It’s the sound of another good relationship breathing it’s dying breath. And your relationship could be next. People everywhere are believing popular advice that’s killing their relationships. Thankfully, you can protect yourself with a few changes in your thinking. If you’re ready to give your relationship a fighting chance, read on. These three dangerous but common lies get passed off as wisdom online and in-print.
Lie #1: Love yourself and everything else will fall into place
The lie is that you need to focus more on loving yourself in order to love others well and attract good things into your life.
The truth is there is no lack of self-love in our world. You don’t lack self-love and neither do I . The idea of loving your neighbour as yourself is not a directive to love yourself more. If our relationships are going to work, we actually have to focus less on ourselves. We need to be others-focused. The concept is simple but is hard for many to comprehend because it involves changing your way of thinking. Think about it — even when you are focused on your own inadequacies, you’re still focused on and loving yourself (in a way).
The flip side of lesson number one – the truth that actually works – is: Focus on providing the best relationship for your spouse that you can. This doesn’t mean you should be a martyr. Sometimes, loving someone well means letting them see that being self-centered doesn’t make them happy either.
Lie #2: Confront your problems
The lie is that problems get solved by talking about them at all times. The lie teaches you that you should learn conflict resolution skills and improve your ability to tell your spouse what you’re unhappy with.
On the other side of the lie is the truth — “You have to make 1000 positive deposits into your spouse’s bank account before you can make one negative comment or criticism.” That means, if you’re fighting all the time, you likely don’t have the credit with your spouse to be commenting on things you don’t like.
If I’m doing 1000 (give or take) nice, caring things for my spouse before telling him that I don’t like one thing that he’s doing, I’m betting he will be a happier man.I’m betting that a happier man will do nicer things.
Here’s the truth; the flip side of lesson number two: You reap what you sow. If you want care and kindness to grow, you have to do things that sow care and kindness.
It’s really easy for me to forget the truth that I reap what I sow. Sometimes, I find myself operating on the ‘You reap what you tell your spouse needs to change about them’ principle.
Yup. That works as well as you think it would.
There are people, though, who have made whole careers out of telling couples to set their marriage problems aside and put their energy into trying to connect. They teach to build goodwill and top up your relationship bank accounts before dealing with your problems. Here’s the best part: a bunch of your problems will go away on their own if you’re sowing good things into your spouse’s life.
Lie #3: Follow your heart
Conventional wisdom says to follow your heart, meaning decide based on how you feel. But that is just wrong because feelings are not your operating manual.
In fact, feelings are reactions to past situations more than reflections of your value system. Are you sure you want to make major life decisions based on a past heartbreak? Or would you rather decide based on what you want to create in your future? Following your heart actually makes you a victim of your emotions.
Instead of giving in to emotions and following your heart as it leads you to disaster, seek wisdom from sources you can trust. Allow your brain to absorb whatever information you are taking in before you react and then make a wise choice after considering your options.
So the flip side of lie number three – the truth that really works – is to use your instinct and intellect to rationally make decisions based on what you know, not what you feel.
The best relationship test ever
I dug up a blog article called The List that Saved My Marriage where author Becky Zerbe’s Mom hits a marriage advice homerun. In short, the author had decided her marriage was over and went to her parents for support. While committing to support her daughter, the mom asked her to complete one exercise first.
She said to take a blank piece of paper and draw a vertical line down the center. On the left, she was to write all bad things about her husband; the reasons she wanted to leave. The wife easily completed the list.
Then, the mom told her daughter to write her own corresponding behaviors on the right side of the page. For example, next to the complaint that “He doesn’t tell me when he’s going to be late home from work” the wife had to write, “I sulk and give him the silent treatment”. Finally, the mom took the paper, cut it down the middle and threw away the list of her son-in-law’s failings. Handing her daughter’s list of behaviors back to her, she sent her home to reconsider.
I would fail
How would you fare if you had to consider an honest list of how you’ve handled yourself in your marriage? Would you feel as ready to give up on your relationship? I know I would be humbled. Consider your own behaviors and weed out the relationship lies from your thinking. Instead, replace them with truths that lead you toward trust, love, and honesty.
You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.
Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:
1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically
According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.
“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor
Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:
If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.
If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.
Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:
Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.
Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.
To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.
Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.
Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.
Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.
Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.
Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:
2. Focus on your goal
One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.
Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’
Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.
Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.
If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.
3. Convert negativity to positivity
There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?
‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’
It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.
Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”
Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.
Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:
4. Understand your content
Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.
However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.
“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor
Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.
Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.
One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.
5. Practice makes perfect
Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.
In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.
Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!
6. Be authentic
There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.
Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.
Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.
To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.
With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.
Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:
7. Post speech evaluation
Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.
Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation
We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.
You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.
Improve your next speech
As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:
How did I do?
Are there any areas for improvement?
Did I sound or look stressed?
Did I stumble on my words? Why?
Was I saying “um” too often?
How was the flow of the speech?
Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.
If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too: