After being married for over 19 years it was pretty dramatic being back in the dating field. But, hey, you either sink or swim. I have tried every type of dating: online, offline, blind dates, friend hook ups, guys from the church etc. Lessons I have learned from 2006 to the present have definitely been because of failed relationships. These are some of the important lessons I keep in mind:
1. Don’t take anything at face value
I don’t take anything at face value; I research, and question everything. Let them call you a detective, CSI or NCIS. You have to protect your heart. Lesson learned # 1 is people will lie and deceive. I met a presumably nice gentleman at a club. I didn’t see a ring but I still asked “are you married?” He said “no.”… well, you know what? He was married for over 3 or 4 years when the truth finally came out.
2. Are they making room for you in their life?
Lesson # 2: When a person wants you in their life, they make room for you; they accommodate you in time and in their life events. For example, are you included at weddings, family reunions, or work place functions? It’s a lesson learned if you are being treated like a secret. They are not just wanting you all to themselves they are probably hiding something- maybe a dead body! Just kidding!
For example, I met a guy and we dated at least eight months. He had met my mother, sisters and children, and yet never introduced me to his sister or children, even though they were local. I decided if I had to be a secret he was not for me.
3. Are they controlling?
Failed relationship lesson # 3: if you are too demanding and everything has to be your way, you are SELFISH and controlling. That is not healthy or cute. I had a boyfriend who was always, always calling me, checking on the time I got in from work, shopping, and working out. He would want me to cook for him all the time, and yet never taking me to dinners, plays or movies.
4. Do they support your dreams and hopes for the future?
Failed relationship lesson #4: it’s time to be concerned if they’re not supportive of your dreams or visions of any kind. I was dating a guy and we had been dating for over 2 years; I had become an empty nester by this time and things I had put on hold because of being a single parent and not having a lot of time to pursue certain things I begin to pursue. One of those things was to write a book.
I wrote my first book and family and friends were excited. I remember going to the mailbox and the hard copy of the book had come from the publisher. I was jumping up extremely excited and I showed the book to my then boyfriend. He picked up my book, looked at it and put it in the box and said “hmm”. No congratulations, No “good job, baby”, just “hmm”. I broke up with him; if you can so easily step on my dreams you are not the man for me.
5. Will the age difference be a factor to consider?
This next one you may agree or disagree with, but here it is: really consider whether you should date someone substantially younger or older than you. I have done both, and truthfully it didn’t work for me. With the younger guy, he had never been married and had never had children. The first question I asked was, “do you want kids one day? Because I have three and my shop is closed.” But people can lie or maybe when they want someone badly they risk being misleading. We dated about a year and half and he said he was not ready to give up the idea of having kids. This was right after I was freshly divorced, so I was crushed. But it taught me to look for bad signs early and to take what people tell you with a grain of salt.
The older gentleman I could write a book about, but my main gripe with him was he was extremely controlling and always talked to me like I was a child. I learned that I needed someone with which I could be on equal footing, in terms of our thoughts, ideals and major goals and beliefs.
6. Be wary of manipulation
I learned these lessons from the above dating scenarios. Don’t advise your new love interest of all of the stuff you are looking for in a mate, and all the drama you experiences in your other relationships. Why, you ask? Because you want someone to genuinely get to know you, rather than giving them a road map to manipulate you.
I dated a guy who tried to be the opposite of all the things I said above that didn’t work for me, but as my grandmother Mary says “time will tell it all.” By the end of six months, I was not getting the support for my events, I was being ignored for football, and all the other warning signs of a relationship going south.
Now as you can see from the list above I have experienced some true life lessons over 10 years and I can happily report that I learned from them all. I learned what I needed for myself. I must admit I was not ready to date for a long time after my divorce; I really needed time to forgive and heal. I also grew and changed from the young naive lady to a beautiful mature, smart lady with so much to offer the world and a very lucky man.
I won’t keep you in suspense:, yes, knowing all of the above about my failed relationships led me to a great guy! He is handsome to me (that’s important if I have to see you all the time), but I got to know him as a friend first (which I didn’t do with any of the above). He’s very supportive, we have lots in common and when we don’t have something in common we can respect each other’s opinion. Without these lessons I believe I would still be looking for the right one for me.
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: