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Blushing

November 21, 2013 | By | No Comments

Blushing …

What is it? Well most of us know how it feels and probably first experienced it as small children. It’s that flaming heat that pulses in our cheeks when we have been caught with our hand in the biscuit tin, trying to sneak out that extra Jammy Dodger we were told ‘No!’ to, five minutes earlier.

It’s the burning hot, double cheeked, slap of shame we feel as we get shouted at in the school corridor in front of our peers; a cruel jibe or nasty nickname leaving the rest of the crowd laughing at our expense.

Or It’s the breath-taking, scorching, ember-imitating, moon landing-type lighting effect, facial glow that bestows us when having to open our mouth and ‘speak’ to a room full of silent, expectant people. An audience, all staring and waiting to hear only OUR voice.

If you haven’t experienced ANY of the above, consider yourself lucky. I consider you a little unusual , no disrespect but blushing is perfectly normal. (I defy you to think back to your teenage years, remember catching the eye of your first crush and NOT blushing!)

Anyway lets get the science out of the way. Blushing is simply the body’s response to embarrassment, anxiety or any other over stimulation for that matter. When we have these feelings, the fight or flight response kicks in, the blood vessels in the face widen and blood flows there leaving the cheeks looking much redder.

Some people believe that blushing serves a social purpose in that it displays a sign of contrition over a social faux pas; a way of expressing shame or regret, instantly securing an unspoken understanding of a mistake. Apologising without having to speak.

However in terms of blushing due to the sheer terror of having to speak in front of an audience, the science and psycho-babble does little to help in practical terms.

Here’s what might.

1. Stop worrying. Your face might feel like it resembles the top of a Belisha Beacon but most people won’t even have noticed I promise you. Ignore it and carry on. The more you stop thinking about it, the less blood will rush to your cheeks. If you want to be a worrier, then worry wisely. Worry about devising a cracking speech, work on your pitch, pace, delivery and posture. Worrying about blushing is a waste of resources.

2. After you’ve washed your face in the mornings, run the cold tap. Fill your hands and douse your face in icy water, repeating the phrase ‘icy calm’ in your head as you do so. Each time you feel the freezing cold water on your face, repeat the phrase in your head. When you’re in a situation when you feel a blush coming on, repeat the phrase to yourself. Your brain should soon make the connection between the words and the cold feeling and this should help cool you off when you feel warm of face. Try it.

3. If anxiety is making you blush then look at all aspects of planning, preparation and positive psychology; all the things that underpin your presentation. Take control. Make sure you are well organised, have things properly prepared so nothing is a last minute rush. This doesn’t have to feel like a hideous ordeal. You can make it into an exciting challenge and you know what, if you do get a little bit of a pink tinge to the cheeks, console yourself with a quote from the Greek philosopher Diogenes which puts the whole thing in a very positive light:

‘Blushing is the colour of virtue’.

Confidence

October 30, 2013 | By | No Comments

Confidence

The word confidence has always interested me,

“Timothy is a lovely boy – he just needs more confidence”   ok, great – so how does Timothy get this confidence? It is not like maths test, where you just learn the answer and that’s it.

So, where do you get it from and what is it?

One particular dictionary definition is ‘belief is one’s own abilities’

Synonyms: – Trust, belief, faith, dependence, reliance, credence, courage, assurance, self-reliance, aplomb.

Let’s face it if confidence means inspiring all the above in people then who wouldn’t want more of it!?

In the scientific journal Nature, they explain how confidence plays an important role in our evolution.  According to the research, confidence motivates us to take action in the face of uncertainty. The more confident we are, the more likely we are to fight for the resources we need to survive. And yet life is filled with uncertainty isn’t it , we certainly cannot control  it, nor say for certain what our future holds. This realisation itself can add to our fears.

We might be worried about being rejected by at a girl at a bar, so we end up staying with our friends and never approach her. Or maybe we are afraid of starting a new career because we don’t think we will be any good at it. So instead we stick with our old job, even though we hate it.

Confidence can help us to be motivated to change things whilst the lack of it can sabotage us in many ways.

For me, confidence means knowing, trusting and being happy with yourself. Most people would like to be more confidence, especially when it comes to standing up and speaking in front of others.  Many people simply don’t know where to get it.

I do not believe there are magic wands to make someone grow from a timid mouse to a courageous lion. I believe confidence takes time and that upbringing, life experiences, friends, etc, all add to (or take away) confidence. Everyone’s experience is different.

However, here are some useful tools that can help you feel more confident when you are in a challenging, such as an interview, giving a speech or presentation.

Rule 1 * PREPARATION

As mentioned earlier – who would feel confident if they had no idea what they were talking about! So, preparation is vital!! If you don’t know something – research it, If it’s a speech, rehearse it, If it’s an interview – find out about the company.

Rule 2 * PRESENTATION

How we choose to present ourselves speaks as much as our words do. Dress powerfully. Dress proudly. Don’t allow the way you dress to make you feel intimidated. Use this opportunity to bolster your self-worth and your message. It is amazing how we can feel much more confident simply by what we wear. Be comfortable – don’t go for high heels if you can’t walk in them or a shirt that’s too tight – you will worry more about this than your situation, and could undermine the way you feel.

Rule 3* POSTURE

Stand tall, sit up straight, make eye contact, be expressive and smile. Smiling is infectious and empowering. Try it. Practice the way you move and interact. It can have such a positive impact. More importantly, it will make you feel confident. If you feel confident, you will be confident and your confidence will be received. Your audience/interviewer can bask in the reflected comfort of your confidence. Know that confidence is very appealing and very reassuring to your audience. When you appear confident, your message is much more believable.

Rule 4* PRACTISE and BE BRAVE!

A bit like a child riding a bike. First off, you need stabilisers attached to your bike, then, a kindly parent with a gentle guiding hand on your back. They walk along side you, reassuring you that they won’t let you fall off.  You need encouragement but you also need to feel a bit of fear. Once you realise that fear isn’t a living monster that’s out to bite you, you can keep pedaling. Keep pedaling for long enough and soon you won’t need the guiding hand, in fact you’ll be wriggling from under it, determined to ride your bike like a big boy/girl. Do you remember when you feel brave enough to repeat the process without the stabilizers? You took those baby steps until your self-belief grew into something so reassuring you knew it would be okay.

Rule 5* PRETEND

It’s simple, if you act as though you are confident, you will start to feel more confident.  If you’ve followed rules 1-4 then all the groundwork is in place and for you, the feeling it, is merely a matter of time.  Walk into that conference, interview or crowded hall thinking ‘I personify confidence.’

If you’d followed my rules, then trust me, you will.If you are shaking from the inside, remember the outside does not need to know.  You have a choice whether or not to show people your nerves. Be self-aware and practice the above points and others won’t have a clue.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Eleanor Roosevelt,

Energy

October 16, 2013 | By | No Comments

Energy: Synonyms: – Vigor, force, potency, zeal, push.

Other meanings: Life force.  Capacity or tendency for intense activity

Why does it matter? If you are giving a speech, who cares if you can intersperse it with a record breaking amount of star jumps?  You might impress some but mostly you will bewilder your audience.  They will either think you’re an annoying show off or simply really bad at time management, having to pack in a work out at work.

Think of energy in terms of a force within you that is transferable. In the context of interactions, you want to harness it and utilise it in a way that is exciting, contagious and inspiring.

Think of energy in terms of the feelings you create for the people you talk to.

Great. How do you do that then?

Initially you have to inspire a positive vibe within yourself. Difficult if you are a naturally dour individual but here’s the thing. Giving a speech is a job you have committed to. Even if you later regret making such a promise, it’s out there and it needs dealing with. Like any role, preparation can make all the difference.

Feeling comfortable with what you’re wearing is important. If you believe you look good, you are more likely to believe your audience will see that too. That will elevate your confidence and self-belief.   It’s not always about what you wear; you can give a brilliant, thought-provoking speech in a tracksuit. It’s about how you perform. Until you become accomplished, use every prop available to help you feel ‘propped up’.

If you have to talk about something that doesn’t inspire you, find inspiring ways of delivering it. If appropriate, drop in humorous anecdotes, or interesting statistics. Smile and tilt your head at times. Look out at who you are talking to. You can’t transfer energy without looking for a connection. Look like you care about the information you are delivering.

How do you sound when you speak? Does your face match your words? Do you widen your eyes when you express something surprising? In effect you are a story teller. Consider how your tone, pitch, pace and volume contributes to your delivery. Practise and record yourself? Most people have a webcam. Be as bold and over the top as you like. It’s not until you really see your own extremes you can know what you are capable of and what feels right and wrong.

Whilst most people don’t like watching themselves back or listening to their own voice (okay so we all know people who don’t have this problem) it’s really beneficial. You are probably quite familiar with the ‘inside’ you but the ‘outside’ you could be a relative stranger.

Don’t worry; once you get over the initial cringe festival you can learn valuable stuff about yourself. Do you look friendly? Do you sound interested? Do you speak so quickly you sound like you’re late for an appointment?

Before your speech, take slow, deep breaths; hold your head up high. Smile and believe in yourself.  Remember, positive thinking is the right food for a good mood.

Being Heard…

October 4, 2013 | By | No Comments

So, in order to be heard, do you have to shout the loudest?

http://leadershiplabinc.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/bigstock_Mega_Communication_Yelling_278545.jpgNo, in fact you are less likely to be listened to with any sort of respect or interest; unless of course you are shouting out threats in a public area, in which case people probably will listen and possibly even call 999. However, as first impressions go, that really is a wasted opportunity.

They key to being really listened to is, making your vocal output as alluring as possible. Of course, other factors certainly come in to play but the voice is a substantial cog in the machine of your performance. The pitch, the pace, the tone, the volume, the intonations and inflections are all like individual instruments which come together as the final orchestra. It’s worth considering how to improve yours.

In the last week I have had some interesting experiences with some of the people I have worked with ranging from junior school aged children to big, proper grown-ups. Helping people to project their voice, from a stage across a school hall, or a small conference centre is a vital part of people ‘owning’ their own volume switch. Some people have to use microphones when venues are huge but it’s still immeasurably beneficial to learn how to master your own vocal power.

One child in the group I worked with this week had no problem projecting. In fact when I instructed him to imagine someone sitting at the very back of the hall with poor hearing, he shouted the first line of his speech so loudly, he made everyone else jump out of their skin.

My reaction? ‘Brilliant *Billy, absolutely amazing power. Now, let’s imagine that person is a lot nearer, almost in the middle of the room this time.’ Nobody I teach/coach or work with is going to be criticised for giving it their all! (And anyway, until you try out your voice in a certain space, how are you to know how far it reaches?)

An adult woman I worked with had more difficulty projecting her voice. She was held back by her fear of sounding TOO loud. She was well spoken and had a warm, soft lilt to her voice. By nature she had many qualities I often have to encourage out of people. She spoke slowly and clearly enough that words didn’t get lost and her chosen points of emphasis and her pauses were spot on. I assured her, it was a voice people would enjoy listening to. She seemed surprised by this. I explained to her what I have explained above and assured her there was little work to in other areas, she just needed to take a deep breath, and make an attempt.

After some breathing and vocal exercises and a few demonstrations, she went for it. I stood at the back of the hall. The first few lines weren’t quite loud enough. I gestured my hands towards the ceiling and she raised the volume. I gave her the thumbs up and she positively beamed. She continued to read the rest of her speech and I watched her shoulders lift with confidence. All the positive aspects of her vocal output were simply highlighted and she had me engaged.

There’s no getting away from it, it’s scary giving a speech when you’re not practised at it but practise (and some support and guidance) will make it so much easier.

Are you a waffler?

April 29, 2013 | By | No Comments

Waffle – Noun – a batter cake with a pattern of deep indentations on each side formed by the grid-like design on each of the two hinged parts of the metal appliance (waffle iron) in which the cake is baked

Waffle -verb (used without object), waf·fled, waf·fling British – to talk foolishly or without purpose; idle away time talking.

waffle

So, are you a waffler? By this, I am sure you realise I don’t mean a maker of waffles. I am sure it could be a wonderful summer job in Prague for instance, for a gap-year student wanting an interesting European experience, or anyone with a flair for the creation of hot desserts. An appealing and possibly lucrative trade. How many people do you know would find it easy to say no to a hot waffle?

So are you? A Waffler that is? Someone who idles away time talking. Worse still, if you are idling away someone else’s time. A captive audience will not appreciate being waffled at.

How do we define waffle? To me, waffle is unnecessary verbal padding/stuffing/diversion that detracts from your speech/interaction.

Of course, if you are preparing a speech and you have a time slot to fill, it’s tempting to feel the pressure to do so with an overriding disregard for the actual integrity of the content. The more relevant and authentic your information, the more power and resonance your speech will carry.

The more research you can do, the more you can cherry pick the most pertinent facts and work on delivering them in an engaging and entertaining way.

When speaking a particular pathway to a certain fact, ask yourself how much of the journey is really necessary. Anecdotes, jokes, statistics, props can all have their place in a speech but don’t let the form take over the content. After all, you want to leave your audience remembering the message. If they do this because of your clever use of music, charts and quotes then all credit to you and your powers of creativity. However, if you leave them unsure of the focus of your message, with snippets of sentences and a mish-mash of unfathomable comments, then you will have wasted a valuable opportunity.

Keeping people interested takes practise. Some people are naturally funny and very watchable and they fall into performance mode with ease. However, these people shouldn’t get too complacent. Again, if you know you can rely on your experience and personality to keep the focus of the room it can be easy to take things for granted.

 Remember you want to leave your audience with a clear understanding of the point of your message, not JUST how quick witted you are and how suave you look when you spin across the stage in your Italian leather shoes.

You are there to impart information. You need to be clear, concise and compact. That way, it will be much easier to remember.

So, instead of filling the time you think needs filling, with worthless waffle, use the time to reinforce the points that are purposeful.

Keep the waffle in its most worthy place. On a plate in front of you, awaiting the whipped cream and maple syrup.