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13 Useful Hacks to Bolster Your Personal Growth

13 Useful Hacks to Bolster Your Personal Growth

When you think of “hack” articles, you might think of articles that feature collections of household goods arranged in creative ways that you would not normally think of, that make life easier. This article, however, is to introduce you to 13 social and mental tricks and principles you can use to improve your life, overcome social shyness, and flex that social muscle.

1. Confidence Pose

If you ever need a boost to your confidence to help you power through your day, adopt a powerful pose, and feel your testosterone rise and your cortisol (stress hormone) fall. Check out Amy Cuddy’s TED talk here for more.

2. Benjamin Franklin Effect

There’s a little trick called the Benjamin Franklin Effect that says if someone does you a favor, they will like you more as a result. Our brains like to justify our behaviors, so when someone does a favor for you, their subconscious will convince them that they did the favor for you because they liked you. Read more about it here.

3. Unattainability

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Things that are out of reach are always more desirable. Studies show that women find men more attractive if they are married than if they are single. Remember this next time you feel really needy towards someone. Do you want them because you would enjoy a sustainable relationship with them, or because you can’t have them?

4. Contrast Principle

Things always seem better when placed next to something worse. When a salesman tries to sell you a car for 50 thousand dollars, it probably sounds like an unfriendly deal. When they then offer you a 10 thousand dollar car, with a couple thousand dollars in add-ons (sunroof, satellite radio, rims, etc.) then it might sound like a steal. You might not normally get all the special add-ons, but after comparing it to the initial offer, it sounds like a great deal. The Contrast Principle can be tricky in this way. It is best to compare what you are being offered to your own initial expectation, instead of feeling like you have a steal after hearing a much-worse price.

5. Reciprocation

Whether we want to or not, we will feel obligated to reciprocate whatever people give to us. You don’t have to like the person at all in order to be subjected to this feeling. Ever wonder why poor homeless people will clean your windshield while you are on the road? They know you will feel obligated to reciprocate, and they take advantage of it. When you feel that urge to keep the conversation going after someone new has broken the ice with you, that is reciprocation at work.

6. Self-fulfilling prophecy

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Although ominous-sounding, the self-fulfilling prophecy is easy to take advantage of. The premise is simple: give someone a positive characteristic to live up to, and stand back and watch them try to live up to their new expectation. If you tell someone that they are funny, intelligent, or awesome to be around, they will do their best to live up to their standard. They will want to live up to their expectation, and they won’t want you to be wrong about how you think about them.

7. Foot-in-the-door

The foot in the door technique is another simple social hack. If you can get someone to do you a favor, they will be more likely to do more favors for you in the future. They will have convinced themselves that you are someone worth doing favors for, and they don’t want to be wrong about you.

8. Consistency principle

The consistency principle helps explain both the self-fulfilling prophecy, the foot-in-the-door technique, and the Benjamin Franklin Effect. Basically it means that humans are wired to be consistent- and that once we come up with a conclusion in our mind (oh, this person is funny), from then on we will try to convince ourselves that we are correct. Do you ever wonder why people who are thought of as “funny” can say stupid things that people laugh at, while when you say something you deem to be funny and nobody gets it? It’s because they don’t expect it out of you, and they don’t get the satisfaction of feeling like they are right about their initial thoughts of you. Knowing this can help you try to actively change what people think of you.

9. Never fear saying stupid things

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In a recent MIT study (found in this book), they found that what impacts you when people speak to you is not the content of what they said, but how you felt when speaking to them. Instead of worrying about trying to say the right thing all the time, think more about what kind of emotions you bring out in people. Are you associated with positive emotions? If you bring out the right emotions in people, the right things to say will flow freely.

10. Body language indicates success

Another recent study done by MIT found that the outcome of 87% of sales pitches can be correctly guessed by only observing body language. See #1 for more on the implications of having confident body language.

11. Remember people’s first names

Dale Carnegie, one of the world’s greatest pioneers of the self-development industry, offered this great tip for remembering people’s first names. Whenever you meet new people, how many times do you hear of someone that is good with names? The answer is likely slim – almost no-one actually succeeds at this. One of the best ways to show that you are truly interested in what other people have to offer is to remember their name. Everyone wants to feel important, and this is one great way to help them feel that way.

12. Anticipation

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People almost always find more enjoyment in that which they must wait for. According to PhD Larry David, co-author of The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction, drug users will like using drugs more if they anticipate using them. The same holds true for any other pleasure-inducing behavior, like sex. Our brain is wired to seek reward, and remembers what it’s like to flood itself with strong, positive neurochemicals. Do you remember how excited you got for your birthday as a kid? Maybe today, do you get excited about thinking about visiting one of your best friends across the country, going out to your favorite restaurant tonight, or going on vacation next week? This anticipation helps build up the event, and make it better than it really is.

13. Create a bond 

Sure, your dad has probably told you to look people in the eye when you talk to them. What he probably didn’t tell you was that eye contact facilitates the release of oxytocin, a “bonding” chemical. This chemical has also been linked to stress reduction, and biasing the brain by looking at the positives of a relationship. Besides releasing oxytocin, looking people in the eye when you speak to them demonstrates lots of confidence.

So there you have it:

13 hacks to help your personal growth take off.

Use these hacks every day and become the most high-powered version of yourself. Let us know what your hacks are in the comments below!

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Featured photo credit: jessicahtam via flickr.com

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Nathan Adlam

Professional Boss

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

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

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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