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12 Ways to Help Someone Change

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12 Ways to Help Someone Change

We’ve all been there. Someone we love is in trouble. The solution seems obvious and yet paradoxically unreachable. How do you help someone change without making them feel judged, disparaged or criticized?

1. Recognize that This is Not Your Decision

Accept and honor the agency of the person you love. Ultimately, the decision to change rests in their hands, not yours. You can open the door, but you cannot force anyone to walk through it.

2. Accept Imperfections

Resist the urge to ignore or deny your loved one’s human frailties. You may not be able to condone specific choices that they’ve made, but you can learn to talk about those choices in a matter-of-fact way, as events that have happened.

If your loved one expresses the conviction that they are broken, damaged, or that something is otherwise wrong with them, don’t respond by insisting that everything is fine. Acknowledging that there is a problem creates the possibility that, someday, perhaps it can be fixed.

3. Modulate your Own Emotions

When we feel the expectations of others too keenly, they sometimes drown out our own impulses. A person on the crux of change requires enough emotional space to consider his options – without being weighed down by the shock, sorrow, and anger of the people who love him.

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Create the opportunity for change by removing your own emotional baggage from the picture. Talk to close friends or relatives. Seek therapy if necessary. It is appropriate to express your feelings to your loved one, but don’t allow it to become a constant psychological bombardment.

4. Listen

If your loved one’s choices are completely unintelligible to you — if the things she is doing seem to make no sense at all — then you are not yet properly equipped to help. Learn to understand your loved one’s perspective. Listen, ask questions, and refrain from interjecting your own opinions. You may not agree with their reasoning, but you must learn to understand it.

5. Change Yourself First

Relationships are like a teeter-totter. They settle into balanced states, with each person providing counterweight to the other. Imagine two children who have settled to equilibrium: they sit motionless in mid-air, perfectly balanced on opposite ends of the beam. If they wish to reach a new equilibrium, both children must move. If only one of them shifts position, the balance will be broken and one side of the teeter-totter will drop to the ground.

Help your loved one by creating the option of a new equilibrium. Shift your expectations, change the way you speak and behave; move to a new place on the teeter-totter. You may be surprised at how quickly he moves to compensate.

6. Be an Example

People tend to emulate the behaviors, attitudes, and life outlooks they see around them. Exemplify the lifestyle you hope your loved one will choose. Hold yourself to the same standards you expect her to fulfill. Become living proof that the path you believe in is possible.

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7. Avoid Criticism

Nobody likes to be told what to do. We like it even less when someone tells us the things we’re already doing are wrong.

Resist the urge to offer correction at every turn. This does not mean pretending you approve. It does mean limiting your expressions of disapproval to a manageable level.

8. Use “I” Statements

Consider the difference between these two statements:

a) “You are so rude and obnoxious”
b) “I feel uncomfortable when you say things like that”

The first statement is accusatory. The second opens the doorway to communication.

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When dealing with sensitive subjects, try to begin sentences with “I” rather than “you”. It shifts the focus from a value judgment of the other person’s behavior and concentrates instead on the way his actions have affected you.

9. Find the Courage to Speak

When trying to help someone change, we tend to succumb to one of two fallacies: (a) the compulsion to speak too much, or (b) the fear to say anything at all.

If you’re in the second category, recognize that your loved one cannot begin to change until she knows how you feel. Think carefully about what you want to say, and how. Recruit a friend to help choose your words, and perhaps to stand at your side while you say them. If a personal confrontation feels too intimidating, consider writing your thoughts in a letter.

Be aware that people almost never change their minds (or their lives) at the drop of a hat. Expect your loved one to resist your assertions, argue forcefully, and perhaps even storm off in an angry huff. This doesn’t mean that the conversation was a failure. It simply means that your loved one has been confronted with a difficult situation and needs time to come to terms with it. Try to stay calm and stick to “I” statements. Remove yourself from the situation if you sense physical danger.

10. Express Unconditional Love

Few feelings are worse than the fear that we have become unlovable. Take time to show your loved ones that you care about them. Be sure to communicate that you will continue to care about them no matter what happens.

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11. Hold Firm to Your Convictions

It can be hard to stand firm against the emotional buffets of a loved one’s inner storm. Not every issue is worth arguing about, so choose your conflicts carefully. Stand firm on the issues that matter most, and remember that while you cannot control your loved one’s actions, you can control your own. Do not be afraid to take action, even drastic action, if the circumstances warrant.

12. Be Patient

Change is an arduous and time-consuming process. You would not expect a tiny acorn to sprout into a towering oak tree overnight, so don’t expect your loved one to make progress in leaps and bounds. Instead, watch for subtle indications of growth — a new way of speaking, or a willingness to broach topics that were previously taboo. Trust that these tiny adjustments may someday lead to significant change. And don’t give up.

Featured photo credit: anitapeppers via http

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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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