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If You Want to Save Your Relationship, Be Willing to Be Vulnerable

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If You Want to Save Your Relationship, Be Willing to Be Vulnerable

Does your relationship feel like “groundhogs day?” If so, you are probably experiencing never-ending, repetitive conversations that create a vicious, repetitve and toxic cycle with no solutions in sight.

Conversations to create clarity usually lead to more frustration with little hope in sight. When you are in this place, it’s important to consider how you want to proceed. Is couples therapy an option? Will it be worth the effort? Or, should you just let the sparks die and move on? I’ve always believed that every serious relationship experiences one monumental, penultimate moment in which the couple has a choice: do you choose to work through it and stay together, or have you accomplished all you can as a couple and it’s time to go separate ways.

Lets explore the possibilities to give you some insight into the different roads you can travel down and what they look like.

Couples therapy is for the ones who are willing to give their relationship a fighting chance.

Arriving at the realization that it’s time to get help for your relationship is not an easy one. While couple’s counselling is becoming less and less taboo, the idea of seeing a therapist can seem dramatic. You may not think your relationship warrants professional help. Maybe you assure yourself that it’s “not that bad.” But remember there are expert relationship counselors for a reason. It’s important to know that choosing therapy is not a way to get someone on your side and convince your partner you’re right and they should listen to you. Rather the point of couple’s counselling is to better understand yourself and how you behave in a relationship, while also learning more about your partner. Through therapy, the two of you would address the interactions and patterns that have led to the problems you face and hopefully look for solutions to remedy them.

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Accepting you need help can be challenging when you are very close to the problem. In fact, when you’re in the midst of the issue, it can be difficult to realize there is an alternative, let alone identify what got you to this point in the first place.

Of course, admitting that you don’t have all the answers requires humility. Admitting that you don’t know how to move things in a better direction will inevitably open the door to change. Often, most couples get in the way of their own change – usually unintentionally. So, if you (and your loved one) are willing to be vulnerable, you will give your relationship a fighting chance.

You have to be willing.

Couples therapy only works when a couple is willing to be “raw and real.” Your job is not to make the therapist think you’re a great girlfriend/boyfriend, etc. but rather to be as honest as possible in a safe space while a neutral party guides the conversation. Therapeutic change requires an interest to make your internal conversation external. Yes, your secret thoughts and inner conversation must be revealed.

Therapeutic change happens when a couple is willing to leave the comfort zone. What this means is embracing an openness to act in ways in your relationship that are different that you know yourself to be. Many patterns can be very hard-wired over time. Long-term change only happens when the “lens” that you both use to see one another begins to shift.

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In couples therapy, weekly interventions and experiential activities can begin the process of creating shifts. At first, the change may feel awkward and uncomfortable because you are introducing behavior that is new. It’s like beginning to go to the gym for the first time. Feeling sore and having some aches and pains is normal. It means you are pushing yourself. You are growing. All change requires discomfort. If you are open to experiencing new ways of being in your relationship the possibilities for change in couples therapy are endless. It all depends on you (and your loved one).

Couples therapy is worth it when couples are willing to make changes.

Your therapist doesn’t exist to “fix” your love. Your therapist cannot promise that he/she will be able to solve your problems. But the therapist can provide the opportunity to delve into issues without the fear of starting a nasty fight. While it would be nice if there was a magic fix to broken relationships, it just isn’t so. Couples therapy requires much footwork, patience and determination.

Now, this is not to ignore the reality that a couples expert should be highly skilled in knowing how to create therapeutic change. Both during a couples therapy session and outside the session there are countless ways to help couples create change and positive shifts in their relationship. The part that the therapist can’t control is the couple’s willingness to invite change into their lives.

Just like the gym example earlier, you can hire a personal trainer to help you create the kind of body you like but you have to be willing to put in the work. Many times, people ask for change and are simply not willing to place the effort and energy forth required to create shifts. You and your loved one have to want the change badly and be willing to do whatever is necessary to introduce change into your relationship. Its a process you engage in together and its critical that you work as “one” in order to create deep, lasting change.

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Couples counselling can heal relationships through improved communication, revitalizing emotional connection and renegotiating commitments to each other. No relationship is ever going to be perfect, but counselling creates the opportunity to find balance.[1]

Even if you really think it’s time to end the relationship, a counselor can help.

If you (or your loved one) are not sure if you care enough about the relationship to seek help, seeing a counselor can still help you have a clean, healthy breakup. Though it may seem counter-intuitive to see a counselor to help you end a relationship, the truth is that healthy breakups are much more valuable than dramatic, toxic ones. A counselor can help you evaluate what didn’t work in the relationship, ultimately helping you find a relationship that will work in the future. And if you aren’t sure if you want to break up or fight for your love, a counselor can still be helpful in helping you to identify what you need.

Make sure the therapist you choose intends to help you.

While there are plenty of therapists out there who would be more than willing to take your money and listen to you talk about your relationship problems, you need to make sure your therapist has receives specific training and is experienced in marital therapy. Make sure they have the intention of helping you and your partner find solutions in an unbiased way, rather than immediately jumping to assisting you in ending things. You also need to feel supported, respected and comfortable with your therapist. Sure, it may be awkward at first, but once that passes, you need to feel like you’re with someone who cares.

Make sure to set goals with your partner ahead of time. What is it you are trying to accomplish? Don’t just go in and start venting. Make sure the therapist knows what you are trying to work through. This will make everyone’s life easier. The best way to find the right therapist is often word of mouth. If any of your friends are in counseling with their partner, ask them who they use and how they like them. Don’t worry, everything is confidential, so no one will be spreading rumors.[2]

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As for cost, on average counselors charge between $75 and $150 an hour. It is recommended to attend therapy for three months with one session per week. If you feel like you can’t afford it, but you truly want a specific counselor, call and ask if they offer any type of discounts. The worst they can say is no.[3]

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] Marriage & Relationship Counselling Sydney: How Can Couples Counselling Benefit Our Relationship?
[2] Psychology Today: How to Choose a Good Marital Therapist
[3] HusbandHelpHaven: What is the Average Cost of Marriage Counseling?

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Heather Poole

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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:

Warming up

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:

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Stay hydrated

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.

Meditate

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.

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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.[1]

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.

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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.[2]

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.

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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:

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  • 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:

Reference

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