Do you dread speaking in public or walking into a room where there are lots of other people you don’t know?
I’m not just talking about fear, that can be healthy as it can help to focus your mind. I’m talking about extreme fear – dread. You know, the one that zaps you of energy and knocks your spirit.
Who gave you that dread? Was it your friends or family or the people around you who support you? Or was it you letting yourself become overwhelmed with your doubts and assumptions about the unknown?
There have been a few times when I’ve dreaded presenting and on every occasion I’ve shown it. I’ve shown it in the way I present myself and in the content of whatever I’m talking about. Massive #FAIL.
However in recent years I’ve tried a few things that I thought you might want to think about and use should you ever need them:
1. Think about what it is you fear/dread? Have you conditioned yourself with this reflex action so that in even in the simplest of situations, the time you spend worrying overshadows the chance to enjoy the moment itself. I don’t mean keep running the same ‘arrrgh I am going to be awful’ thought in your head but really think about why it is you are thinking this. If you have an answer such as ‘I haven’t prepared enough’ or ‘I don’t believe what I am saying to be true’ then you have something to work with. If you keep coming up with ‘I don’t know’ then you should look to channel this energy and convert it into something positive.
If you keep saying ‘I can’t do this’, change your language to ‘I’d like to be able to do a really good job of this’. In doing so, you are registering that you are thinking about your potential that is still unknown and you’re opportunity to create. You can do whatever it is you think you can’t – you just have to think differently.
2. Adopt an alter ego. Be like Beyoncé and create a character that represents all you want to be and step into it whenever you need:
“I have someone else that takes over when it’s time for me to work and when I’m on stage, this alter ego that I’ve created that kind of protects me and who I really am”. (Beyoncé talking about Sasha Fierce.)
Start off by thinking about a time when you were mentally on top of the world, when you were at your best. Shut your eyes if you need to concentrate but spend time sitting in that moment recreating the feelings you felt during that time. If you can’t visualise that moment as you (particularly when you are facing extreme levels of doubt), you may find it useful to create a character that represents all these aspects of you that you can step into whenever you need to.
Paul McKenna uses this technique in some of his hypnotherapy sessions. You can find out more about this here if you’re interested.
3. Focus on your breathing – particularly during the time you are faced with heightened emotions of fear. Not only does it allow you to be distracted by a simple activity but it helps slow down your thinking and hopefully the speed at which you speak so that others in the room don’t realise how you are feeling.
If you are landed with a question you don’t feel ready to answer, allow yourself a moment or pause to think and reset yourself. In most cases, most people won’t realise you’ve done this and it should also help keep them interested in what you’re about to say. In taking back control of your brain and your emotions, you can regain control of the conversation and project a sense of calm confidence – a great quality that others will appreciate.
More on breathing and the power of the pause can be seen here in this video. You only need to see the first few minutes to get the point:
(I hope you don’t blink for a few minutes and only see a green blocky shadow in your vision!)
These are my three (I like listing things in three because it is of course, the magic number) but there are plenty more techniques that can be found on the old t’Internet.
Don’t dread or fear the unknown and at the very least start talking about it with a friend who can help you crack down on it. There’s no point wasting your energy on it when it could be better spent doing things that are good for you instead.
Go forth and be great.
Further reading: ‘Nine Secrets of Courage from ‘Extreme Fear’