For Confident Public Speaking, Be On Your Own Side

For confident public speaking, be on your own side  

Confident public speaking or presenting can be challenging, to state the obvious! And sometimes you might make it even harder for yourself by getting in a bad loop of negative self-talk. It’s harsh and critical, and easy to get fixated on bad past experiences. Which is entirely normal, by the way: your brain’s wired to look for threats, and will try to warn you of anything coming up that might be ‘dangerous’ to your system.

There are, however, ways to counteract this negative self-talk, without turning it into a fight. And without making yourself into a “positive thinking” machine (which doesn’t often work!).

One of these ideas, learned from U.S. psychologist Rick Hanson, can help us to access our inner strength and capacity:

“Be on your own side”.

And I thought of this phrase specifically this morning when receiving emails from a client showing how clearly she was struggling to do this. A harshly focused spotlight she’d turned on herself was highlighting all her perceived flaws as a speaker.

Think of it like those huge magnifying mirrors in some hotel bathrooms – I’ve reeled back in shock if I catch sight of my skin in one of these, particularly in certain lights!

Turning that harsh light onto ourselves is understandable human behaviour – we humans can be so quick to judge our challenges and difficulties as signs that we’re not measuring up.

(Sometimes the world/manager/boss/family member is only too happy to point these things out for us too. I always remember a client’s story about when she looked up during her presentation to see that her boss had her head in her hands.)

Imagine if, instead of giving our human frailty and concerns a stern talking-to, we stepped in closer to ourselves with more kindness? This could be transformative, couldn’t it? Even as we judged ourselves – or were judged – negatively.

Rick’s particular emphasis is on standing up for yourself, as you would for someone else. Perhaps your child, or someone you feel is being unfairly treated. How often, you could ask yourself, do you treat yourself unfairly?

My focus is on raising awareness of unhelpful self-talk that impacts your mood and capacity for confident public speaking.

Embracing self-compassion: a key to confident public speaking

Then taking a step back once you’re aware of this self-talk, and replacing it – gently – with the reminder to be kind to yourself, and to be “on your own side”.

This can be both calming, soothing and helpful, when used in this sense. And it’s not weak, or going to mean that you fluff about and chill out. You don’t have to be “on” and pushing yourself all the time. Especially around something as sensitive as public speaking confidence-building.

Imagine a different, kinder side of your personality coming out. The ‘pusher’ part has gone off for a punishing gym session lifting weights that are too heavy for it…and in its place is the nurturing, humane part of you.

How does this idea make you feel? What thoughts come up when you think of the kinder part stepping up? When I do this, I have a sense of relief…that I can take a big breath and let go of the pushing for a moment. And a moment can be all that’s needed to find a new reference point.

If you’re not convinced, maybe see it as a sign that this could be important for you, and focus on. I say maybe: nothing is certain. It’s definitely worth contemplating.

If you’d like to try out the concept guided by Rick himself, go here.

Best wishes with your confident public speaking and presentations!

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