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8 Mistakes That are Costing You Your Friendships

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8 Mistakes That are Costing You Your Friendships

Maintaining friendships is one the most important and fulfilling things we do. But it’s also hard work. Here are eight mistakes we make that threaten our valuable friendships, along with ways to overcome them.

1. You don’t listen.

In familiar friendships, it is easy to fall into this trap. You’ve known this person for so long that you know what they are going to say before they say it. So, you interrupt constantly and miss important communication cues because of your assumptions. Over time, opportunities for misunderstandings and communication breakdowns will increase.

The solution: Don’t assume you know what your friend is going to say. Contrary to popular practice, listening is not passive but active. Develop active listening skills by learning to remove or ignore distractions. Great active listeners are also excellent observers of other communication cues, such as tone of voice and body language. Another good active listening technique is to ask as many follow-up questions as you can before you offer your own input. The truth is that your friend may not be seeking your advice, but simply your sympathetic ear.

Developing your active listening skills will revolutionize your friendships and other important relationships in your life.

2. You don’t keep your word.

This mistake is often subtle. Most of us don’t lie outright to our friends. Instead, you may find yourself saying yes to a request when you should say no. This is usually driven by fear of offending a friend or jeopardizing a relationship. The unhappy irony, of course, is that saying yes and not following through can be more harmful to the relationship than saying no upfront.

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The solution: Don’t agree to do something if you are unlikely to follow through. It is hard to turn your friends down. The key to doing it well is to simply be upfront and explain why you cannot commit to the request. True friends will respect you for your honesty and will stick around.

3. You take more than give in the relationship.

Again, most of us don’t consciously scheme on how to leverage a friend’s position, status, or personality traits for personal gain. We don’t think, “How can I take advantage of John’s generosity today?”

We exploit our relationships, often without being aware, in less obvious ways. You may find yourself constantly offloading your burdens to a friend while taking very little time to listen to his. You may get upset when he don’t call as often as you’d like, but never pick up the phone yourself. When you go out for lunch dates, you seldom offer to pay for the meal. In these and other little ways, you are in danger of overdrawing what Stephen Covey calls your “Emotional Bank Account.”

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey describes the Emotional Bank Account as “a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship.” You make emotional deposits through kindness, courtesy, honesty, and keeping your commitments. You make emotional withdrawals when you disrespect, ignore, threaten, and overreact. This perspective may sound cold and transactional, but Covey argues that awareness of this reality can lead to positive transformation within relationships.

Your average bank account cannot survive constant withdrawals with no deposits. Neither can your friendships.

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The solution: Begin to embrace the Emotional Bank Account model. Try to visualize where your account currently stands with your relationship. This is by no means scientific, but if you are honest with yourself you will get a sense of whether you have built up a surplus or are in the deficit zone. If you are in the red, start making deposits by becoming more proactive.

4. You’re not vulnerable enough.

Being vulnerable is hard, even among close friends. It means letting go of outward appearances and going deeper. It’s risky but it’s the only path to deepening our friendships.

The solution: Don’t hide weaknesses and struggles. Learn to talk about them freely with your inner circle. Often your ability to open gives the other person permission to be more open himself. People feel privileged when you trust them enough to be vulnerable and will likely treat these moments with utmost respect. Trust and intimacy will skyrocket.

5. You don’t stay in touch.

This one happens more easily and frequently than we care to admit. The days and months effortlessly become years. Eventually, we become afraid to get in touch due to fears of being rejected.

The solution: The truth is that most of us are busy. Our friends are more forgiving than we think. They may even be struggling with similar fears. End the standoff. Just pick up the phone and call. Send a text. You might be amazed at how quickly they respond.

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6. You’re more concerned about keeping up appearances rather than developing the relationship.

We all compare ourselves to others naturally, even subconsciously. This is true among good friends. We compare our jobs, clothes, cars, income, significant others, and the list goes on. This is natural and expected, to some extent. The problem arises when we are constantly chasing our friends who always seem to have more of what we have.

The solution: Go back to basics. What common values brought you together? What do you value most about this person? You were likely drawn to this person for who they are rather than what they do or what they have.

7. Your expectations for the other person are too high.

We often have to adjust our expectations of our friends as our relationships progress due to life changes. Still, we struggle to adjust to new realities and can make the mistake of expecting the same level of commitment from our friends after major life changes. This can lead to misunderstandings and may cause one or both parties to simply walk away from the relationship.

The solution: Prepare yourself for the fact that things will change and that your expectations will need to be adjusted over time. This does not mean that your friendships will be diminished. Approach this reality from a positive viewpoint. Be realistic about what this person can and cannot do for you.

8. You don’t apologize (sincerely).

We’re all familiar with the insincere apology. We see it in the media among celebrities and politicians caught in wrongdoing. We experience it in our own relationships. You may even practice it yourself.

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Here it is in two forms: “I’m sorry if you were hurt by X or Y” or “I’m sorry but you never told me Z.” The key words that make these examples insincere are “if” and “but.” These words shift responsibility from you to the person you are apologizing to. It’s not a true apology and will do little to repair relationships.

If you hurt someone close to you, you’ve withdrawn a sizable amount of goodwill and trust from your Emotional Bank Account. You must apologize sincerely in order to make a deposit equal to or greater than what you withdrew. You must take full responsibility.

The solution: Commit to eliminating the words “if” and “but” when making an apology. Make this your apology template instead: “I’m sorry for what I did and for hurting you in the process. Will you forgive me?”

None of us are perfect at maintaining our relationships. The key is to become more aware and correct ourselves when we make mistakes. Your most important friendships are worth the effort.

Featured photo credit: Argument Conflict Controversy Dispute Contention/RyanMcGuire via pixabay.com

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Cylon George

A spiritual chaplain and blogger who writes about practical spiritual tips for busy people.

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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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