Join Jeff Ansell for an in-depth discussion in this video What holds people back?, part of Communicating with Confidence.
- Ever notice how some people who speak with confidence in everyday conversation or in meetings at work or school suddenly become stilted when they stand and speak in a group setting? The person who two minutes ago was interesting, engaging, and confident now comes across as boring, disconnected, and lacking in confidence. What happened? Why is it that someone relaxed and confident in everyday conversation can't be the same way always? After all, in one-on-one conversation or informal settings, they can be great communicators.
The problem is that a wave of awkwardness washes over people as soon as the spotlight is on them. They're fine just chatting, but when all eyes are on them, anxiety takes over. Part of the reason might actually be primal, you know. Neuroscientists tell us the ability to zero in on a target by fixing your gaze on the target was necessary for hunting prey. So back in the days when human beings lived in caves and were hunter/gatherers, if everyone in the cave was looking at someone, in other words, all eyes were focused on one person, it wasn't usually for a positive reason.
Being the center of attention was cause for worry and fear to set in. Fast forward to today and it's easy to see why many people are unnerved when a whole bunch of eyes are focused on them. Standing up and speaking in front of other people is terrifying for many people. Speaking in public can make us feel vulnerable. What if I say something wrong? What if they think I'm boring? What if I lose my place? Because I, myself, have flirted with public speaking anxiety, I know how terrifying it can be for some.
Aside from nerves, a number of factors hold people back from being confident communicators. Sometimes it's the high expectation that people set for themselves, feeling a need to be perfect speakers, never saying "um or "uh." And then as soon as they stumble, that's all they can focus on, the stumble, and it can go downhill from there. For some, the issue is not knowing what to say or a lack of preparation or a feeling they don't know their subject well enough. Because after all, content is key.
Even the most confident of communicators needs to know what they're talking about. All the confidence in the world will not mask the fact we don't know what we're talking about if, in fact, that's the case. Others worry about the people they're talking to or an audience, if there is one. What if they challenge me? What if they disagree with what I say? What if they ask a question I just won't know how to answer? There are also those people who had a bad experience speaking in public in the past and now, whenever they get up to speak, they say to themselves, "I hope I don't screw up.
I hope I don't screw up." And, of course, what should happen at that point? They disconnect from their subject. They disconnect from the audience. They disconnect from themselves. They screw up. And sometimes don't recover. Much of the problem can be blamed on what I refer to as Racing Brain Syndrome, or RBS. RBS happens when what you are saying and what you are thinking are out of sync. In other words, your brain is here and your tongue is here, and they're in a race with each other. Usually, the brain leads the way while the mouth struggles to catch on.
Sometimes it's the other way around. And it's in the space between the brain and the tongue where nervousness kicks in as we feverishly ask ourselves, "What am I going to say next?" At the same time, the heart starts to beat quickly. You discover you can't catch your breath. You end up talking quickly at this point so you'll be finished faster. The problem oftentimes is that when it comes to being a confident communicator, people try hard. They work at it. They read books on how to be good at it. They go for speaker training or belong to clubs that focus on public speaking.
They try hard to be a better speaker. And some people, I imagine, do have to try hard. Most, though, oughta consider another approach. Instead of trying hard, how about trying easy? Throughout the rest of this course, we'll look at a few simple steps, and that's all it takes to transform ourselves from uneasy speakers into connected, compelling, confident communicators.
- Organizing your thoughts
- Speaking slowly, naturally, and confidently
- Breathing properly
- Using your body to reinforce speech
- Managing facial expressions
- Handling nervousness
- Integrating voice modulation, eye contact, and hand gestures into a powerful and engaging communication style