It's a household word: - preparation is key. But how do we prepare ourselves?
My grandfather once told me a joke which is the perfect illustration of how crucial our mindset can be:
A man was driving in the countryside when one of the tyres of his car went flat. As he set out to change it, he realized he had no jack. He decided to walk to the next village to ask the local garage to lend him one. But on his way, he started to worry:
“Maybe the garage owner won’t want to lend me a jack” thought the man “I am just a stranger in this area. Maybe he won’t trust me. Or maybe he will take advantage of the situation and refuse to lend me a jack so that I have no choice but to pay him a fortune for him to come with the tow truck…..” And on and on, so much so that when he arrived at the garage, he opened the door, shouted at the puzzled owner : “You can keep your (censored).... jack, I will manage without it!” and slammed the door behind him as he went away....
When we are nervous at the prospect of public speaking, we are this guy with his flat tyre. How can we prepare ourselves?
The stoic philosophers advised their followers to brace themselves for the worse. They thought the worse doesn’t hit as hard if we expect it. This seems to contradict the point I have been making up till now, but think about it: if the guy with his flat tyre problem had been really prepared to face being turned down, he would have kept calm. He would have asked without expecting much, and if the garage owner had lent him a jack, he would have been agreeably surprised! So there is a difference between bracing ourselves for the worst case scenario and getting caught in a spiral of worry…
When we are going to speak, let’s remember that whatever happens, we will survive. Maybe we are going to be misunderstood or even judged in a negative way… and then? Trust me, trust yourself. We are so much stronger than we think.
Let's face our fear of what may happen. Remember: the scary monsters we dread often exist in our imagination only and can be deflated by a sharp conscious look!
Now, it is very important to be prepared for the best as well. The best has a tendency to happen more frequently when we are prepared for it. Let's dare imagine success...
What if they love us so much that they give a standing ovation? What if we get loads and loads of compliments after the speech? This might be quite unsettling as well! We need a bit of mental preparation:
When we receive compliments, declarations of love, admiration or such things, the best way to react is simplicity. Let’s not answer that no, we weren’t that great ... No no no! When people give compliments they don’t want to be contradicted! They want us to be happy to hear that we were so great. The best answer is a simple thank you.
It would also be very awkward to take advantage of the moment to boast and keep talking about ourselves. After saying that we are touched by the compliment and that we really appreciate it, good manners are to show interest in the complimenter, if only for a short while.
In any case, preparation is key… Are you ready to enjoy a big round of applause?
A few updates
I am going to talk at Google Campus in the city, on the 15th of June. The headline is “Start up Stage Fright Public Speaking Top Tips” It’s a free event with networking times, you can book your ticket here
Before, we believed that we needed to be clever to succeed and that clever people had high IQs. (Intelligence Quotient, as measured by the IQ test) In reality, many people with average IQs outperform people with high IQs in many areas of life, such as career, relationships and anything involving dealing with other people.
The missing link is called “Emotional intelligence”... and this is something we are working on in Organic Speaking sessions.
Standing up in front of a group and speaking is mostly a question of overcoming the emotions that get in the way. Once we feel confident, we realize that speaking and being expressive are skills we have had since we learned them during the first years of our lives!
In the following story. the scientific experiment with the dog and the hen is something I've read about when I studied psychology. I've added an imaginary character: Elsa, the little daughter of the scientist.
I leave to you to sort out why and how this story is relevant to us when we train our public speaking skills, build our confidence and improve our communication skills…
Scientists doing research about intelligence conducted the following experiment:
They put a dog behind a wire mesh barrier and a juicy attractive piece of meat on the other side. This barrier was straight and not very long. The scientists noticed that it did not take long for the dog to get around the barrier and take hold of the meat.
Elsa, five years old, daughter of the leader of the scientific team, thinks that her father should play with her rather than with a dog.
Then, the scientists renew the protocol with a chicken and juicy attractive grain of corn. They notice with great interest that the chicken, instead of running around the mesh barrier, collides with it again and again in a vain attempt to reach the object of its desire. The poor bird nearly strangles itself by pushing its head through a hole in the mesh but it’s not going to eat. The scientific team concludes that the dog is more intelligent that the chicken.
Elsa is not far from hitting her head against a wall. That her father prefers a dog to her was difficult to accept but somehow understandable. Dogs are cheerful and friendly creatures. But being set aside for a chicken is absolutely humiliating.
The scientists now proceed once more with the same experiment, with a starving dog and meat. There is always a cruel moment in scientific experiments involving dogs. They notice, with excitement, that the starving dog has become so to speak, as stupid as a chicken. It collides with the mesh again and again, obviously unable to move away from the object of its longing.
Elsa is in love with her father. She firmly believes that they will get married as soon as... next week. They will sleep together (which in her mind, means sleep) and they will have plenty of children. But he will have to stop these crazy games with animals.
How can one stop starving in order to be able to eat? Elsa sets the dog free. It catches the chicken and runs away. Elsa is sent to bed without any supper.
Her father is a great scientist. He understands nothing.
A few comments (I said I would leave you to it, but I can't help it!)
-When we are in a state of nervousness, we become like the starved dog, unable to see the obvious solution to our problems... We need to become stronger, and to cultivate detachment to overcome this issue.
-Because even the most apparently adult people are still a little bit childlike inside, those who are able to make people's "inner children" happy are the emotionally intelligent people. They will get the jobs, the promotions or the relationships they wish for…
- A last but not least thing: emotional intelligence is not only about “understanding”. It is also a question of strength, of self knowledge and experience. No amount of reading will never ever be enough. We need to pracise, practise, practise….
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