public speaking

Social Confidence and “Extrovert Skills”

“I used my extrovert skills.” “I had to learn some extrovert skills.” “Oh, well, I don’t have extrovert skills.” I hear these phrases all the time – and they drive me crazy.

When did the ability to be socially graceful or to display good manners become the sole province of one group of people, one temperament?


Good social behavior is within the reach of every human being, no matter how quiet or even shy you may be. As an introvert, you may need to protect yourself from too much stimulation, but you shouldn’t protect yourself from connecting with others.

The problem, many introverts assure me, is that it takes too much energy to relate to others. Well, anything you don’t know how to do well takes more effort and involves more stress. Swimming, running, public speaking, cooking a Thanksgiving turkey … the list is endless.

Here are a few simple reminders:

When meeting other people, look them in the eye at the same time you shake hands. (Don’t extend your hand and then glance over the other person’s shoulder as you say hello.) Use their name, too. According to Dale Carnegie, nothing is sweeter than the sound of your own name.

Give the other person a chance to shine. Even if you’re networking, don’t focus so hard on your elevator speech that you fail to draw out information about the other person. Listen intently and be appreciative. (This is an especially good tip if you don’t think you’re good at conversation. You don’t have to be. Become a great listener and you’ll get a reputation as a great conversationalist.)

Throw some positive bouquets. For example, we all err on the side of thinking that someone needs to do something extraordinary to be worthy of thanks or even praise, yet someone who consistently performs or behaves well, time after time, needs to be told how important this is in order to stay motivated.

These small affirmations can create long-lasting bonds. People may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you make them feel.

And protecting yourself from social interaction? A bad idea. According to a joint report from Carnegie Institute, Harvard University, and Stanford Research Institute, only 15% of success is due to your technical skills. A whopping 85% of your success is due to social skills! You spend years of hard work and tons of money acquiring degrees and expertise, and your only return is 15%? Well, no, employers tell me that those technical skills will insure that you keep the job; but the social skills are what get you in the door so that your expertise can be appreciated. Those social skills are well worth developing.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Introvert Nervousness – Friend or Foe?

“I’m now able to give a talk in public, but I’m still nervous. I guess I won’t ever get over it.” The speaker was a woman in one of my seminars, and the topic was introversion and public speaking. Her assumption was that because she was an introvert, nervousness was always there, ready to undermine her performance and her confidence, and she would never be free of that awful feeling. 


After she spoke, I reflected that, years ago, I returned to dance after taking a few years off to go to college. At my initial return performance, I was overwhelmed by fear that I would fail miserably and embarrassingly. As my partner and I got into the opening pose just before the curtain went up, I was dismayed to find that his hand, which I was holding, was shaking badly. Just before the curtain rose, he said to me quickly, “Remember, this is energy. Use it!”

 

The performance was brilliant.

 

Good – really good – performers have always known that the little thrill of anxiety they experience before a performance actually enhances what they do; to be completely calm is to become a little dull. That nervousness can produce a number of positive changes, including increased mental clarity, energy, and enthusiasm.

 

Recent research by Crum and Salovey (2013)* disclosed that the belief that stress is debilitating will undermine performance, confidence, and health, too. 

 

So would simply switching that mindset to one that tells you that nervousness will enhance your performance make all the difference in the world? Not necessarily, because first it is important to rehearse your performance thoroughly, so thoroughly that you have a set of well-learned skills on which to fall back; think of it as being on a kind of automatic pilot.

 

Then, as the performance unrolls, you can hear that little voice inside saying, “I think I can. I KNOW I can.”

 

Repeatedly performing the same skills under stress while believing in the performance-enhancing value of stress leads to better performance, increased confidence, and a greater overall sense of well-being.

 

And, by the way, nervousness over public speaking or any other kind of performance is not the exclusive experience of introverts; extroverts can feel it, too. Introverts sometimes fall into the trap of believing what they hear so much from society, that introversion is a kind of defect. 

 

No, pretty much everyone has the same experiences when it comes to something like public speaking. The same rules apply: learn, practice, tell yourself nervousness is an advantage – and grow.

*Crum, A., Salovey, P. & Achor, S. (2013).  Rethinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

A New Year, a New Life

January is the time of fresh starts, fresh ideas, and an urge to create a new, better life.Often, we start out with high hopes, only to sink by February 1 as if the balloon carrying our hopes had been punctured.We need a plan, a roadmap if you will, that we can follow, that will provide us with a vision, a plan, and benchmarks that help us say to ourselves, “Yes, I am moving towards what I desire.”

Here is my roadmap to creating a new, exciting life:

Calmness: Well-being is essential to calmness, the well-being that comes of being prepared to meet life. After all, if you were going to the Olympics, would you arrive sleep-deprived, stuffed with fattening, non-energy generating food, and expect to win a gold medal? Seriously?

And you will need calmness to proceed to the next step:

Clarity: A calm mind is essential to achieving clarity, and the ability to slow down, separate distraction from relaxation, and be alone with your thoughts is central to achieving clarity.

Meditation for an hour or so at a time is not necessary; clarity and calmness of mind can be achieved by becoming aware of the key points during your day when it is important to sit back, breathe, and think.

When switching tasks or moving from one environment to another (even from one room to another), train yourself to pause, let go of what you have just been doing or thinking, and reflect on what you will need for the next task or in the next environment.

Confidence: Not just a state of mind, confidence is a feeling that is associated with having a skill that meets the demands of the situation, and with knowing you have that skill. Peak performers in every area of life experience real stress before they perform. They rely on the automatic performance of well-practiced skills to see them through.

Whether your scary event is public speaking, ski jumping, forging terrific relationships, or selling your pet project, there is a plan that an expert has developed that can get you there.

Look for an expert who is willing to share step-by-step experience, not just hearty assurances that you are worthy or powerful. They’re out there, those experts.

Courage: Even with calmness, clarity, and confident skills, it can still feel a little frightening to push back at barriers. Believe it or not, courage too is a skill mastered by experts in risk-taking.
Truly brave people know that they will be anxious, and that they will suffer setbacks. A setback suggests that there is another path to get to where you want to go; failure suggests finality.The brave set out anyway, using the occasion of a setback to sit back, reflect, and find another way.Creation: Life is not just about rushing towards one goal; it is about reaching a goal only to have another one appear. This second goal will require you go through the same steps, in the same sequence: cultivate calmness, achieve clarity, master confident skills, and be brave enough to take the small risks to get you there.

Whatever your personal goal for 2014 – increased exercise, decreased weight, better organization of clutter, more recognition of your abilities – having a roadmap will keep you on track to get there.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Make It Easy On Yourself

Make it easy on yourself:

Have you ever been caught in a race that never ends:  one in which the big prize at the end is as far out of reach as it is when you started, and the small rewards along the way that might sustain you  have gotten to be scarcer and scarcer?  Perhaps the big prize no longer seems enticing, or even appropriate, but you’ve been so busy you haven’t even noticed its allure fading.

Everybody experiences this at some time.  Why do we keep chugging along, like an overloaded train when the steam has dissipated. Our heads are filled with fine phrases, such as “Persistence pays off” or “Success comes the day after you give up” or the short but harsh, “No excuses.”  The implication is that someone who doesn’t heed these warnings somehow doesn’t have the right stuff to  — well, to do what?

I think these experiences occur  because we have confused a goal with the various paths to that goal, some of which become dead-ends.

I faced this when, as a dancer, I realized I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) live my entire life engaged in strenuous and increasingly painful physical activity that wasn’t bringing me the quality of life I desired.  The intrinsic reward, the joy of dancing, was diminishing year by year, but the home, warm relationship, leisure, and other creative activities I wanted seemed to be getting farther and farther away.

Yes, there was grieving when I quit.  But I also found that the time and energy I had put into dancing became enough time and energy for so many delightful activities I had delayed: first,  ballroom dancing, then ice skating, travel and  language study, music, and eventually, writing and public speaking.  To my surprise, my initial goal, to use my delight and passion to move other people through my performance never went away.  I had just found different roads to get there.

A student of mine once was devastated because her grades had dropped so far she believed she would never get into law school.  We explored why that was so devastating; what would happen if she didn’t get into law school?  She broke down and wept, “Then I can never be happy.”

I had to persuade her that getting a law degree wasn’t a goal; there are many reasons why people want a law degree, including (but not limited to) a desire for a high income, prestige, a stepping stone into politics, or the need to seek justice for the weaker members of society. These are goals; the law degree was the path she had selected.

In her case, the desire to fulfill her parents’ dreams for her had been fueling her ambition – until the fuel ran out. She couldn’t do it anymore. A conversation with her parents led to a switch to a career in lab science, where she happily analyzes data, freed from the need to be bold and assertive.

If you have furnished your dream in too great detail, including the pathway to the door of that dream, you may have locked yourself into a rigid pattern that not only isn’t bringing you happiness, but may even be retarding your efforts to realize your dream.

Stop beating yourself up and asking why you can’t seem to stick to the work load.

Don’t be afraid to back off and say, “This isn’t working for me.”  Don’t let anyone convince you that you haven’t the “right stuff” to succeed if you won’t sacrifice your mental and physical well-being in pursuit of that goal.

Take the time to explore what your heart desires. Jettison any activities (and people) who don’t support you in that quest

Just don’t call it quitting.  You’ll know you have found your true goal when the energy starts to flow, making activity irresistible.   Don’t call it quitting; call it redirecting your energy.

The Confident Introvert

“What are they afraid of?” my department manager used to ask after meetings in which a number of department members sat, silent and resentful, while he was unaware that his habit of springing surprise agenda items and asking for an immediate decision was very upsetting to these talented, educated introverts. Understanding, appreciating and utilizing the skills of introversion are foreign ideas to some – even to introverts. Now you can read about it in
The Confident Introvert.
Order now at http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com

Are you bothered by public speaking?

Personal note

Last Saturday was my first ever “Confident Introvert” seminar, and I’m still pleased, proud, and a little exhausted from that event.

Like many opening nights, it was successful, but with small glitches: people having difficulty registering, a Power Point program that worked superbly up until the time the webinar actually started, and a telephone system that acted up half-way through the seminar.

Why didn’t it bother me?

Well, I come from a theater background, where you know anything can happen at the last minute. You prepare a wonderful program, and a piece of scenery falls down, or the sound system decides to misbehave, or anything, really, and suddenly you have to improvise. You rehearse well, learn to roll with the punches and practice what a friend of mine used to call “The art of instant self-forgiveness.”

That’s what prompted this week’s article.

Are you bothered by public speaking?

Your work or life may require speaking in public. Some people think of public speaking as delivering a talk to a large audience; others think that two or more people constitute a large enough audience to be intim14039343_sidating.

Are you one of the rare people who is frightened of public speaking? Note the use of sarcasm here: actually public speaking has long been the #1 fear in the United States, just ahead of nuclear warfare. You are most emphatically not alone.

It’s just that people who have this fear seem to feel so very alone, as if everyone else is blasé about it, and only the victim feels somehow publicly naked and ashamed, sure that everyone else is seeing that fear.

So you need to know that just about everyone who performs in any sphere – speaking, music, dance, acting – is scared to death.

One famous artist I can think of regularly faints before going on stage; another vomits. Yet they both go out and deliver superb performances.

I personally wake up the day of a big talk feeling a little as if I were going to my execution. Yet as the day wears on, I become more and more energized and excited, and finally end up, always, loving the very act of speaking.

So what distinguishes stalwart performers from the chickens?

As the New Yorker said to the tourist, who asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” – practice, practice, practice.

You can’t think through a talk and expect to deliver it with ease. You cannot perform any skill in public that you have not practiced in the exact form in which you expect to deliver it. No one would think to compete in the Olympics by thinking through their skill, suiting up at the last minute, and then trying it out live for the first time.

If you’re going to speak, you need to open your mouth and learn to project your voice. 

Ideally, your practice should not only be live, but you should replicate the environment of your talk as closely as possible. What will you be wearing? What props will you use, including microphones? What size room will you be in; a large room to which you are unaccustomed can be intimidating.

Find a room – in your church or your school perhaps? – that will resemble your upcoming venue. If you can assemble a small audience of friends or supporters who will give you feedback (important information, kindly delivered) not criticism (blaming and shaming), so much the better. If not, use a recording device to hear how your voice sounds and if you need to adjust the volume.

What if your venue is simply a networking meeting, at which you must get up, introduce yourself, and deliver your elevator speech? Same model – practice, practice, practice.

For example, vary your distance from the recorder to see how much volume your voice needs to carry across difference spaces. You could say, “I am (name) and I am six feet from the recorder.” Then say a few more words. Then try it again at a different distance. This will give you a good idea of how to control your sound, and relieve that embarrassing feeling that you either sound too soft and timid, or that your voice has suddenly boomed out embarrassingly loud.

Don’t expect one practice session to produce results so superb that you never worry again. After all, if performers who earn $50,000 per concert still have to practice, why shouldn’t you? Step up to the practice; don’t let anyone else star in your very own Carnegie Hall.

The Confident Introvert

“I used to be an introvert – but I got over it.” I hear this a lot when I go out in public and talk about my new book and program. It’s a little like saying, “I used to have blue eyes – but I got over it.” Or, worse yet, “I used to be introspective and richly imaginative – but I got over it.”

Often the person who has offered this observation then gets up to speak, and leaks insecurity in tiny ways, declaring subtly that there is internal discomfort.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Our extroverted culture has made us overlook the valuable contributions of introverts. Discover your inner richness, strengthen your pride in it, then learn to express it openly and safely.

Read The Confident Introvert, then sign up for the programs of the same name.  For information and to purchase, go to http://www.ConfidentIntrovert.com.

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Lynette is a member of MVP Seminars. Visit her at www.MVPSeminars.com

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