May 13, 2010
I waited….looked around me……hunting to find any kind of signal that it was my go next…….was someone going to introduce me……my mind seemed somewhat blank and empty……this was probably not the best state to be in for the speech of my life. Well, at 17, the speech of my life so far! Oh! There it is, ‘And now, please give a warm welcome to the best man, Richard’. Shit!!! What happens if no one laughs at my gags, only at me??! Too late now, you said yes to your brother, so…………..this must have happened in a flash yet it felt like I had a battle with myself for an hour or so. Wrangling over whether I should or shouldn’t, could or couldn’t, must or must not……..A small voice kicked in, Get up off your backside and do your stuff. Fortunately it was my own voice and my body duly responded……the rest is history!
Many many people have a similar experience in their lives. Some are just plain greedy and have this kind of response daily! I was lucky. Something kicked in that meant I got up and did it. What’s more, I had a blast! I loved every moment of it. The more I had fun, the better I got, the more they laughed and listened……the more fun I had…and the better I got……it tends to go in that circle for us doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it also goes in the same circle with our negative chatter. We can very easily notice when something isn’t working the way we want it to, we begin to doubt ourselves, question our ability, notice that people really aren’t listening or engaged, it must be me, I’m no good….and so we can spiral down into a dark place.
There is much research to show us that even the notion of public speaking is enough to give many people the eebie jeebies! As a phobia, it sits right up there among the top ones. Whether it be speaking to new people at parties, doing the whole ‘small talk’ thing in meetings, contributing to a discussion or speaking to a large audience, it can wrong foot the most confident of people. I have many people that walk in through my therapy room doors that, at first meeting, can appear uber-confident; present and with presence. Yet when they begin to tell their story, it is so often one of being locked in a world of fear when it comes to speaking out, speaking up or just plain speaking! For many, they can recall a vivid memory when something happened along the journey that taught them to respond in this way. They learnt to do it this way. They practiced it religiously and have achieved self mastery in ‘doing it’ this way. Can you help me? Will it always be like this? Is it just who I am, they ask? Look, I say, if you have learnt to respond in this way, together we can help you learn some new and better ways to respond. I have seen grown men cry with relief knowing that they can release themselves from this dark, uncomfortable and traumatic part of their life.
Take a moment to reflect. Ask yourself the following few questions:
- How comfortable are you speaking in front of others?
- In what situations do you feel any anxiety with regard to speaking in front of people?
- Rate how anxious you feel on a 0-10 (10 being extreme fear and anxiety)
- At what point does your anxiety kick in?
- What is the trigger?
- What do you think other people notice when you are in this state?
- What would need to happen for you to feel calm and in control?
How many times have you been to see a film at the cinema or watched a DVD and found it to be so gut wrenchingly RUBBISH that you are compelled to leave the cinema or switch over the TV?! Many people have at some point or other. So, would you then consider going out to buy that very same movie and watch it over and over and over again…..??! No, of course not! Most of the people I meet have stored their experience of speaking in public as a dark, fear inducing horror movie – one that they really don’t want to watch again! However, what do you think it is that they end up doing? You guessed it, watching it over and over and over again….to the point where they can describe it in graphic detail. In fact they are so familiar with it, it is all that they watch in the theatre of their mind. They take on the lead character of the movie and act it out for themselves. So much so, that even when pressed on the question of how they want things to be different next time, all they can recall is the terrible movie they star in and how much they Don’t want it to happen! Of course, I know and they know, it just keeps on happening that way.
So, as a starter, getting the movie that they Do want to happen, is a pretty good place to begin eh?
How about you settle yourself down right now and begin by creating your very own movie. Follow through the steps below a few times and you will begin to feel more comfortable and confident with the process. The more you practice it, the more you will reap the benefits of your movie!
Step 1. Settle yourself somewhere really comfortable where you can fully relax and will be undisturbed for 15 minutes or so. Phones on silent! Make sure you have a pen and a piece of paper nearby as you will need this when you are finished.
Step 2. In your own time, take a really deep breathe in and, as you exhale, just allow your eyes to become comfortably closed….let your body melt and become fully relaxed. You know how that feels – where every drop of tension is released from your body and mind. Just let that happen until you are able to become fully aware of your deep, slow breathes……..aaaahhhhhhhhhhhh
Step 3. Now that you are fully relaxed and settled within your body and mind, begin to imagine a large movie screen in front of you. Really see the dimensions of this screen in front of you. For now there is no image.
Step 4. I want you to now bring up an image of yourself on the screen. Make the image in front of you bright and vivid. Of course, you are able to make this movie brighter, sharper, more in focus, louder, in fact, you are in total control of how this movie looks and its plot! Enjoy that experience of knowing how easy it is for you to make any changes.
Step 5. Now, give this image of you some context. This is going to be the movie of you speaking confidently, being compelling, seducing people in to listen to you. Notice who else is in the movie. Notice how bright the colours are. Pay real attention to how you are moving and how you relate to others. It looks good doesn’t it? Notice how you begin to want to step in and be that person. Turn the volume up so as you can hear a clear, resonant voice – one that people connect with. REMEMBER – this is your movie and you can make any tweaks and changes that you want to it.
Step 6. Continue running this sequence through, each time making it brighter and more real. Notice the small detail about how you are doing what you are doing in this new movie of you. That detail will be the foundation of how you are able to turn this movie into reality.
Step 7. Before you step into the movie and become the star of the film, take a moment to notice any inner chatter that might be fuelling the image of you that you are seeing. How might the voice in your head be enhancing your confidence? What positive and progressive message lay behind the action. These are important as they will drive the behaviour and ensure congruency. Notice how the inner chatter is encouraging and how the tone of voice nurtures you……
Step 8. By now, you will be ready to step on up into the movie and take on that role right? So, go on. Notice the few steps that lead you up and into the film. In your own time, step on in……..you see, the moment that you really step in, really commit, then you can also play out that role. Pay attention to how different this feels. Become aware of how YOU can do all of those things that you have just observed yourself doing. Notice how it feels to move that way, notice what it is like now that you are engaging people and, do you know what, they are listening! They are connecting with you. You are connecting with them. Pay attention to that inner chatter that now soothes, encourages and compels you to do more.
Step 9. Really enjoy being there now. Keep running this through in your mind and each time that you do, just allow it to become that bit more real and vivid. Feel it in the muscle.
Step 10. In a moment, I want you to open your eyes and reach for your pen and paper that is nearby. Before you do, seize all your learning’s and insights from this session and get ready to bring them with you. You can go back to this movie anytime you want. Each time you do you will enhance it so as it becomes more compelling and real. Watch it often. Continue to remind yourself how good that felt and how easily you slipped into that role. So much so, that you can begin to create it for others to share in too.
Step 11. Open your eyes. Have a stretch and a yawn. Feels good doesn’t it? Get your pen and paper and note down some answers to the following questions:
What it was that you were doing differently; how you moved, stood, engaged, made eye contact?
How did that feel different?
How did your voice sound to you? Describe it?
When we are rooted and confident, so that reflects in our voice. Your voice will have had greater resonance.
What words would others have used to describe your voice?
Give the movie a memorable name! Something that will remind you just how good you are.
What inner chatter was encouraging you?
So, what can you do right now that will bring that movie back to life? Yes, right now. Go and create some action. Motion creates emotion. You are already starting to break the habitual pattern of that old movie and replacing it with your new one. You can lock in that new movie very quickly if you want to, can’t you?
For the next 7 days, I want you to do one thing differently everyday that will reinforce your new movie; the new you that is a confident speaker. Find something that is a good stretch (a little discomfort will serve you well, honestly….) and go and do it. Then, share it with someone, tell them what you did and tell them what you noticed. It might be striking up a conversation with a stranger, contributing at a meeting, giving some feedback to a colleague, speaking with a larger group. Whatever it is, you will be changing yourself and living out of your new movie. Enjoy it. This is just the beginning……..