“Just be yourself!” Possibly the most well-meaning but awful advice.
It’s really hard to be ourselves when we’re nervous. You’ve got a speaking event or a first date or a toast at a wedding and your friends & your mom suggest you “just be yourself”. Thanks! It’s so complimentary because they obviously think “yourself” is something special. But the advice is ineffective isn’t it?
When we’re feeling nervous we have a very hard time being ourselves. Someone else comes out. Someone stiff, maybe awkward. Someone who’s not as funny and smart as we are.
Here are a few solutions to being yourself & speaking better during challenging situations:
1. Relax. I don’t mean that in an obnoxious way. I mean literally. Learn to eliminate the tension from your musculature. That tension is closing up your throat & cutting off your access to your brain. That’s where the stuff is that you’re trying to get across to your audience.
2. Love your audience. Don’t focus on yourself. Don’t think about what they’re possibly thinking about you. (You don’t know because you’re probably not a mind reader.) Think about what they know, what they need to know & how much you love them.
3. Open your throat.This is part of relaxing. But if you learn the trick to keeping your throat open it will also keep your mind open & allow you to be yourself. Do you know the expression “choked up“? It means that you feel so much emotion you can’t speak. Of course there are varying degrees. In charged situations (like giving presentations, going on a job interview or a first date, during an argument with a colleague or family member) our throats literally close up & we lose our ability to get our genius out.
When are you totally yourself? When you’re in comfortable situations with the people you’re most comfortable with. When do you need to be yourself?When do you need to be an effective & persuasive speaker? When you’re in situations that don’t lend themselves to relaxation. Ha! You need to be amazing in the times & places that are the most anxiety-ridden. That’s where the money is.
So yes, you can forgive yourself for not being the best communicator in the world during high pressure situations. But you don’t have to live with it.
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