The Number-One human fear seems to be speaking before a group, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that public speaking creates an enormous stress factor for a lot of people. But it’s important to realize that although stress is a communication killer, nervousness is an asset.
Confidence can be Learned
As a speaker, you’re relating directly to an audience. Any group needs to believe that you seem comfortable, that you have confidence in yourself. Otherwise, they’ll never be able to have confidence in your message.
Without confidence, you have:
- A rapid heartbeat that you can feel.
- Disorganized thoughts.
- Dryness (in your mouth).
- Wetness (everywhere else).
- Evident signs of discomfort.
With confidence, you have:
- Control (of self and audience).
- Presence of mind to think.
- Positive nervous energy making you dynamic.
- The ability to concentrate on your message and your audience.
How to Gain Confidence
In anything you do, the greater your confidence in yourself and your abilities, the stronger your impact.
That’s not cockiness, mind you. It’s being prepared. It’s knowing how to take control of your own metabolism and turn your stress into nervousness that generates enthusiasm and energy.
The Secret Key
Remember the speaker who kept gasping for breath and audibly sucking in air in the middle of sentence? Remember the ones who preceded every fifth word with “uh…uh…uh” until you could think of nothing but their discomfort and your own boredom? In each case you remember that you were in pain for them. But do you remember the message? Probably not.
In winter, the coughs and sneezes you suffer are usually a sign that something is wrong. You probably have a cold. You’re getting sick. In much the same way, the “uh…uh…uhs” and the stammering and groping are signs that something is wrong.
That “something” is lack of Control.
Unlearn bad breathing techniques
Incorrect breathing often comes from military training, exaggerated posture training, and an involuntary reaction to stress and fear. It goes back to the terrible notion of “take a deep breath.” The command should be “take a diaphragmatic breath.”
Incorrect breathing is one of the leading causes of lack of confidence.
It’s a communication destroyer.
Lie on your back. Fold your arms across your diaphragm and close your eyes. Notice that by the third or fourth breath, your breathing rhythm is normal and correct. Your diaphragm is moving away from your spine on inhalation and back toward the spine as you exhale.
Repetition makes perfect.
Close your eyes and repeat it several more times. Notice that when you’re doing it right, there’s a surge of relaxed, Comfortable well-being flowing through your body. Your metabolism is normalizing, moving toward peace. This is the state hypnotherapists try to induce leading up to the hypnotic state. It’s the breathing method taught by yoga and meditation classes. It’s taught for natural childbirth methods to help reduce the pain that’s stress-related. And when in doubt, watch a sleeping baby breathe.
Press the fingers of one hand into your diaphragm. Place the fingers of the other hand on the back of you neck. Take an incorrect deep, deep breath. Suck your diaphragm in hard as you inhale. Notice how tense the muscles in your head and neck have become. Your whole head is filling with tension. So is your whole body.
Now do the same thing with your hands, but correct the breathing rhythm. Push your fingers away as you inhale and let them return as you exhale. Feel the tension race out of the back of your neck. You’re experiencing the first leg of your journey toward relaxation.
In maybe three or four breaths, you have your body reacting the way you want it to rather than reacting to the stress of the situation. You’re controlling your body rather than letting your body control you.
Don’t let stress destroy your control
All bets are off when stress strikes. When the guillotine is about to fall, just about everyone tends to breathes improperly and tighten everything.
Think about scenarios such as these:
- You’re furious because a colleague just single-handedly lost your biggest client with a stupid, thoughtless, avoidable act.
- One of your children just totaled your car in a careless accident. He’s okay—no injury, but now all you can think of is the stupidity of the act.
- Your mayor just announced that the city is doubling your real estate tax.
- You’re in a true state of road rage.
In situations such as these, stop. Take several diaphragmatic breaths. Let your breathing help you get hold of yourself. Let your breathing force the tension out of your body and soothe you back into comfort and control.
Recognize stress for what it is
The problem, of course, is realizing you’re in a stressful state when you’re in it. Usually, extreme stress is so extreme it takes over and we’re unaware of anything else. It’s vitally important that you learn how to recognize when you’re in deep stress. Otherwise, you won’t be able to control it because you won’t have the presence of mind to concentrate on letting your breathing help release you from the prison of stress.
I know it’s hard to concentrate on a physical act such as breathing when your body wants to perform a physical act more along the lines of murder, but the more you let panic reign, the harder it is to throw it off.
So, once again, proper breathing is basic to good communication. It’s fundamental.
Good spoken communication begins with good breathing. Self-control is the name of the game.
Taken From How to Sell Yourself.
Written by Arshad. A