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  • Writer's pictureLiza Engel

Overcome Your Speaking Fears - Three Rational Approaches

Each morning, I start my day with yoga. It's not just a routine but a preparation for my day. My favourite yoga app is Deliciously Ella because of its quality and variety. Recently, I've noticed that some videos show instructors making minor speaking mistakes and correcting themselves. Initially, it made me wonder: why not edit these errors in the voice-over when the movement is correct? And then, I realized that I look forward to the moment these imperfections happen. It makes them human! It turns out that my preference is not at all unique. 

The fear of public speaking is a common phobia fueled by the dread of judgment and the potential for mistakes. I constantly seek data and research to uncover more insights on this topic. Let’s break this fear down rationally.

Recently, while listening to the Mel Robbins podcast, Vanessa Van Edwards, a behaviour expert from The Science of People, discussed an insightful study by psychologist Richard Wiseman. Wiseman had two people do two different demonstrations with a blender to make a smoothie: one did it flawlessly, while the other spilt a bit but laughed it off and continued. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, the audience preferred the presenter who made the mistake, perceiving them as more relatable and human. This experiment underscores that authenticity, not perfection, is what truly resonates with people.

Photo by Tara Evans on Unsplash

Embrace your authentic self as others do

Your audience is seeking a connection, not a robotic performance. Being vulnerable allows authenticity to shine through, transforming a simple speech into a compelling narrative that creates a genuine connection with your audience.

In his book, "The Diary of a CEO," Steven Bartlett discusses the power of confronting our fears to shift our beliefs. Many often say, "I just can't do that," yet do nothing to challenge this belief. Bartlett suggests that by facing our fears, such as public speaking, we gather concrete, rational evidence that helps shift our mindset from "I can't" to "I am continuously improving." 

Make continuous practice your routine

Bartlett advocates for continuous engagement with our fears: "Do the thing you fear and keep doing it." This is not merely about occasional practice but about making relentless effort a routine. Each presentation and interaction, even those filled with mistakes, enhances your speaking skills and ability to manage anxiety. No one gets better at yoga by not practicing yoga. 

Compare yourself to yourself yesterday 

My youngest daughter often compares herself unfavourably to her older brothers, who are older and have more experience. One of the newest mantras in my family has become: 

Compare yourself only to who you were yesterday.

This mindset shifts your focus from the gaps towards fair, personal and actionable progress. Make the journey about your continuous growth because comparison is the killer of joy. I might not nail the flamingo pose - yet, but my attempt today was better than yesterday! 

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice and dedication. Every step out of your comfort zone is a step towards your greater goal. The fear you may feel offers you a unique opportunity to improve on something significant to your personal and professional life. Lean into each opportunity as a step forward in your journey towards becoming a more skilled and confident communicator. And please remember, it is more than ok to make a mistake, especially since you are showing up prepared to learn and improve (compared to) you.

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