Do your public presentations and conversations represent who you truly are? Are you able to be yourself and share parts of yourself that make your audience feel at ease? Are you able to take risks without forgetting about what you’re there to accomplish? As a leader, we want to keep our vulnerable side close to us. To make a real connection, however, a balance is needed between showing strength and opening up. It’s normal to want to show people your best self. But, what if your best self includes your compassion, your honesty, and your ability to connect with others by being real?
Below are five techniques for building connection and being more authentic as a leader. You can use these to get comfortable with public presentations. Fearing judgement or failure is a normal part of growing in your professional and personal life. Leaders are asked to rise above these limitations and be there for others. It’s time to stop holding back.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.“
Ralph Waldo Emerson
1. Figure Out Why You’re Uncomfortable
While you’re likely a highly competent, skilled, and knowledgeable professional, getting in front of an audience can stop you from captivate attention and lead to an awkward or robotic presentation. Being yourself and being vulnerability are important to connecting with your audience. The problem is no one likes to feel vulnerable. To improve your public speaking skills, you’ll need to learn to get comfortable with your vulnerability. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The only way to do this is to allow yourself to feel the discomfort, anxiety, and doubt without avoiding these feelings. There’s a reason people use exposure therapy to get over trauma. Over time, repetition can help eliminate these feelings and create a more ideal emotional state for public speaking.
2. Skip the Overly Formal Language
If you’re normally the expert in the room, regardless of what you do for a living, being around others who aren’t means having to skip some of the formalities of language. Your conversations should be like the ones you might have with a friend or acquaintance. A bit of sharing about your personal self is a good way to break the ice. That said, don’t over share. By all means, speak with a clear voice and use appropriate language for the circumstances. However, don’t wear a mask or hide behind your terminology and tables. Instead, approach the situation as though you were explaining things to a friend. Think about what you want to focus on, stay on track, but be willing to let your audience in if they need something more from you. Ask questions, and be ready for the answers. It should feel like a conversation, not a monologue.
“About all you can do in life is be who you are. Some people will love you for you. Most will love you for what you can do for them, and some won’t like you at all.“
Rita Mae Brown
3. Flip Your Negative Thoughts
One of the things that make us comfortable around others is our ability to accept ourselves, good and bad. When you catch yourself thinking negatively about yourself, your skills, or your abilities, identify each thought as it comes up. Then, challenge yourself to question whether it’s true or not. This technique can be done over and over again. When your thoughts are telling you you’re not good enough, flip them and create a new script for yourself. Create new positive statement and say it to yourself several times until you feel comfortable with it. It’s normal to have an inner critic, especially when you’re in public. Taking some time to consider where the thoughts came from and why they’re being triggered in part of the process of flipping your negative thinking around and creating a more positive strong self-image.
4. Use Mindfulness in Your Day-to-Day
Mindfulness is probably the most versatile technique for helping you stay in touch with what you’re thinking and feeling. The first step is noticing your thoughts and how they make you feel. It may seem like this is something you need to do in a quiet room with a journal and pen, but you can learn to do it at any moment in time, even while interacting with others. The next step is to question that thought and “observe” yourself in an objective way. Often these thoughts connect with our doubts and fears about being accepted in some way. Our fears are mostly connected to future event which haven’t happened yet. And, our doubts can be related to past negative experiences. Once you learn to see this, you can bring yourself back to the present moment every time you have a doubt, fear, or insecurity about what you’re doing. If your anxiety is through the roof, a short meditation can help you calm down.
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5. Put Yourself in Your Audience’s Shoes
The people you are speaking to will have their own problems, negative thoughts, and insecurities. Consider that at one time or another, everyone faces low confidence or self-esteem. Being yourself and recognizing the vulnerability in others will help you connect and empathize with your audience. This way, you can build a stronger connection with them and make this a shared experience. Use the mirror turning technique. Every time you have a negative thought or belief about yourself, turn it around and consider how the person in front of you would feel if you said this to them. What if it were them you were criticizing? Would this be appropriate? How would they feel? Sometimes changing your perspective about what you’re doing can help pull you out of that state and realize that you would never treat others the way you treat yourself. Try some self-compassion. Give yourself the support and love you need to feel confident about what you’re doing. If you’ve been invited to speak, it’s because you have something great to offer.
Becoming a good leader and public speaker require time and inner work. By doing the work your need to do to increase your self-awareness, you can improve your ability to understand where others are coming from. You can then show up for them in that moment and be the compassionate leader they need. Change your unconscious negative thoughts into empowering and supportive beliefs about yourself and the people you want to help. After all, public speaking, and leadership are services you provide to others.
It’s not that you shouldn’t care what others are thinking about you. It’s that you can develop the mindset of caring without allowing others to change who you are. You can be fully comfortable with being you in that moment.
Copyright Michelle Thompson 2021. Copyright Authentic World Inc 2021.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Michelle. I have over twenty years of experience as a group facilitator, zen meditator, and public educator. I’ve helped thousands of people re-imagine their lives and create concrete plans for self-improvement. I’ve facilitated dozens of workshops and support groups on topics like stress management, mental health and wellness, goal setting, grief counselling, safety planning, and confidence building. I’m a former social worker and non-profit consultant, and after struggling for years with my own feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about who I was and what I wanted, I did the work and learned how to get out of my own way and create an authentic meaningful life for myself. Now I teach others to do the same. I created Authentic World Inc, to offer a supportive space for learning these important life skills.
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