Ever find yourself chatting away with your close friend, telling her how great you’re doing on a work project? And when you’re done she says, “Wow you’re a genius!” Then the next day your boss pokes her head into your office and asks how you’re doing on that very same project? Does it come out as smooth & confident? Afterwards you think to yourself, “Why do I get nervous when I talk?”
How about when you’re on a first date or meeting new people? Does small talk make you nervous? Getting in front of an audience or even at a meeting?
The great news is that it’s not your fault. You are absolutely not to blame. Why we get nervous when we talk has to do with education & evolution. (The other great news is that you’re not alone. Anyone who has never felt nervous when they speak is probably a psychopath.)
Why Do I Get Nervous When I Talk? It’s Education
You went to school and you focused on academia. You learned science, math, history, geography, maybe even music, but no communication skills! Show & tell began and ended in kindergarten. Did you learn how to introduce yourself in 3rd Grade? Was it focused on? Did someone teach you how to make small talk? Did anyone prepare you for speaking in groups? No! It’s just expected that you can do it. Which only helps to make us feel worse about ourselves and perpetuates our nerves when we talk!
The one thing expected of us is public speaking. Once every couple of years we are expected to give an oral report in front of the class. How harrowing is that situation? How many of you absolutely dreaded that?! I know I did! We are literally taught in school to be petrified of public speaking! We are trained to be nervous when we talk!
I remember an oral report I did in 4th grade where after months of practicing I get up there and absolutely draw a blank! I remember a very embarrassing story about Public Speaking class in undergrad that I’ll tell you if you ask. So guess what? Before I did the exercises below to myself I would be nervous when I spoke also.
When we face a group of strangers our primitive brain shuts down our prefrontal cortex and gives us 2 choices. We take 1 & do it fast.
Why do I Get Nervous When I Talk? It’s Evolution
What happens to your body when you’re nervous? Do your knees & hands shake? Are you actually breathing? Do you sweat? How about walking away from the speech not remembering what you said but then everyone said you did a good job so it must be OK?
For 2+ million years we’ve been going into fight or flight. This has caused us to survive. When we face a group of strangers our primitive brain shuts down our modern prefrontal cortex and gives us 2 choices. Of which we take one and do it fast.
Today our bodies do the same thing. Only now we can’t do one of those two options that are provided for us by our primitive brains. We must stay exactly where we are and we can’t fight. That’s when our bodies react in fear.
Why Do I Get Nervous When I Talk?
It gets worse folks, I’m sorry to report. Now, you have all of these negative speaking experiences that are clearly a result of you not knowing how to communicate, even though you were supposed to be born with amazing communication skills, so now you can add the additional fear of knowing how bad it’s going to turn out. This further compounds your nervousness!
Everyone you know who’s an amazing communicator has worked on it.
No One Was Born an Amazing Communicator
No one. Not nobody. Everyone you know who’s an amazing communicator has worked on it. Anyone who you know who’s an awesome public speaker has worked on their public speaking skills. They most likely still have a coach helping them. But they may not be the best at interpersonal communication. They may get more nervous when speaking to someone they’ve just been introduced to.
To top it off there’s nothing else in the world we were born knowing how to do perfectly. Not one thing! We take golf lessons, tennis lessons, music lessons. The list goes on. There really is no reason why we should still ask ourselves, Why do I get nervous when I talk? We must start asking ourselves how to change our nervousness into power.
Teachers need to help the children design their #presentations and practice them in a systematic, comfortable way.
You know how your teachers taught you to be petrified of speaking by not teaching you how to do it but expecting it from you anyway? Here’s the great news: you can stop being nervous when you speak. Here’s how:
How to Be Calm When You Talk
Here are the steps too stop being nervous when you talk:
Like any time you want to make a change you need to first become aware of the specific problems. In the case of nervousness it’s the tension in your body. We humans carry around tension that we don’t even know about until we become injured.
When I started my business 22 years ago I was working super long days. But on Fridays I would come home unable to move my head to the left. My shoulder muscle was so tight. Why did I not know I had tension on Wednesday or Thursday?!
Try this: drop your chin down to your chest, let it hang there and roll your shoulders back in circles. Do you hear clicks and feel tension in your shoulders?
2. Find Your Relaxed Place
Bring your shoulders up to your ears and tighten all the surrounding muscles. Hold it for 20 seconds and let go. Do your shoulders feel more relaxed? Do that with the muscles of your face and your mouth, too.
This will not only help you to be more relaxed but also to help you become aware of tension that you didn’t know existed.
Make note of the communicative situations you’re most concerned about & focus on only 1 at a time.
3. Focus on 1 Nerve-Wracking Situation at a Time
Make note of the communicative situations you’re most concerned about & focus on only 1 at a time. Start with the easiest ones first. Do you need to speak in meetings but your message gets jumbled? Are you going on job interviews? First dates? Stack your situations in order from easy to challenging & start with the easy ones first.
4. Open Up Your Body
When you are communicating with people make sure your body is open. Don’t cross your arms & legs. You can even open your arms when you’re greeting people or speaking. It gives you control over yourself, your speech & other people.
Why Do I Get Nervous When I Talk?
Try this for a week or two & let me know how you feel. And/or just come to me & I’ll have you relaxed when you speak in a few short sessions. So you’ll never again ask yourself, “Why do I get nervous when I talk”
Our School System
I’d love for you to go crazy making changes in our school system. If you have kids in school make demands that the teacher help the children design their presentations and practice them in a systematic, comfortable way. Not just assign an oral report! You are supposed to teach kids! That’s actually your job! So help them stand up and talk. Go little by little.
Teachers! Have your students practice introducing themselves to each other. Make it part of the curriculum. Practice making small talk. Also, learn some relaxation exercises and do them daily with the kids. Do the ones I mention above.
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