Archive for ‘Public Speaking’

May 2, 2013

Buying a Little Love With My Tax Refund

by Dave P.

I fell in love with her the moment I put my hands on her sweet body. Visually, she wasn’t much different than the others, but once I touched her long neck and heard her sweet voice, I knew she was for me. That acoustic guitar – a Taylor 114ce – will soon be mine. She is a bit pricy, but with my tax refund, the expenditure is justifiable.

My wife and I had been hit fairly hard from the recession, but now things are looking up. Being unemployed gave me time to think about life. I used to suffer from severe stage-fright – a byproduct of being overly concerned with what others thought of me. Self-consciousness is a lose-lose proposition. It makes you miserable and can make those around you nervous. Since “all the world is a stage,” stage-fright can severely inhibit your ability to enjoy life.

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February 7, 2013

Exposure therapy: Experience life

by Dave P.

You Cannot Win If You Do Not Play
~ Steve Forbert

There’s only so much progress you can make by reading or listening to advice. You can develop an understanding of your issues, and you can accept them. You can recognize that it wasn’t your fault if you were abused or bullied. But you’re not going to overcome your problems unless you get out there in the world and experience life.

An obvious application is that of public speaking anxiety. You can develop your skills and self-efficacy that you can deliver a speech competently. You can deliver your speech to your dog, your family, or friends. But until you get out in front of an audience, you won’t be exposed to the elements that cause public speaking anxiety, and those are people!

People, for the most part, are harmless. The chance that anyone in the audience is going to cause you any physical harm is minuscule. Emotional pain activates the same parts of the brain as physical pain, though. Having the right attitude is essential to avoid a negative reaction, and that deals with not worrying what people think about you. People might not like your physical appearance  your voice, or your style. No matter who you are, there are going to be critics. If you like yourself and you’re having fun, it doesn’t matter what others think.

The DISH Method applies to all aspects of life. DISH stands for: Develop your skills, Incorporate your personality, Stop the negative thinking, and Have fun!

To be able to enjoy yourself in social situations requires social skills. You need to be able to carry on a conversation, have something interesting to say, and be able to say it. Some people claim that don’t know what to talk about, which is why they hated socializing. The world is a fascinating place. There is a lot going on out there. All you need to do is open your eyes and learn about it, whether it has to do with people, places, or things. Develop a passion for learning and understanding. Learn how to convey your interests to others. If you have a passion for what you’re saying, so will others. If you are trying to impress others with your knowledge, though, you’re not going to win friends or influence anyone.

Incorporate your personality into everything you do. Your individuality is what makes you interesting. Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. Live authentically. If you’re trying to be someone you’re not, you’re wasting time by not living up to your potential.

Stop the negative thinking. People with low self-esteem too often discount the positive and focus on the negative. They think people are just being nice if they get a complement, and they believe that their successes are anomalies. Failure is their natural state of being. They learn that they are helpless — that no matter how much effort they exert, they’re destined to fail. Because of that, they often do fail.

You are the star of your life. Until you accept that, you have very little chance of being happy. Sure, we want others like us;  our relationships generate happiness and allow us to manage stress. But the main thing is that you like yourself, and you can only do that by being the kind of person you would admire and respect. It involves dignity, self-respect, self-assertiveness, and self-growth. It’s about setting goals — both short and long term, and working towards their attainment. Goals lead us forward in life. Never stop learning.

Plato once said, “Life should be lived as play.” I repeat that quote fairly often because it’s too easy to forget and get bogged down in the muck and mire of life. We have the ability to experience pleasure in almost any activity — even work! One of the keys is living mindfully. Even the act of washing the dishes can be an enjoyable experience when performed completely in the present. Observe the sensation of the water running over your hands. Observe the sounds and smells. If you become efficient at the task, you can achieve a state of flow, which generates even more pleasure.

Attitude is everything in life. If you go into a situation so afraid to fail that you’re anxious, you are not living up to your potential. But if you recognize that you are the star of your life and that you’re not here on earth to live up to someone else’s expectations, you can’t help but win. But as the old saying goes: “you cannot win if you do not play.”

February 5, 2013

Theory of relativity: in life, everything is relative

by Dave P.

I’ve made a lot of progress during the past 10 years. I’m happier, I’ve gotten my public speaking anxiety under control to the point where I can actually enjoy delivering a presentation, and my performance anxiety no longer prevents me from playing music in song circles — something I’ve wanted to do for decades.

But that doesn’t make me a great public speaker or performer. If someone else had the mental and emotional state that I experience when doing those things, they might seek out professional help! For me it’s an improvement. For someone else, it might be a setback or handicap. Everything is relative to how things were previously.

A woman in my Toastmasters group was criticized by a relatively new member for not moving around enough when giving a talk last week. Previously, she would just stand in one spot, barely moving. Last week she used the stage more than she had ever done so before, so relatively speaking, she did well.

We all want to be happy, but happiness is relative. If at one time, you suffered from clinical depression but are no longer depressed, you feel a lot better; you’re happier than you were, even though relative to others, you don’t seem to be very happy. People don’t go from being depressed to happy overnight, but we can become progressively happier.

I’m far happier now than when I was unable to get a restful night’s sleep. I suffer from central sleep apnea, which means my brain sometimes forgets to tell my body to breathe. (Obstructive sleep apnea is an actual physical problem where your airway is constricted.) I’m on oxygen at night, which helps. When you’re unable to get a restful night’s sleep, you really don’t want to do anything because you can’t think clearly, you feel lousy, you say stupid things, you have no energy, people don’t like you, and you don’t like yourself very much. I still have an occasional bad day, which is frustrating, but for the most part, I’m optimistic and am now able to do things that I was unable to do before.

We can have better relationships if we work at it, and relationships are the number one determinant of a person’s happiness. And it’s really not that difficult. Just show gratitude for people’s good qualities and don’t pay so much attention to their shortcomings. That’s what we do automatically when we begin a relationship, but over time, we often focus more on the negative and the things that irritate us.

My wife just called me for lunch! Gotta go!

February 2, 2013

The importance of roll models

by Dave P.

The importance of roll models during adolescence is well documented, but we can benefit from roll models throughout our lives, no matter what our age.

My big interest is helping people overcome their fear of public speaking – mainly because I suffered from severe fear of public speaking for most of my life and was able to overcome that fear. We can only provide useful advice for conditions and pursuits in which we have been successful. Failure never stopped people from offering advice, though.

While in college, one of my roommates would constantly offer advice for a wide range of topics. He had graduated years earlier, but still lived with roommates because he didn’t earn enough to live on his own. At the time, he had attempted to run three different businesses – all of which failed. He was on his fourth, which was in the process of failing. His next endeavor was to be a business consultant. He felt that his experience making mistakes would be valuable to other businesses owners!

Sure, we can learn from other people’s mistakes so we don’t fail, but it’s not enough to simply not fail; you need to succeed! And success comes from learning from other people who succeeded.

I’ve succeeded in overcoming many problems in my life such as low self-esteem, public speaking anxiety, and social anxiety. I have done so through education and evaluation – trying different things to see what works and what doesn’t work. But at it’s core, it comes down to one thing: you need to do it yourself. There is no magic pill that will boost your self-esteem. Beta-blockers can help with performance anxiety by blocking your physiological response to stressors, but the source of the problem almost always comes down to being overly concerned with what others think about you. It’s about learning to be authentic and playing the staring role in your own life.

Role models can help us be authentic. We can observe others who have realized their full potential – those who have achieved self-actualization, as Abraham Maslow described in his Hierarchy of Needs.

When I was working towards overcoming public speaking anxiety, I had several role models such as Robert Sapolsky – the great stress researcher and professor from Stanford university. I watched several of his lectures on YouTube and was enthralled by his knowledge and ability to present his ideas with clarity, accuracy, and humor. He definitely gets into a “zone” when lecturing. There is no pretense or sense of self-consciousness in his presentation, and you can tell he really enjoys sharing the information with his students. He’s having fun, and it shows.

I’ve been watching some Tony Robbins motivational talks lately. I like his enthusiasm. While what he says doesn’t have that much of an impact on my life, the way he says it does. I know that I’m not anywhere near as smart as Robert Sapolsky or as outgoing as Tony Robbins, but I can incorporate some of their qualities into my presentation.

There’s nothing wrong with copying others when you’re trying to find yourself. Even Vincent Van Gogh copied the styles of other artists such as Daumier, Rembrandt, Pissarro, and others to learn where they were coming from. All great artists borrow from others. Public speaking is an art, and there’s nothing wrong with having role models – no matter what your age.

As Plato once said, “Life should be lived as play.” We should find a way to have fun in whatever we’re doing.

January 31, 2013

Leslie Morgan Steiner: Why domestic violence victims don’t leave

by Dave P.
January 31, 2013

Susan Cain: The power of introverts

by Dave P.
January 14, 2013

Have fun when you’re giving a talk or presentation

by Dave P.

“Life should be lived as play.”

When you fear public speaking, there is little chance you’re going to enjoy yourself when you do get up in front of an audience. Most other methods designed for overcoming glosophobia try to get you to put up with your anxiety. That’s like trying to get someone to put up with a thorn in his or her foot. Why not just pull out the thorn!

Part of learning to have fun with being the center of attention is changing your attitude. This is your life; be the star of your life. Don’t settle for a bit part. When you’re up on stage, that is your chance to shine. This is your opportunity to show the world (or at least your co-workers) what you’re made of.

I used to have severe anxiety at work meetings when we’d have to introduce ourselves. If I was first, I didn’t have time to get nervous, so it wasn’t bad. But when there were several people ahead of me, I’d get more and more nervous as we took our turns around the conference table. What was I so afraid of?

Here are a few tricks I learned to reduce the anxiety.

  • Take a look at the people around the table. Chances are, on average, they’re not any smarter, articulate, capable, or better looking than you are. They’re not better than you, so why do you feel intimidated? Recognizing that you’re as good, if not better at what you do than the rest of the people there can help you relax.
  • Recall what you know about the person currently speaking. What is that person’s name and position at the company? Pay attention to what that person is saying. It might actually be interesting and you could mention something about it after the meeting as a conversation starter. He or she will be impressed that you were actually listening. Being generous with your attention will lessen your worrying.
  • As it gets closer and closer to your turn, imagine an hors d’oeuvre tray coming around the table with some tasty treats. You can’t wait until it gets to you.
  • Practice ahead of time. You know there are going to be times when you are required to introduce yourself, so be prepared. Practice at home and have something interesting to say. Maybe even have something humorous ready. Almost everyone appreciates humor at work, including the managers.

Introductions at meetings are probably the most basic of public speaking tasks, but they can be extremely important if your managers are there listening. That may be the only time they get to hear from you, so make the most of it.
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January 9, 2013

Stop the negative thinking

by Dave P.

Much of the anxiety we experience when speaking in public is self-induced. We see people in the audience as a threat. Most people are not a threat. Unless you happen to be speaking at a psychopath convention, the threat you perceive is all in your head.

Too often, we’re overly concerned with what others think of us. We want people to like us, to think we’re intelligent, competent, honest, and hard-working. And we’re devastated when they don’t. We try to live up to other people’s expectations. Some people are forced into careers chosen by their parents, spouse, or even society. We want to be respected for what we do, and our occupations define who we are to a great extent.

Many people work at a job just to pay the bills and just bide their time until retirement age when they can finally do what they want. That’s not living. That’s wasting time. Sure, we need to earn a living and provide a good life for our families, but we also need to be authentic. When we’re trying to be someone we’re not, we’re not living up to our potential. We only have a brief time on this earth and not living up to your potential can create existential anxiety.

When we devote an abundance of our time to negative thinking and worrying what others think about us, it becomes a bad habit. The way we think affects the actual structures of our brains. The parts of the brain used for negative thinking grows and the parts used for positive thinking shrinks. The brain is like the muscles in our bodies; the parts that are exercised grow strong and increase in size, and the parts we don’t use tend to wither away.

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January 5, 2013

Fear of Public Speaking: Develop Your Public Speaking Skills

by Dave P.

The “D” in the DISH method is for developing your public speaking skills. Obviously, you’re not going to give a good talk or presentation if you don’t know how to construct a good speech. Knowing that you don’t have good skills will make almost anyone anxious. You wouldn’t jump out of a plane without knowing how to open your parachute. Likewise, you shouldn’t attempt a talk in front of an audience without knowing how to construct a speech. If you just get up and start rambling, that’s not going to be a good experience for anyone!

When you give any kind of a speech or presentation, you’re telling a story. Stories need to have a distinct introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction should tell the audience what you’re going to say, the body is where you say it, and tell them what you said in the conclusion.

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December 24, 2012

Thrive During the Holidays!

by Dave P.

The holidays can be stressful for people with SAD, but there is no reason to suffer. We can thrive during the holidays and enjoy family, friends, co-workers, well-wishers, and other social contacts by adapting a positive attitude.

Happiness has been scientifically proven to be contagious. When you’re happy, you make others happier, who in turn make even more people happier.

Show gratitude for the people in your life. Unless you’re dealing with a psychopath, sociopath, or total narcissist, everyone has some redeeming qualities. Focus on the good as apposed to what you find annoying. It will make you happier as well as the people around you.

Being self-conscious is actually selfish behavior. It makes you anxious, it makes those around you anxious, and it acts as a people repellent. Your discomfort can also make you a target for bullies. Being self-conscious is a lose-lose proposition for everyone involved. So why do it?

Instead of being self-focused, try to offer something of value to the people you encounter. It can be something as simple as a smile, a joke, an interesting story, or a helping hand. Have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling down, sometimes all it takes is a smile from someone to change your day and get you out of your funk? You can do the same for others.

As Plato once said, “Life should be lived as play.” Any time you enter a social situation, tell yourself, “This is my life and I’m going to have a good time.” You’ll be happier, and you’ll make the world a little bit better by doing so. We can find meaning in making the world a better place, even if you’ve improved the day of just one person.

And always remember: This is your life. Be the star of your life. You are not here on earth to live up to someone else’s expectations.

Check out our new website! We’re planning two workshops for January: one specifically for social anxiety and another for overcoming public speaking anxiety. Come join us at the workshops. Thrive in life!