Join Jeff Ansell for an in-depth discussion in this video Handling nervousness, part of Communicating with Confidence.
- One of the best ways to manage nerves and our body language is through strong hand gestures. Yet, when we speak in front of others, how many of us are truly mindful of our body language or our facial expression, or vocal inflection? Communicating with confidence means having the ability to manage our body language, instead of having it manage us. You see, in stressful moments, anxiety finds a way to express itself. People experience what I call Body Language Leakage.
Body Language Leakage reveals our unease and comes out in different ways. And usually we give what are called tells. A tell is an indicator that the person speaking is very uncomfortable. Examples of tells include speaking quickly, fidgeting, touching our glasses, our hair. Or we use throwaway words like you know or like. One tell to be mindful of is the one I refer to as the swallow. The swallow has us gulping (gulps) involuntarily when we're nervous.
And as soon as other people see the swallow, they know we're stressed. Now most people do not want to be seen gulping at vulnerable moments. So when you feel the need to swallow, simply dip your head down, swallow, and pop your head back up. Another example of Body Language Leakage is the pursed lip. When a person is uncomfortable, they often end their comments or answers by doing this, and I'm going to exaggerate to make the point. And that's the reason I feel the way I do.
A bit revealing, don't you think? Better to say it this way. And that's the reason I feel the way I do. Keep your lips slightly ajar. Some people move around nervously when they speak. Moving around is fine, as long as you're mindful you're doing it. But some people move for no other reason than to expel Body Language Leakage. And those who tend to move around nervously are advised to instead stand with their feet shoulder width apart. This stance grounds you.
Moving around is fine as long as the movement supports the message. Body Language Leakage is also visible in a person's eyes through how often they blink. Excessive blinking can make people appear anxious or flustered, even though nerves may have nothing to do with why they blink so much. On average, a person blinks about 15 times a minute when they're quietly resting. When a person speaks in front of others the blink rate increases to 20 to 25 blinks per minute.
Standing in front of an audience pushes the blink per minute rate as high as 50. Blinking is not something people generally think about. It happens naturally on its own. Those who do blink a lot when speaking in public are reminded to breathe to help them control their pace and stay in the instant. Here's a tip for those of you who get nervous when a lot of people are looking at you. Instead of thinking to yourself, they're looking at me, they're looking at me. Flip it around. Say to yourself, I'm looking at you, and I'm looking at you, and I'm looking at you.
Have you ever noticed too how some people, who are stiff and awkward when they present, instantly relax when questions and answers begin? When that first question comes, the speaker is freed from the shackles of a formal presentation, and can go back to informally being themselves as they answer. People who fit that category can begin their presentation by asking a question. For instance, how can we double our market share in the next two quarters? Here's how, and then go on and answer your own question, and segue into your presentation.
If you're guilty of any of this Body Language Leakage, practice the strategies to overcome those actions, so you can manage your body language.
- 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