One of the greatest fears that all of us have is speaking in front of many people. But where do these fears come from? More specifically, what is the thinking that is going on in our heads that causes these fears and ultimately distorts the reality?
Fears about speaking in public usually revolve around the following negative thoughts –
- I’m not a very good speaker/ Other people present better than me
- The audience will criticise me and will judge me
To break out of the cycle of a) undervaluing your worth as a speaker, b) overestimating the negative response of your audience, and c) believing that listeners are judging you instead of the value of your message, it is necessary to change your unhealthy thoughts into constructive and more positive thinking. How can you do this?
There are three strategies that you can use:
1. Overcome ‘worst case’ thinking – We tend to think the worst when actually the reality is usually never as bad as our own thinking. So instead of thinking/believing for example ‘ I’m going to get blocked and forget what I want to say’ train your mind to think/believe something like ‘I will communicate a message of value’. At the end of the day, what we think is completely under our control so why choose to think negative thoughts that don’t serve us?
2. Work on positive coping statements – Be aware of your habitual negative thoughts around presenting and prepare in advance some counter affirmations. For example, if you habitually think ‘I’m not a good public speaker’, replace this with the affirmation ‘every time I speak I am practicing and getting better’.
3. Channel your thinking – If you find it difficult to turn a negative thought into its opposite positive thought at one go, for example changing ‘ I am nervous’ into ‘I am confident’ try the strategy of downsizing the negative thought first to create a less negative viewpoint before moving to its positive counterpart. For example, ‘I am nervous’ can move to ‘audiences can’t see I’m nervous’ to ‘I will gradually become more confident’ and finally to ‘I am confident.’
If we have learnt and practised the necessary skills to present effectively, the only remaining factor which will affect our confidence to present is what we are THINKING. It is erroneous thinking which causes fear. So discipline yourself to think thoughts that serve you rather than thoughts that scare you, and you will be well on your way to eliminating your fears and speaking with more confidence.
Adapted from the post by Gary Genard: ‘Speaking fear’ – turn negative self-talk into positive thinking!