a date, or whatever.
If you have an agenda and you’re looking to get something, that’s a taking energy and that’s being broadcast from miles away, versus, oh, I just want to give. I want my partner to feel loved and safe, protected, cared for, nourished. I want her to feel pampered.
I just want to take care of her, so I’m going to offer her a massage with lots of clarity around. There’s no agenda here. I just want to give to you. If it leads to something sexual, no problem. Great. If it doesn’t, no problem. Great. I’m happy either way. By the way, your video just changed.
This visual is up on purpose. That’s right. Just in case somebody’s watching this, it is very intentional because it addresses this issue. This is the slope of sexual activity. If you ask most people what’s the worst case scenario, it’s going to go right in your giving and taking energy. Let’s say worst case scenario is sexual assault that could lead even to murder. That’s the worst case.
I say, what’s the extreme opposite of that involving sexual activity? The number one answer we’d get is consent. That’s not true. Consent is not the standard of excellence. It’s the bare minimum requirement. So then the question is, what’s the standard of excellence?
The standard of excellence is mutually amazing consensual sexual intimacy, which means it’s not about me getting some, it’s about the two of us having an amazing mutual experience together. That’s night and day difference, energy. My approach of trying to get some versus…, it changes everything. The problem is most people don’t even know what it takes to get there.
People don’t understand what mutuality and mutual energy look like.
Some will say they wanted a marriage, but most people don’t even know what it takes to get there. What are the steps they need to be able to get to that, like respect, trust, knowledge, attraction, all these key components that we don’t talk about? People don’t understand what mutuality and mutual energy look like.
They’re not even aware of things like having oral communication. Not just communication, but oral communication. That becomes pivotally important to energy, because here’s one of the dangers that actually happens in our world, so I’m glad you brought this up.
A lot of people in this area have been taught to arrive with giving. They are the ones that predators look for. There’s this balance of, I don’t want to come in with a pure giving or a pure taking, I want to come in with a mutual. It changes the parameters.
If I come in with a pure giving, I’ll do whatever this person wants to keep them happy. That’s the danger. Even if I don’t want to do something, well, I’m supposed to because I’m a giver. That’s how that will often be used in sexual situations.
It’s almost like giving with boundaries. Giving energy with boundaries so that you’re not allowing yourself to get taken advantage of, but you’re also not in a place of trying to manipulate or take something from the other.
Correct. That’s why the word mutual works really well, because we’re both giving. We’re both giving. By the way, we’re both receiving. This is the beautiful part about gifting to each other, you both get to receive, you both get to give.
There are times where you might think, I’m not in the receiving mode tonight, but I’m good to give. That’s okay because you’re making the choice. That’s a dramatic difference than somebody thinking, well, I have to, that I went this far with them, or I’m married to them, or I have to. That’s different than only giving in those situations.
It doesn’t feel like a choice. It feels like a requirement. That’s the massive difference. Are you coming in with a mutual mindset of, are we going to have a mutually wonderful experience tonight? Where are the red flags? What’s missing here?
It doesn’t seem to be a trusting situation or it seems like they want this and I want that. That’s not mutual. It’s understanding where those red flags are. Either we can work through them or we can just stop and go, this isn’t a good fit, not at this moment, not at this time, or not with this person. And we can recognize that sooner.
Yeah. It seems like this is a good place to insert something I learned from, I forget who exactly it was, but it was really a cool concept. It might have been Ephraim Olschewski or it might have been Bettie Spruill. It might have been Bettie Spruill that I learned this from.
Responsibility is being response-able. It doesn’t have anything to do with duty or obligation. When you teach a teenager or young adult how to be responsible in these sorts of situations, it’s being response-able and it has nothing to do with any kind of duty or obligation that they might believe they have, whether they’re in a committed relationship or just on a first date.
If they just relinquish all these preconceived notions around duty and obligation, then they’re free to make choices that just fit for them, are joyful for them, and not from a place of coercion or being kind of backed into a corner.
Yeah. You made a comment earlier. I know you didn’t mean it this way. In case somebody’s listening, just want to address it. You had said they don’t allow that to happen to them, which I know you didn’t mean it as in their fault if it happens to them. But people will hear that and think, well, you made that choice, so you allow that to take place. Well, that’s not how it works.
I could be somebody who’s more passive, do not have any education on this, and I won’t be sexually assaulted unless somebody sexually assaults me. The only way sexual assault happens is if somebody commits sexual violence on another person, no matter what the other person did.
That’s really important for people to understand, because a lot of times around this topic, people go, well, I’m going to teach my kids not to do A, B, and C, because if they don’t do A, B, and C, this won’t happen to them. There’s no way you can guarantee that. They could do A, B, and C and still be sexually assaulted, and they didn’t allow it. Unfortunately, this other person committed a crime.
Yeah. Thanks for pointing that out. It’s very important.
Yeah, happy to share.
Was there a particular nugget or pearl of wisdom that you received from that guy in Madison, that blew your mind, that kind of changed everything for you? You got this huge stack of papers or all this data, all these slides and so forth, whatever you got from him. Was there something that stands out to you that was unexpected or particularly pivotal?Healthy consent is not just getting someone's permission, which is the phrase we used to hear forever. Healthy consent is understanding. Click To Tweet
In that moment, the one that I referenced earlier was that everybody knows a survivor and recognize how many I did know in that moment was massive. The other one was the idea of asking for consent. That’s what really skyrocketed my passion. That’s where I focused in. I’m known around that area, around consent.
I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I was teaching Asking First 30 years ago, where now you hear about it very frequently. You did not hear about it for the first 15–20 years of my work on a whole lot of stages. I was saying that from the stage.
That was a massive one. It’s a whole idea. Because what I had to do is look in the mirror and go, wait a second, am I asking? I don’t have the right to be self righteous if I’m not living my life the way that you should be treating partners and yourself.
I’d be looking at myself in the mirror and go, wait, am I asking? Then I say to my friends, are you asking? Like, who asked? At that time, that might have been guys I was asking. Then I asked the women, are you being asked or are you asking them? Like, who asked?
It was such a foreign concept, so that was the light bulb, is when you recognized, wow, (1) I’m not alone and that society didn’t teach me to do this, and (2) how messed up that is. That’s what really drove my work.
I love essentially what you said, I’m going to walk my talk. For me to be on stage talking about this with integrity, I need to embody all of the principles that I’m teaching. I’m paraphrasing here, of course, about it.
No. I was in college, so I was a dating age. You’re like, wait, I’m on a date. I got to ask, right? I got to not as in that it’s a burden, but that’s what I want to do. I get that opportunity to do that.
I’ll tell you a funny story that just happened a few months ago. I was at a university packed auditorium. All their incoming class had to be there. I can hear something being set up in the balcony during my program. I just stopped and I go, it looks like somebody’s adding to the conversation. What would you like to add?
At first, like, no, no, no. The seats parted because this one person was the one talking. Suddenly, this one person, I could see who it was. He goes, ‘well, okay, I’ll ask you what I set up here. I mean, do you actually ask your wife?’
Keep in mind, this is a packed auditorium. I think we have a thousand students in this beautiful auditorium. Everybody’s like, boom, mic drop. They think he’s got me, like, what are the odds? I go, ‘this is very interesting, because my wife doesn’t travel with me. But today, she happens to be here with me.’
I was on the East Coast that was nowhere near our home and she happened to be traveling; it’s very rare. I go, I’m not going to put her on the spot because she didn’t ask to be put on the spot, but I will share with you the first time that I was having to go through this. This idea of if I’m going to ask or I’m not going to ask.
I was alone, we were dancing to the music, the lights were out, candle was lit. You can either think that’s corny or romantic, but that’s what it was. I’m like, I know I want to kiss her, and I think she wants me to kiss her. And I need to ask.
I looked her in the eyes and I started to stumble like, oh, how am I going to ask? I’m just like, ‘can I kiss you?’ She says, yes. We’re making out. I don’t care about asking anymore. I’m not burdened by that at all. I’m thrilled.
Later that night, I asked her, ‘hey, when I asked you, what does that feel like? Because it was my first time asking.” She’s like, ‘well, at first, for a split mini second, it was awkward because I’ve never been asked. But then I recognized what it felt like to be given a choice, what it felt like to know this person cared enough to want to give me a choice, and I recognized how much more romantic this was.’
It proves that when you ask somebody, you’re building the right kind of relationship.
The cool part is, I get to keep asking her because we’ve been married 27 years. That’s what I shared from the stage. The room goes crazy. It proves the point of when you ask somebody you’re building the right kind of relationship.
Here’s the question to follow up to his answer. Hey, do you ask your wife? It implies, do you still ask? That’s the implication. I always will ask, at what point did my partner stop deserving to have a choice?
The moment you ask that, married people, young people, everybody’s like, yeah, well, of course, never. Well, then, why would you stop asking? Why would you stop giving them a choice?
Wow. Powerful. I would love to switch gears a bit. That’s a really mic drop moment, I think, so it’s a good point to pivot here to public speaking.
For somebody that wants to share their message on a stage, whether it’s professionally and get paid for it, or it’s just as a pro bono thing, as a charitable give to do this, as a volunteer, what would be the most important thing for a person who is starting out? And what would be the most important thing for somebody who’s already done a lot of speeches to do to move them forward?
Absolutely. One, why are you on stage? Let’s go with the person starting out. By the way, there are a lot of experienced speakers that don’t answer that well. I got booked to talk about this. Okay, great. But what are they walking out with? They’re raising their awareness. What are they doing differently?
Here’s a key question that I will ask people. What actions will your audience take within minutes of leaving that space—if they are able to, if they have the opportunity to—because of what they heard you say? That’s one that you’d be amazed experienced speakers and newcomers can’t answer. Well, no, no, I’m going to tell my story, or no, no, I’m going to raise their awareness on this, or I’m gonna motivate them.
What actions will they take? Herbert Spencer said this famous quote a long, long time ago, “The purpose of education is not knowledge. It’s action.” That means that when we’re on a stage, it’s to provoke action. We’re teaching to provoke action. Otherwise, you’re just entertainment.
If people walk out of that room and they go, that was awesome, they were funny. They were emotional. They took me on this and I go, great, what are you going to use for that? It really doesn’t apply to me. Well, then, that was pure entertainment. It was an aid can use in your life.
There are no coincidences. I believe that to be true. I just had a conversation like this with my oldest daughter just last night about knowledge without application, without action is essentially pointless. It’s in the action, it’s in the doing. Love is doing. If you’re not taking action on the information that you’re obtaining, it is essentially pointless.
Correct. That goes, all right, what am I teaching them to do? That’s the key. Versus, am I raising awareness? Raising awareness can be done by me giving you a postcard that has a few stats and your awareness is raised. It doesn’t mean you’re going to do anything about it. Nowadays, with my topic, people know sexual assault is wrong. People know rape is wrong. People know that consent means asking first. It doesn’t mean they’re asking first.
My job is to help them shift that to action, and then walking out of the program going, I can’t wait to ask. I can’t wait to intervene. I can’t wait. Not I have to, I must. I can’t wait. They’re looking forward to it. That’s what you want your audience to be able to do.
What is your audience going to look forward to doing when they leave that room because of what you shared? That is true, whether you are a first timer or you’ve been doing this a long, long time. That’s a starting point.
For me, I got such an epiphany from what you were saying a minute ago about asking for the kiss, and that it actually is more romantic to do so.
That’s the thing. When you show it, it really makes a difference. Often, this is another sin of the stage. You’re telling, not showing. If you’re telling, I think it sounds nice, but I don’t see visually, feel how it’s applicable to me. But when you show me, I go, I want that in my life.
If I tell you how to swing a golf club, versus if you show me how or I show you how, you’re going to get way more out of the show. An example of this is after I give the steps on how to ask for a kiss, I bring a student on stage. When I say a student, this could be a 55-year-old general of the US military when I’m with the military. This could be a 14-year-old high school freshman, just whoever’s in the audience.You always have the right to say no. Click To Tweet
I bring somebody on stage and I say, the microphone in front of you is your partner. All you got to do is ask them for a kiss. You already got the steps, you saw me just do them, here we go. We’re going to count to three, the audience counts to three, the person asks.
What happens is you’ll hear the room go, oh. The same room that 35 minutes ago said no one asked. It’s going to ruin the moment. It’s going to be awkward.
It’s going to be weird just sitting there going, I want that, because they got to see it. They got to see it. That makes the difference. That’s true of all speaking. Are you showing it or are you purely telling it?
It’s so good. When you address that, essentially, a heckler in the audience and you spoke about your wife being on the trip, was she there in the auditorium with you?
Literally in the auditorium. Every head of every student whipped looking for. You could just see them like, no way. Keep in mind, I was 45 minutes into the keynote. We were having a blast. We’re all on the same page. The energy was sensational that day.
As soon as I said, well, she happens to be here. I just pointed outward and everybody was looking. She knew at that point, she did. She’s like, I have to raise my hand just to stop, so they know where I’m at.
So she did. She was right at the way back and they loved it because it was real, but that is super rare. She doesn’t typically get to travel with me at all my events.
Yeah. Again, no coincidences. That was the speech where she was with you. Really cool.
Yeah, it was wonderful.When you believe it's right for you, you should not feel guilty to say yes. Click To Tweet
Yeah. How do you create these surprise and delight type of moments? How do you build them into a presentation in a predictable way? That’s something you just kind of spontaneously just walked into, essentially. It was like the universe conspired to make it all happen for you. But can’t you, with intention, create those kinds of magic moments time after time after time as part of your signature speech?
Yeah, I do. One of the things I love coaching impact-driven entrepreneurs to do is how do you make this consistent. It is consistent and it’s feeling spontaneous, so that’s critical, because the moment is a speaker. This is another sin of the stage. The moment a speaker is in rhythm and routine, and the audience, in any way, feels like this has been done before, this isn’t special.
I’m just a copycat of something that’s been done before. They have to feel fresh and in the moment. It is because every audience is different. Every audience is unique. It’s learning. That’s one of the things that is neat to do when you’re working with entrepreneurs, is to teaching them how to set yourself up for those wins, for those moments that take place.
When I have that person on stage asking, I have a very systematic way that they’re taught to ask to make them win. Set them up for a win. You’ve got to have that. Your audience is winning, you’re winning. Otherwise, if it was just about you winning, you’re just trying to be the smartest person in the room.
They’ll walk out going, of course it works for them, of course, because they’re them. But you want everybody walking out going, well, of course, this works for everybody. This is such common sense. How do we not hear it before today? That’s what you want your audience doing? Because that means you made it so simple, there’s no confusion.
I’ll give you another sin of the stage. There’s an hour-line waiting to talk to the speaker after they spoke. Why is that line an hour long? There are two reasons. One, I purely bought my book sign because I’m excited to meet the person. Cool. That’s a good reason, but that’s not usually the reason.
The speaker ripped off a band-aid somewhere during that speech that they did not give the audience a new band-aid to put on. That line is that long because of their savior complex. I need to talk to the speaker to help me overcome whatever is hurting right now, whatever wound is still open. I see this speaker as a savior, versus myself being the savior, so I need to get in that line, because I’m hurting right now.
When we’re working with entrepreneurs, we want to teach them.
That is a common thing that happens. Once again, when we’re working with entrepreneurs, we want to teach them. You don’t rip off the band-aid without healing the wound by the end.
Wow, that kind of goes against popular sales techniques of stretching the gap between their current state, and the desired end state, and really poking at the pain points to motivate action.
Yeah. This is what’s interesting. We survey all of our audiences. We have a post-event survey that occurs in the last 10 minutes of the speech. It’s very live.
Our numbers of, I’m more likely to ask first, I’m more likely to intervene, I’m more likely actionable questions, I’m more likely to reach out to loved ones to let them know I’m here for them, our average number for middle schools, high schools, universities, and the US military is 93%–97% are more likely to ask, more likely to intervene, without having to hurt the audience.
This is one of the problems. We have a sales strategy from the stage, versus an impact strategy from the stage. Honestly, the people who work for me, who are hiring me to coach, are not coming to me because they want to sell from the stage.
In fact, we have somebody in our program right now. He sold 16 million from the stage. You know what he said? He said, ‘I’m sick of selling from the stage. I want to have an impact from the stage, because we all know what you just described is true.’
This selling approach means you need my book to actually heal yourself. You need my course to heal yourself. You need this other thing to heal yourself. I’m intentionally leaving you hurt intentionally when you have that strategy, versus I’m here to serve the audience. They get away with it in the public seminar space because it’s their event. You can’t do that when companies are hiring you or schools are hiring you, because they’re hiring you to solve the problem, not to cause more harm.
The intention is to essentially reveal light. In that, you have an impact versus poke at the pain points.
Correct. These are my topics. If you’re poking at pain points just poke, it’s cruel.
That reminds me of something I learned in Kabbalah. Generally, in Judaism, you can’t perform a mitzvah while simultaneously doing harm. Mitzvah is something that gets you blessings, saying a prayer or doing something that’s good work.
You don’t get brownie points if you’re also doing harm at the same time. It can be as simple as my wife asking me to do the dishes, and I’m not going to do that because I’m going to go do my prayers now, because it’s the morning and that’s when I do my prayers. No brownie points for you for doing your prayers.
I love that. I love it because we have a phrase, the intention is to do no harm. That’s one of my phrases when I’m training, is to do no harm. That doesn’t mean you will never do harm, because it’s impossible to know that you will never do harm, but the intention is to do no harm. The moment a strategy in your speech says, oh, do this to get here, and this is something that’s not positive, we don’t do that. We say, what else can we do there to get here?
That’s great. What are some of the preparations that you do to have just a home run sort of experience with a speech, whether it’s, as I said, paid or pro bono, just amateur kind of impromptu thing or whatever? What do you do that really helps guarantee success for you?
This is where systems are critical. I am all about the systems. What I mean by that is, every client who works with us gets sent to a downloads page that gives them everything they could ever imagine they would need when they bring me to speak. There’s a downloads page of all the different kinds of introductions. There’s a downloads page of the stage setup with all the details of where the table is, where the chair is, two bottles of water, because they would rather have you say, please, two bottles of water, because then they feel like everything’s covered.
If you don’t put water in, like he doesn’t need water, you just say two bottles of water, you put everything there. The table should be this way, not that way, that horizontal versus vertical. We put that kind of detail in there, so they think, oh, okay, we just follow the instructions here, we don’t have to think.
The key to your success is setting up the room in a way that you know is going to be the most successful likelihood outcome. That’s what we’re looking to do, because so many speakers do not realize the room setup is critical to the energy in the room.
I’ll give you one of the biggest mistakes. There’s a 10-foot gap from the stage to the first row, a massive mistake. Why do comedy clubs have the chairs right up against the stage? There’s a reason, because they know that energy psychologically flows and is contagious.
If you are right there with me at the front, your energy is with my energy. We are right there together. Me as the speaker and you, we’re coming together. Now, you’re right there and everybody’s crammed right next to you. What happens? You start to laugh. They start to laugh. And now we’re all having this unified experience.
That kind of detail, we’re thinking about. How are we making sure the room is set up for a unified experience, where everybody’s in an intimate setting? There can be a thousand people in the room, and it’s still super intimate because it’s the right setup. It’s giving them all the groundwork to do that for you.
That reminds me of something I learned about how David Lee Roth, Van Halen, would make sure that everything was properly in order for their performances. There was a clause in the contracts that said, no brown M&M’s. I want a jar or a bowl of M&M’s in my dressing room and no brown M&M’s in there.
It seems weird, right? But then my understanding of the brilliance of that was in the explanation of what his motivation was, because if there were brown M&M’s in that bowl, then he knew to go check the lights and make sure everything was copacetic, because if the complex light setup was not done well, someone could actually die.
Which happened, and that’s what led to that. Not their concert, but another major concert in the country, another major band had a stage collapse that killed people. I believe it was in Cleveland, if I remember right. That’s what led to bands going, all right, how are we going to avoid that?
That’s what led to the M&M’s clauses you hear about. People thought, oh, they’re being divas. Nope. They’re just looking to see, are the details being taken care of? That’s what that was actually about.
Yeah, brilliant. I have some preparations that I was thinking you might talk about. Maybe do some breathing exercise, some chi gong, or some affirmations, incantations as Tony Robbins calls them, before getting on stage to get your energy up. Is there anything in that that you would recommend?
I absolutely recommend it if somebody is able to make that happen. Here’s what I found over the years. Inconsistency in what happens in the final 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 seconds. If you say, well, this is what preps me and you don’t get to do that, the mind now says you’re not ready. You’re not full.
You have to be careful putting a system in that cannot be reliably done all the time. What will happen to me as somebody comes up on stage 30 seconds before, all right, we’re getting ready. They’ll come up to me on stage four minutes without getting ready, and you might have said the last five minutes, I like to prepare, but somebody’s worried about something. The students aren’t here yet. Can we delay?
I believe in energy and where we’re at, so I like to focus.
Suddenly, the system doesn’t work, so we make sure that I don’t put systems in. What I try to do is just say, take a moment, take a breath, and focus on what I can do in a moment or second. I do absolutely believe in energy and where we’re at, so I like to focus.
I learned this from my friend Sean Stephenson. We literally grew up building our business together back in the early 2000s when we were really taking off. It was to think about sending love to the audience, going out there with love for the audience, and just to take that moment that I’m present for them right now.
Yeah, Sean is all about love. I had him on this podcast. That was such a great episode. For our listener who’s not familiar with him, I recommend listening to that episode. I’ll also say that for those who don’t know, he passed. He’s on the other side of the veil now. He’s up in heaven smiling down on us. But wow, what a beautiful, beautiful soul.
Absolutely. Literally, when our speaking business was taking off, we’d be on the phone till 4 AM just building our website, because back then, you had to figure it out yourself. It’s going on 20 years ago now. Yeah, absolutely an amazing soul, an incredible human being, and a gift to all of us.
Yeah. Last question before we wrap up. Where does improvisation fit into the system, or does it? Is it an essential component? I’ve personally never taken improv classes. My wife, Orion, has. It’s definitely helped her.
It feels uncomfortable to me, not that I don’t like being uncomfortable. I really relish the opportunities to become more comfortable with the uncomfortable. But that’s something that just hasn’t really spoken to me like, all right, you got to do improv classes now, Stephan, and so I haven’t. I’m curious what your take is on that.
My take is that if you’re not looking to do improv or you wouldn’t enjoy that, then I’m going to give you a different exercise that I teach all my clients, the What If exercise. The What If exercise is to everything in your speech, ask yourself, what if they said this at that moment? What are all the possible thoughts the audience could have at that moment? What if they yelled it out?
If you play that game out, you’re being very improv-oriented, because you’re thinking, what could I say, what could I do? By doing that, if it ever happens, you’re ready. It allows you to be very fresh and quick on your feet because you’ve practiced this. A lot of improv is not improv. We know that. Does the senate live rehearse? Yes. Does Second City in Chicago rehearse? Yes. Do they also use improv? Yes.
The thing to keep in mind is it’s about rehearsal more than anything.
The thing to keep in mind is it’s about rehearsal more than anything. Not just rehearsing the script because anybody can memorize the script. Rehearsing the feeling, changing how every word sounds each time you do it differently, so that you’re actually giving it a different opportunity to land a different way, versus just, am I memorizing the words.
Right. Fresh, not rote or autopilot.
Exactly. If I threw the script out, could you still teach me?
That’s one of the benefits of slides. It doesn’t get enough credit. A slide is not something you read off to the audience. That’s terrible.
Which we see all the time.
Yeah. It’s something that’s a reminder or trigger, a waypoint for the speaker so that you don’t have to have cards in front of them or they don’t have to rack their brain trying to pull something out of anything.
I’m going to throw a differentiator there. I’m going to say that that is not ideal.
All right. What is that?
If the slide shows up before its timing of exactly what it’s meant to reinforce what I already said, it’s stealing the show.
Okay, yeah. What I do or whenever possible, again, you can’t always control your environment. But if you have (I guess) it’s called a confidence monitor in many cases, you have a monitor that you don’t have to look back behind you at the screen that everyone else is seeing, you can look forward, and then you just kind of cheat your eyes a little bit so that you can see not only the current slide is but the next slide.
Correct, because the current slide, you shouldn’t care about. You’ve already talked about it. If you’re going to do that, it can only be for the next slide. Here’s critically important information. That confidence monitor better be at eye level.
In other words, it should be back of the room. You’re looking through the audience to see it, not down on the stage. Because the moment you take your eyes down to get information, the audience disconnects from you.
Great point. So many places have the confidence monitor down at the front of the stage. You have to look down and that’s a really critical point. Genius Network, they have the confidence monitor at the back on the wall.
Correct. They have it perfectly located.
Yup, awesome. What a great way to end this. If our listener or viewer is intrigued, interested, motivated (hopefully) to learn more and apply that in their lives and businesses in terms of the speaking that they might be doing or considering, where do they go? Also, where should they go if they’re interested in learning more about what we spoke about in the first half of this episode around respect, consent, and romance?
I’ll start with the question you asked first, which is if they do want to get more speaker coaching and they’d love that kind of energy that I bring. If they want to work with me, I’m doing that. I provide workshops, where they can join me live, virtually. We dive deep and quickly. They can just go to peakimpactcoaching.com for that.
If they’re looking to talk about consent, mutually amazing relationships, and talking to their kids, that’s all The Center for Respect. That’s exactly what it sounds like, centerforrespect.com. They’ll find the same with social media. We have The Center for Respect everywhere on Facebook and many other places. It’s super easy to get a hold of us.
Awesome. Mike, this was such a pleasure, really fun, and inspiring. I’m going to apply what I’ve learned. I hope our listener does as well. We’ll get you on the next episode, listener. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.
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Dr. Sean Stephenson – previous episode
Checklist of Actionable Takeaways
Consent is important during sexual activity. I have the right to say “YES” or “NO” without guilt. True consent is given voluntarily.
Ask first before engaging in sexual intimacy. Communication, honesty and respect make sexual relationships better. Asking for and obtaining consent shows respect for myself and my partner.
Ask my partner for sexual feedback. Be comfortable talking with my partner about our do’s and don’t’s during sexual intimacy.
Respect a “NO” answer in sexual activity. Learn to respect my partner’s boundaries.
Have boundaries so that no one can take advantage of me. Don’t allow others to manipulate or coerce me into sexual activity.
Intervene when someone is using alcohol or other drugs to facilitate sexual activity. Don’t just be a bystander. A person under alcohol or drug influence can’t consciously give consent to sexual activities.
Empathize and support sexual violence victims. Instead of showing anger, show the victims that I’m focused on helping them overcome the trauma that they’ve experienced.
Teach children the importance of consent. When a child knows about getting and giving consent, they’re more likely to have healthy, respectful, safe and enjoyable sexual experiences when they’re ready for them.
Teach about respect and consent to provoke action. It’s not enough to spread awareness; there should be action to eradicate sexual violence.
Visit The Center For Respect’s website to learn more about respect, consent, and romance. Also, check out Peak Impact Speaking’s website to learn more about creating an impact on stage.
About Mike Domitrz
Mike Domitrz is an American educator, author, publisher and the founder of Center for Respect, an organization with a mission to prevent sexual assaults and encourage safe dating.
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