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4 Things You Can Learn From Therapists

4 Things You Can Learn From Therapists
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In 2011 and 2012, I traveled the world in order to learn from the best therapists and psychologists. On my journey I met all kinds of astonishing individuals. A few of them had an inspiring and humbling mindset towards other human beings. These individuals were able to make someone feel appreciated, special and respected within only a few moments. At the same time they had a tremendous understanding of human interactions and how arguments or problematic behaviors arise.

During this time, I noticed that different exceptional therapists had a similar mindset towards their clients and people in general. Implementing these four mindsets in your daily life will help you to be more tolerant towards others, stay calmer during arguments and be more accepting when it comes to your own problems. Here are 4 things everybody can learn from therapists.

1. Even if you dislike a person’s behavior, you still can accept and appreciate the person.

Usually we dislike people because they behave in a certain way. We ultimately see the person and the person’s behavior as one thing. Therefore it is hard for us to appreciate a bully who beats other kids at school or sympathize with a person who lies to his friends. When somebody acts in a way that we do not like, understand or appreciate, we often dislike the person as a whole. Still, the therapists that I met where able to appreciate or even like people who did terrible things. This is based in their understanding that you can separate the person from his or her behavior. In a therapeutic context, this appreciation is necessary and builds the foundation for therapeutic work.

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Implementing this mindset in your everyday life won’t be easy, but it is tremendously valuable. You won’t easily be upset or angry with other people anymore. Also, it will be easier for you to give out criticism and easier for the other person to take it. Because when the other person senses that even though you criticized her, you still value her as a whole human being, she will be more receptive towards what you have to say.

2. You never know what’s good for another person.

“She would be better off if she leaves him.” “He should really quit taking drugs.” “Staying at his old job would have been much better for him.”

Do these sentences sound familiar to you? Probably yes! Most of us think they know what might be better for their friends or the people around them. We believe because we are looking at the person and his situation from an outside perspective, we can judge what is good for him and what not.

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The therapists I met were embracing a mindset called “Change Neutrality.” It describes the basic idea that you are neutral towards change. These therapists believe that they never know what’s the best for their clients. Of course they have hypotheses and ideas of what might be better, but they always tell themselves they never know for sure. They always view the client as the expert and their task is only to make offers to support them.

This humble mindset of not knowing what’s best for a person allows them to be accepting towards all kinds of behavior. They don’t feel the urge to push people towards a certain kind of behavior that is perceived as “good.”

Implementing this mindset in your daily life can take off a huge burden from your shoulders. Often, one feels responsible to help people to change. By understanding that you never know if it is really better for a person to change, you can relax and just accept how it is at the moment. Sometimes it is even necessary to make bad decisions to eventually grow and change, so by trying to change the person, you might actually take away these valuable experiences from them.

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3. Every problem was a solution, once.

When people are confronted with pressure or an uncomfortable situation, they try to find a way out of there as fast as possible. Although, in our society, it is not always possible to run away. When your boss is bullying you, it is often not easy to run, because it might be hard to find a new job. Therefore, instead of leaving the uncomfortable situation, you find a way to deal with it. You might get sick, and constantly oversleep to avoid him in the mornings or become a workaholic and be so good at your job that he has no reason to interact with you. For now you develop a great solution for this situation, but when your boss quits and you get a new boss who is nice and friendly, the constant oversleeping or becoming sick is not necessary anymore. So the behavior that was a solution to the prior uncomfortable situations now turns into a problematic behavior. Your behavioral patterns are not up-to-date anymore.

At this point a lot of people become angry at themselves because they don’t understand their own behavior and it seems irrational. Understanding that your behavior is not irrational, but rather just not up-to-date can help you to be more accepting towards yourself. Instead of blaming yourself as sick, stupid or irrational, you can be tolerant towards your own behavior and assume that at one point it was a very creative solution and is proof of your problem solving capabilities.

4. Behaviors are more dependent on the context than on the person himself.

When somebody acts in a certain way, we tend to think that he acts in this way due to certain characteristics of his personality. Given the case your boss screams a lot, you might think he is choleric. If one of your friends becomes very insecure around certain people, we might label her as insecure or shy. This is called the fundamental attribution error and shows that we tend to attribute people’s behaviors to their personalities rather than their circumstances or their context. However, numerous empirical studies show that a person’s context has way more influence on his behavior than his internal traits. Therefore very good therapists always ask for the person’s circumstances under which they show a certain behavior.

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You can implement this mindset in your every day life and keep yourself from judging other people’s behavior too fast. Instead of labeling behavior, you can explore under which circumstances it arose, and then this behavior just might make perfect sense.

Putting these mindsets to practice won’t be easy, so start with small steps. The first step is to simply notice when your old mindsets are at work. You could for example pinch your thumb and thereby be more conscious about what you are doing every time you say “You should really work out more often” (violation of mindset 2) or when you are angry at somebody because he behaved in an unlikable way (violation of mindset 1). Finally implementing these mindsets in your life will make you calmer and more tolerant, thus improving your life quality as well as the life quality of others around you.

Featured photo credit: Vermin Inc via flickr.com

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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)
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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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