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8 Ways To Keep Calm Even If You Are Seriously Nervous.

8 Ways To Keep Calm Even If You Are Seriously Nervous.

Public speaking. Bungee jumping. Confronting a tough customer. These are just some instances which can bring chills to spines and sweat to palms.

It’s normal to feel nervous before or in the midst of an undertaking. What separates the mediocre from the remarkable is the ability to perform despite the nerves. And these are some ways to stay calm in nervous situations.

1. Acknowledge and decide

There’s no point pretending that the nerves aren’t there when you feel crippled by it. Identify it, acknowledge it and come to terms with it.

Even the best athletes feel nervous during race day. Even top notch influential speakers experience some chills before facing the crowd.

Remind yourself that it’s perfectly alright to feel nervous before taking the leap – you are human after all. However, don’t just stop there. Decide in your head that you would not allow your nerves to get the better of you.

2. Segmenting

One technique which the U.S Navy SEALs employ to thrive and operate in high-stakes and high-stress environments is segmenting, which is simply to break down a seemingly daunting task into more digestible and manageable bits.

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A former SEAL talked about how he used segmenting to get through hell week (one of the most arduous and grueling military training in the world in which trainees get no more than 4 hours of sleep over 5 and a half days): Instead of seeing how he would get through the entire day, he encouraged and committed himself to just make it through to breakfast time, then lunch time, and then dinner time.

Thus, whenever you face an overwhelming task that’s driving you nervous, break it down and work through it one bit at a time.

3. Mental rehearsals and visualization

Imagine yourself having to deliver a presentation in front of your company of 100 employees. You haven’t really spoken in public that often and you’re not even sure if you are the most eloquent or charismatic speaker in the room.

You get nervous. Extremely nervous.

At this point, many would think that everything would just fail and crumble before their very eyes – they trip while getting on stage, the projector explodes, members of the audience jeer and throw office staplers at them.

Don’t go down that path. Do something totally different.

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Perform mental rehearsals of yourself delivering a confident and compelling speech. Don’t just practice your address physically, but visualize yourself doing it in your head as well.

4. Scenario planning

In my 2 and a half years in the military, we were taught how to respond to different scenarios when we were, for instance, doing a patrol on a street or clearing a building.

The key to scenario planning is to anticipate the different scenarios which might occur and then decide your course of action when that particular scenario happens. The important thing is to decide what you are going to do even before that scenario happens, so that when it actually occurs, your response would be second nature.

For example, if we kicked down the door when storming a building, we already know how to react if an enemy pops up from a corner – we would react accordingly without hesitation. We just don’t have time to consider our options on the spot when something happens – it might be too late.

Back to the company presentation, anticipate what might possibly go wrong and come up with your course of action if it does. What do you do when you suddenly forget your points? You could have some flashcards in your pocket. What do you do when the laptop fails? You could have a spare one on standby or have a plan to proceed without using it.

5. Begin with the end in mind

When you step onto the stage to deliver your presentation, what is your ultimate purpose? What are you achieving? Why are you doing the presentation in the first place?

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Decide on your purpose and objective and keep your eyes on it. Everything else is just noise and distraction.

6. Controlled breathing techniques

It’s interesting that our body affects our minds and vice versa. When you think of fear, you end up feeling frightened. When you make yourself smile, you tend to improve your overall mood.

People who are nervous usually take short and shallow breaths. And such breathing patterns only serve to keep them nervous.

What you could do is to deliberately control your breathing by adopting what I call the 4x4x4 breathing technique.

Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds (you can count by saying in your head one-thousand, two-thousand, three-thousand, four-thousand), exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds, and then repeat that cycle for 3 more times.

7. Adopt a confident posture

Amy Cuddy’s TED talk sheds light on how our posture affects our confidence levels. She says that adopting a “power pose” – standing with your arms on your hips like Wonder Woman or your arms stretched wide – can make you feel more confident and assertive.

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When you are about to do something and you feel the nerves, go to somewhere private and take just 2 minutes to adopt a confident posture. Once done, head back out and get going!

8. Focus on the work, not the nerves

Last but not least, sometimes the best way to overcome the nerves is to take action instead of waiting for the nerves to go away.

When doing a public presentation, take a bold step forward and give the best speech you have ever given. When confronting a tough customer, pick up the phone, make the call and say what you need to say.

Don’t focus on the nerves. Focus on the work you need to do. Don’t forget why you are doing that task in the first place. Hold on to your true purpose and go for gold – the nerves don’t stand a chance!

Featured photo credit: Alex Wong via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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