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What is most likely to help you reach the top?

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What is most likely to help you reach the top?
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When it comes to success in today’s world, being the kind of person others like outranks all of the fashionable traits like competitiveness, willingness to work harder then anyone else, piling up qualifications, or blind obedience to the demands of the people at the top. Pleasant, likable people have the best chances of being hired, promoted, and rewarded. Customers are more willing to buy from those they feel good around—even if they aren’t offering the best deal. Bosses who are well-liked get better performance from their staff and face fewer people problems. Subordinates who get on well with everyone are trusted more and given better assignments.

In contrast, the kind of boss who provokes fear rather than warmth quickly creates an atmosphere that produces worse results, higher employee turnover, and more conflicts. Tough, abrasive companies trap themselves in a culture of stress and anxiety, if only because nobody is willing to cut anyone else some slack.

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Communication depends on trust, and trust is quickly destroyed by those who give off negative vibes. If you deal with others by being more abrasive than the next guy, expect to get the same treatment in return. People who are disliked are the ones others either don’t communicate with, don’t include in discussions, starve of any information, or don’t bring into the loop at all.

Here are some ideas on how to make sure that others see you as a good person to have around:

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  • Whenever you can, act friendly and open. If you’re seen as approachable—a person with neither a hidden agenda nor any “side”— people will make sure you’re included in whatever is going on.
  • Don’t be manipulative. People hate it. It makes the person who is manipulated look like a fool. It establishes you as someone dishonest. Whatever the short-term benefits appear to be, in the longer term it’s the kiss of death to sound relationships.
  • Take the risk (if risk it is) and freely offer your trust to others. Don’t buy into the nonsense that people have to earn trust. If you don’t trust them first, how can they prove that they’re trustworthy? If you trust other people, they will trust you. We all like to work with people we can trust. Colleagues who get a reputation for being untrustworthy are shut out of all the informal discussions that matter.
  • Focus on helping others, not helping yourself. Self-centered people aren’t attractive. If you genuinely concern yourself with being useful to others, you’ll be swiftly rewarded with their support in return.
  • Be yourself. Don’t try to play a part. Others quickly sense if what they see isn’t what they’re going to get. You may have no negative intentions, but they won’t see it like that. Someone who tries to fool them in one thing is probably up to something. Better to keep a distance and avoid being taken in.
  • Take time with people. Your time and attention are gifts of immense value. Give them freely. People who have time for others, regardless of how busy they are, are good to be with. Unpleasant people, who only have time for themselves, are a bore. Never underestimate the impact on others of truly giving them your full attention.
  • Listen more and talk less. Good listeners find themselves in the center of almost any group because that’s where the others want them. We all like to be listened to, so we all like good listeners. Besides, you can’t learn nearly as much by talking as you can by staying quiet and listening.
  • Remember your manners. Politeness counts for a great deal. For a start, it shows that you value the other person. It protects their dignity. No one likes to be treated with rudeness or condescension. Poor manners suggest arrogance, ignorance, or disdain—none of them likely to increase your standing with other people.
  • Try to be good humored at all times I’m not suggesting you act like a clown, but a little good-nature and a sense of humor go a long way to making others feel at more ease with you. Have you ever heard anyone criticized for being fun to be around? Or avoided because they make people laugh?
  • If all else fails in times of stress and crisis, remember this: keep a tight leash on your anger, stay calm, and forget about it afterwards. If you keep your mouth shut, you won’t say things you’ll regret. And if you don’t hold a grudge, you’ll be free to start again without a lot of bitter memories. Giving vent to your anger rarely, if ever, does more than create future problems.

Friendly people have many friends: friends who will speak up for them, help them in tough times and watch out for their best interests,and, best of all, people forgive their mistakes and overlook their weaknesses.

Today’s constant obsession with competition and winning makes it easy for people to slip into bad habits towards colleagues, customers, and subordinates. The more successful you are, the more important it becomes to act with humility and genuine warmth towards everyone.

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There’s nothing some people enjoy more than taking an arrogant prima donna down several pegs.

Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life, and its companion site Slower Living. His recent articles on similar topics include Right Relationships and How to give yourself the best chances in life. His latest book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization, is now available at all good bookstores.

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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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