Meeting potential lovers is now more convenient than ever.
Instead of going out to socialize in person, we can sit in the safety of our bedrooms mindlessly scrolling through an endless sea of dating fishes. We download as many dating apps as we can, beef up our profile with witty remarks or clever emoji chain in hopes that princess flattery or prince charming happens to swipe right as well. It’s created a vicious cycle of judgement making snap decision after snap decision based almost solely on six pictures or less.
This may seem completely harmless, but there’s a much larger issue lying just below the surface that needs to be addressed:
We’re losing the ability to communicate face to face.
One of the largest constraints in the early stages of dating, which can be catastrophic later in the relationship, is the way in which we communicate. With any form of digital communication you have, more or less, an endless amount of time to think and respond. You’re able to carefully craft messages or texts to be suave or sweet or funny or whatever emotion you’re trying to convey. This aspect of conversation is much more difficult to “wing” off the top of your head when the phone screen buffer is removed. Sure, people are shy. Sometimes the nervous tummy butterflies can get the best of you. However, at some point that shyness needs to be eliminated if there’s ever a hope of subsequent dates or sustaining a long term relationship. The only way to do that is talking to your partner’s face, not their Facebook.
If we communicate most of the time digitally, we’ll often share the wide ranges of emotion through digital formats, too. Jokes, sweet chatter, and a funny dog GIF are all enjoyable, but what happens when the other side of the spectrum is reached? What happens when we end up getting in a huge argument and are unable to discuss uncomfortable topics in person? Do you really believe that dealing with your relationship problems over the phone really alleviates the issue and brings you closer? Is that a healthy way of overcoming the inevitable confrontations relationships bring?
To take it a step further into the digital realm, since such a noticeable volume of millennials use dating and social media apps, constantly being on the phone invites your partner to question, pry, and be deeply insecure about how you’re spending your time on your phone both in their presence and not. And when we’re insecure, there’s really no telling what levels we might stoop to to find “truth”. Snooping without asking, causing senseless fights over nothing, and jumping to irrational conclusions can all result from spending too much time talking digitally and not enough literal face to face time.
Technology is not entirely to blame here.
The users of technology are. Technology will continue to evolve despite your relationship or dating successes or downfalls. I think one thing that’s important to know, aside from the dangers in too little face to face discussion, is communicating the importance (or lack thereof) of technology in the relationship. Some people find it extremely sexy not texting all day so they have something to talk about next time they go out on a date or meet for a movie at the other’s house. Independence in this way can be interpreted in two ways, though: ignoring (a.k.a. he or she isn’t really interested) or attractive (a.k.a. they have a life outside of me and I respect that). But in any aspect of the relationship, communication is key. No one can read minds or pick up telekinetic impulses.
For single women and men who currently use dating apps, like me, do you continue to swipe and Bumble after you meet someone really cool off a dating app? Or do you continue to send out horrific pickup lines with the hopes of a laugh and, fingers crossed, a date?
I think it’s not only respectful to the other party (that you’re presumably “into”) to deactivate your accounts on dating sites, but it’s also respectful to yourself. How much of a bummer would it be to be really stoked on time spent with someone only for them to find out that you’re still messaging several men or women on dating sites trying to get more hookups or meet ups? You’d look like a sleeze
No one wants to be a sleaze ball, and we all want sincere connection. Sadly, many of us continue to use these dating apps despite other people feel strongly about in the early stages because we enjoy the attention. When you match with someone attractive, or a cute boy sends you a sappy message, it feels good.
But what feels better is sincere connection with someone else. A connection that can only be established and maintained through consistent “IRL” face time.
The game of dating hasn’t really changed, but it’s a bit more intricate now when technology is mixed in. Let’s not let ourselves, our lovers, and our relationships fall victim to these electronic vices.
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: