“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt
Courage is what stands between what you have inside—your ideas, your passion, your individuality—and your ability to express that to the world. At London Speech Workshop we take courage as one of our 5 core principles of great communication. So, how can we become more courageous speakers?
Here are three key steps to becoming a more courageous communicator:
1. Find your reason for speaking
Why do you want to speak in the first place? Is it your commitment to your ideas, to a common vision, or maybe even a goal you’ve set yourself?
Figuring this out will give you strength to fight your inner demons. Because when you have your reason for speaking, you have a powerful driver. Which in turn provides mental leverage to assign the demons to a corner!
Then if you stutter a little, if you wobble or sweat or pace the floor, it won’t matter. Because you are daring to be bigger than your fear.
2. Be self-aware—What is it that you’re really afraid of?
Maybe you fear failure, or being laughed at or being boring. There’s generally a root cause of your fear. Finding this can allow you to converse with it from the rational adult you, and see it for what it is, an old washed out survival mechanism that you don’t need any more.
In the book The Chimp Paradox, it says we have two kinds of mind, the chimp and the adult. Once you’ve decided the fear is not useful, you can label it as the chimp, and then ask yourself what the adult says. You’ll probably find it says something much more reasonable! In short, it helps to know the fear you are facing.
Let’s look at an example: A fear of being boring
The chimp might say: Oh they’re going to hate me. My speech is so dull. What if they’re so bored they tell everyone I’m boring?!
The Adult might say: Well, I’ll put in some stories to make it more interesting and I’ll test it on a friend. Really? With the rest of these speakers I’ll probably fare pretty well! So what if I’m a little boring, at least I care!
3. Show your vulnerability
A clear indicator of a fearful communicator is an unwillingness to show any of themselves to their audience. And yet, when someone dares to show themselves, their drive and their passion for something, when they dare to make themselves vulnerable by revealing what they really care about, this makes for probably the most compelling and enriching communication. A great example of this is Susan Cain’s Ted Talk, the power of introverts. She cares so much about her subject, that in spite of her self-confessed introversion, by the climax of the talk, the audience of several thousand were so moved they leapt to their feet in a standing ovation.
Here’s some ideas to help with revealing your vulnerability in a talk:
- Acknowledge yourself as human, which means perfectly imperfect, just like everyone watching. Share a little of your character, give personal anecdotes.
- Accept that you’re a little nervous, a little enthusiastic, a little whatever. It’ll help you build a genuine, exciting connection with the audience.
- Show your commitment to communicating your ideas through your body language. Arms open, eyes engaged, spine erect will all help you share your speech with courage. (Your body posture will actually affect how you feel in any case. See Amy Cuddy’s brilliant TED talk for more on this).