There are two ways of dealing with a fear: either by plunging in whole-body or dipping in your toes and gradually getting in deeper.
One way isn’t better than the other, and neither method is going to apply to one person all of the time.
That being said, I find that when it comes to fear of public speaking, most people benefit from the dipping-the-toes method. The mental shift that needs to happen to go from quaking in your boots to owning the stage is quite substantial. Trying to make that shift and just “get over it” all at once reduces most people to quivering balls of fear, which is rather counterproductive.
Where, then, should you start if you are one of those who is absolutely terrified of speaking up? With tiny steps to incrementally increase your courage and confidence a bit at a time. Start by taking up more space at the meeting table. Get your hands and elbows up on the table and spread out a bit. Stand or sit with your shoulders square, holding your torso and head proudly, and look around you instead of at your notebook. By physically taking up more space and behaving in a way that is alert and present, you’ll be sending a signal to other people and yourself that you have a place at that table and something to say. Then, when the opportunity to ask a question or contribute to the conversation comes up, look directly at the person you want to address and say your piece without apology. You only need to say one sentence, not a speech. Just say one thing. You can do this.
Taking up physical space is the equivalent of dipping your toes. It will boost your confidence. Speaking up without hesitation or apology and addressing the intended person by looking at them directly is putting your foot that much further into the water. Your confidence will grow. Do this again and again, every opportunity you get. If you feel overwhelm rushing in, stay quiet, but continue to take up physical space. Once the overwhelm subsides, give it another go. It might not seem like much, but it’s a great place to start.
Do you prefer to plunge in or dip your toes? Do you have a story about where you tried one method or the other? Leave a comment below and let’s talk!
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