Public Speaking Resilience Using the 3 C’s
In this video I talk about how important it is to reframe any negative thinking around public speaking. There’s great research about what works to make people resilient in life, and these “3 C’s” from two researchers – done over nearly 40 years – can be applied really well to public speaking too.
– Today we’re going to take a look at gaining more resilience and re-framing our thinking around public speaking.
So how we frame something in our mind has a really big impact on our body. And if we say to ourselves, oh, I hate doing this, for example, this is horrible, let me out of here… When you say that, your system releases even more cortisol, and the whole situation then cascades downhill.
Whereas, if you can say this is a challenge, I have a plan here, you’re going to have a much more positive physical response, which is then going to help you to hold it together mentally.
This is resilience in action.
And a client and I will often discuss it in coaching or in a group that I’m running, and we all agree what a difference it makes to reframe what you’re thinking; to do it deliberately, and to do it over time. And then hardly anybody actually follows through and does it. And I totally get it, I’ve certainly experienced it myself, of course, but the only reason I’m mentioning it is because I truly know in my own life, and I’ve seen what a difference re-framing does make.
And it doesn’t matter what level you’re at, in terms of your public speaking, whatever you’re trying to get better at; reframing is nearly always going to be useful for you.
So, going back to this reframing for resilience idea. Studying this research is part of what I do to help my clients to become more resilient presenters. And there’s been some really interesting work done in this area over the past nearly 40 years, so a lot of research, by two psychologists, Salvatore Maddi and Suzanne Kobasa.
They’ve worked with thousands of professionals and they found three critical factors in resilient people. Resilience shows up, by the way, when people go through life’s stressors, and they come out the other side showing the ability to grow and thrive.
Whereas non-resilient people suffer physical and possibly mental ill health.
These three critical resilience attributes are also key factors which reduce public speaking stress. And they are control, commitment, and challenge.
So let’s break these down a little bit, talk about control first. If you believe that you have control over any part of the process of speaking to groups, then you’re going to feel more able to cope with it.
So where can you find more control?
You might do more, or indeed any, practise out loud. So that you get used to hearing and feeling the words coming out of your mouth, especially the opening words, if you know what those are going to be. This makes a big difference to the level of shock to your system when you begin to speak.
That moment of going from “private person” or from sitting down or on the room sidelines to “public person”, where you might have to stand out or become centre stage. When you become the focus of attention, all eyes on you, that’s a shock to your system, particularly if you’re an introvert. Having practised your opening words out loud a few times will help to smooth out this shock.
Suggestion number two. Arrive, if you’re going to a venue, arrive early so that you’re not rushing or panicking in the traffic. Melbourne traffic anyone? For anyone who lives in Melbourne!
Get to the room early, walk around, get in your body and your mind system, and accclimatise to being in the space. Or if you’ve got an internal presentation at work, try obviously if you can, not to have meetings backed up right to the presentation.
And if you do have to run straight in, make sure that you just recentre and refocus yourself, just for a moment. And my next point is going to help you with this.
Breathing low into your abdomen and your ribs before you start to speak, or whenever you start to stress out. Aiming to feel your ribs expand up and out is going to calm your system and give you a sense of regaining control. Low, slow breaths.
Obviously it’s easier to do before you start than when you’re actually up there, but you can still breathe between paragraphs, thoughts, slides – you just have to remember to do it. Anything, no matter how small, that makes you feel as though there’s an aspect of the situation which you can influence and control, is going to help to increase your resilience levels.
Second part, commitment. Can you in any way see your public speaking role as meaningful or a source of engagement for you? Examples might be, the opportunity to influence others; a way of increasing your ability to provide for your family; buying something that matters to you, or finding pride and meaning in the act of deciding to improve your public speaking skills.
Look, it doesn’t matter what the trigger is, or how altruistic or materialistic you’re feeling about it; if it works to make you feel more engaged and committed to your words, it will work.
Third part of these three C’s of resilience is challenge. If you can see public speaking as an opportunity for growth, rather than a stressor or something that you just have to do; you’re going to flip your perception to one of possibility, personal and professional growth.
This idea of flipping a situation from a threat to a challenge instead, is something that’s been researched in detail, particularly by a great U.S. psychologist called Kelly McGonigal, who’s written a great book called “The Upside of Stress”. She’s also given, I think, a couple of TED Talks now.
In the book, Kelly talks about turning a threat into a challenge. She says, “Viewing the stress response as a resource can turn the physiology of fear into the biology of courage.” Isn’t that a great line? Flipping from threat to challenge is a great way to improve your resilience, and even if you think this is beyond you, would you be willing to even briefly entertain the idea? It can be such a game-changer for people.
So, I’m going to sum up now. Three C’s. Commitment, control, and challenge. Resilience builders and key factors to reduce any speaking stress that you have. Why not give yourself a few minutes today, now if possible, while your ideas are still fresh, to just jot down a couple of ways that you can increase one of these factors?
And best wishes with it.