Self-Conscious And Loving It!

Finding Yourself Out the Front of Your Life

Recently I asked a friend for feedback on an aspect of my behaviour. I badgered her. She deflected. I badgered again. She gave in and chose her words with care. And horror of horrors I did not like what I heard. I reckon I did a pretty good job of appearing nonchalant. On the inside however I was reeling. Rapidly re-evaluating my entire life from this new perspective, I shifted from disbelief, anger, denial and sadness in 30 seconds. Then I stuffed myself with cheese and crackers.

What I noticed over the next few weeks was how self-conscious I felt. I wondered if everyone I’d ever met saw this flaw and judged me accordingly. Ha! I thought. This explains a lot. I suspected I had a problem. Here is the proof!

The problem gained epic proportion while I shrunk and fell through a hole in the floor.

Not So Special

Feeling self-conscious is being aware of yourself, as yourself. It’s a good thing. Means you are alive and you have the conscious awareness to know it! Self-consciousness allows you to perceive your similarity and difference to everyone else.

So yes, you are special and no, you are not so special. We all have an inner tension between wanting to fit in and wanting to stand out from the crowd. You see this tension played out on social media. And sometimes you feel it first hand when you are up there speaking in public. You up there, them down there.

I’ve briefly defined self-consciousness. But what about how it feels? The pain, the loneliness, the rejection? The dredging of all that old stuff you thought you’d successfully buried? And bugger it but there it all is, back on public display, reflected in the pitying eyes of your listeners.

But is it pity? Or is it relief that it’s you, not them, up there? Could it be admiration, that you are doing something they could not? Or, might they be thinking about dinner, and not you at all?

Safety Versus Risk

When you speak in front of others you do stand out from the crowd. And there is risk in being rejected for standing out. Finding your peace and place within this balance is the mysterious realm in which I work with my clients.

When you speak to a group, you visibly and energetically set yourself apart from the herd. Speaking up requires courage. The courage to show yourself to others. When people listen to you speak, they want to hear, you. Not a perfect cardboard cut-out. Not a series of excuses. You.

Embrace Wabi-Sabi

I love the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi. It means “beauty is in the imperfection.” Doncha reckon there’s our Permission Card right there? Flaws are beautiful! Ergo, we are all beautiful! There is nothing more boring than perfection.

People relate to flaws, not to perfection. We love to witness transformation; it gives us the courage to pursue our own. We watch people take risks, stick their heads above the parapet and wait with baited breath – will they rise to the challenge? And what can we learn from their mistakes and successes?

Self-consciousness is our opportunity to mature, learn, expand. It’s OK to be fearful, but not OK to stay stuck forever, clinging to an outdated notion of how you wanted things to be.

The Spotlight Effect

Positive Psychology describes the Spotlight Effect as the belief that others are always looking and judging us. As if we are the centre of their universe… because we are the centre of ours. Feeling self-conscious blossoms with such fertile imaginings. You can read more in my related Blog article “The Spotlight Effect is On You.” The Spotlight Effect clues us in as to how to love the opportunity of feeling self-conscious by learning from it, rather than shrink with fear and shame.

The Self-Conscious Seagull Flies Again

When I crawled off to lick my wounds, I really invested in feeling sorry for myself. I could be my own 10-part mini-series. Pride. Drama. Pain. And finally, seeing myself on A Hero’s Journey, triumphing over the perils of self-consciousness to emerge an older, wiser and infinitely more attractive human.

This could go on and on or we could cut to the chase with a story that doesn’t involve so much gut wrenching drama. Or copious cheese and crackers.

I emerged from my hole after a few weeks and realised:

  • Much of what my friend said is true. I needed a hefty dollop of self-acceptance for my quirky behaviours. They can’t really be changed. And they make me unique. I like unique.
  • If you ask for feedback, you have to be prepared to hear it. Suck it up princess!
  • Good old Gratitude… works every time to appreciate what I’ve got, rather than what I haven’t.

A Work In Progress

Am I going to divulge my friend’s feedback to you since you’ve so patiently read to the end of this article?

No way!

Just because you share a personal story doesn’t mean you have to strip your soul bare. You don’t have to expose everything. Just the bits you are ready to.

When it’s your turn to be out the front, whether for 5 minutes or for 5 days, breathe in and connect to your purpose in making a difference when you speak. We really are Works in Progress. And I know I’m not alone in wanting to hear and see the real you. To admire your unique beauty, imperfections, quirks and all.

(c) 2018, Geraldine Barkworth, All Rights Reserved. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

Introverts: Turn Quiet To Your Advantage

Public Speaking Isn’t Just For Extroverts

It’s horrible being labeled by others and even worse when you’ve self-limited by your own hand. Learn to tap into your natural strengths as either introvert, extrovert or ambivert and feel at your best, no matter the situation.

Introvert, Extrovert & Ambivert Mini Quiz
Do you prefer open plan offices or your own space? Prefer 1 to 1’s or parties? Do you enjoy team brainstorming to solve problems or prefer to nut it out on your own and in your time? Do you gain energy being around people and high stimulation or do you feel nourished by quiet reflective, low stimulation time? Or do you enjoy both?

And just out of interest, what did you assume about the lion-cat image for this story? Is the timid pussy overwhelmed by the powerful, outgoing lion, or do pussies harbour a lion inside and should not be underestimated? Or something else?

Introverts
Introverts thrive with lots of solitary time to nourish and nurture their ideas and creativity. They prefer low stimulation environments – private, quiet, calm, natural. They often find large groups loud and tiring. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people often fear social interaction. Introverts prefer their own space rather than being fearful of sharing it. They tend to be more methodical, detailed and slower to answer questions… because they are thinking about it.

Extroverts
Extroverts thrive with social interaction and may feel bored when alone for too long. They are often seen as talkative, assertive and enthusiastic. They seek high stimulation environments – noise, interaction, rapid change and may think, talk and jump on board new ideas quickly.

Ambiverts
I’ll just say a little something here about people who feel confused by having both introvert and extrovert qualities. Instead of suspecting you lack integrity or worry about “who am I really?” I suggest you see the advantages.

For instance, being able to experience introversion and extroversion yourself, gives you greater insight and sensitivity in working with people. And a terrific understanding of how to prepare information in a range of formats for people of all persuasions to understand. Do however, respect your needs for down-time and up-time, favouring neither and enjoying both.

“Quiet”, by Susan Cain
According to my recent reading and subsequent book review of “Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Won’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain, and you can watch the TED Talk, there isn’t a spectrum, rather a cross over of individual personality traits often dictated by your situation or environment.

For instance, you can be a “shy or anxious extrovert” or an “outgoing or socially confident introvert”. I was surprised to discover I am an introvert who acts as an extrovert when necessary. So while I love delivering workshops (professional environment), I look forward to snuggling by myself with a book in a quiet nook (personal environment).

If Only We Could Bottle Authenticity
One thing I have learned is the more comfortable you are in your own skin, the more authentic you are. And authenticity brings peace and confidence within and inspires trust and rapport with others.

Obviously, authenticity is also very useful for speaking with ease in front of groups regardless of whether you consider yourself more of an introvert or extrovert. Damn those labels. Be “true to your weird self.”

Introverts – Tap Into Your Quiet Strengths
As a public speaking coach for the last 12 years, I have observed that it is the quiet, understated humble types who consistently emerge as the charismatic speakers. You can hear a pin drop when they speak. Introverts surprise themselves at the power and impact of their carefully chosen words, imbued with meaning and feeling. And when others give them a chance, our quieter brethren offer us all a gentle breathing space to reflect and be inspired. If you believe you are more introverted:

  • Use your powerful listening skills to signal you hear and understand your group. The best speakers are the best listeners. Everyone deeply wants to feel heard, use listening to your advantage.
  • Introverts are often deep thinkers, creative, persistent, methodical – think artists, scientists, IT innovators. If your personal style to is to be more thoughtful and detailed and different to mainstream, use it for the occasions when it will be appreciated. Learn to not overthink the “the 30 second self intro.”
  • Introverts often confess to me they are scared of Q & A and cannot think and speak well on their feet. Never fear, there are many ways of turning this situation to your advantage, but first you must see it as an opportunity and remain true to yourself.

Extroverts – Tap Into Your Outgoing Energy
Working with extroverts is often a quick and exciting process as they grab whatever I offer with both hands and apply it before I finish speaking! I find extroverts often need to learn restraint and boundaries; knowing when to step in and when to step away and understand that giving too much can be overwhelming and people just switch off. If you believe you are more extroverted:

  • Slow down (at least between sentences and ideas) so that people have time to digest and reflect your ideas. With your bountiful outgoing energy, many gems will be lost in the whitewash unless you prioritise and be very clear about any steps you recommend.
  • Positive, upbeat energy is great for unifying and lifting the group but has short term impact. It’s best used for entrances and signifying direction and tempo changes. If you are giving a longer presentation, watch you don’t wear yourself and your listeners out by an unsustainable, fast paced monologue. Monologues create disconnection (because you are not “listening” to them) and a power imbalance. Disempowered people will not listen to you.
  • Become a better listener to non verbal communication and a keen observer of body language. Both will keep you on track to ensure your group are still willing to go along for the ride with you. Remember that everyone is not the same as you and people process information at faster and slower rates. Prepare your presentation to accommodate all types of people.

How To Cater Equally To Introverts & Extroverts
If you manage staff, speak often to groups or have several children, here’s several tips to ensure you cater to the needs of introverts and extroverts – without using labels on them of course!

  • In an office or communal space, create a mix of open plan and private nooks. Let people gravitate to where they are most comfortable and will do their best work.
  • When presenting to groups, especially workshops, ensure you create a mix of individual reflective exercises, small group and large group activities with emphasis on everyone having a chance to be heard – not just the ones with the loudest voices.
  • Ask people in your care how they best learn and format your information and training accordingly.

Riches For All
Introverts, extroverts and everyone in between, enrich society, shaping the yin / yang balance of humanity. Without the people who come up with great ideas, and the others who confidently sell them, there would be no great ideas at all. Just wistful dreams and a whole lot of bland sameness.

(c) 2016 Geraldine Barkworth, public speaking coach. This article or review is the author’s opinion only. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

Shy People And Parties Survival Guide

Cheese Is A Terrific Starting Point

Many people find it difficult to “just be themselves”, especially shy people at parties. Remember that feeling when you first walk through the door, confronted by a sea of unknown faces or backs? Should you stick around or should you run? Parties can bring up fear of being separate or rejected by the group. Similar fears surface when public speaking.

Basically, when self consciousness looms, people shrink with fear and disappear, or pump themselves up with a flashy veneer.

At parties, it’s frequently a case of one human shield meeting another human shield – no wonder it’s difficult to connect meaningfully with the room awash with air kisses.

Trust & Rapport
Recently I attended a women’s’ “drinks & nibbles”. (Yes, the dreaded “After Hours Networking” – see the related article “Un-Networking For Shy People”.)

The guest speaker was a funeral director and she explained the process of building trust and rapport with someone you’ve never met before. Her process can also be applied to creating heart to heart connections at a party.

Level 1:  Surface chitchat about the party…Head nodding acknowledgement.
Level 2:  Basic information exchange…Name, connection to host.
Level 3:  Offering of safe opinions… Scanning for similarities.  Longer eye contact.
Level 4:  Exchange of appropriate personal thoughts…Standing closer, feeling safer.
Level 5:  Opening up & sharing honest feelings…Authentic Connection.

If your party experience traditionally stays between Levels 1 and 3, then you miss the opportunity to “show yourself” and so does the other person. Self consciousness keeps you in its’ grip and it’s purpose is to keep you feeling safe. Whether you need it or not.

And hey hey hey! If you get to Level 5, you can consider yourself someone who just got comfortable with being themselves at a party, or at least, with one new person. Shy people and parties, who would have thought?

Dropping The Mask
Most of us hide behind a façade at some point. We do this because we don’t feel safe enough to be ourselves. We fear judgement, rejection or loss. Parties and public speaking can trigger a lot of fear! Here’s a quote from a client of mine who sums it up:

“  I can see now that speakers who rely on putting up a mask, rob their audience of the authentic experience of being with them. “ Elise Wynyard, Art Therapist

And so it is at parties. When you wear a mask, you rob people meeting the real you. I am not recommending you drop your guard and expose yourself to the whole wide world this afternoon.

I am recommending you try this technique next time you feel uncomfortable at a party, or when public speaking:

•    Take a slow, deep breath and feel your feet on the floor.
•    Take all the time you need to slow down, make soft eye contact.
•    If you feel like it, introduce yourself to someone who willingly offers eye contact.
•    Pause, smile, and allow space for words to arise naturally. And they will.
•    If someone appears impatient and moves on because you didn’t enthral them within thirty seconds, let them go; you were never going to feel safe enough to open up and connect with this person anyway.

After The Party, Ask Yourself:
•    Is it more satisfying to have connected authentically with one real person, or
•    Is it more satisfying to have ten superficial conversations about the cheese?

It is not my intention to deride conversations about cheese. Cheese is a terrific starting point. The key is to find that starting point, a place of connection with another person. One real person, meets another real person and hey presto, you can be yourself, even as one of the shy people at parties.

© 2013, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

Un-Networking For Shy People

Un-Networking

Un-Networking is brilliant for shy people. It is the art of being genuinely interested in meeting new people with no expectations of selling them something.

I developed an early horror of cheese and chardonnay networking events, filled with drunken blokes with no home to go to, but a hellava lot of business cards to press sweatily into any willing palm.

Needless to say, I missed opportunities to expand and avoided “After Hours Networking” for years, until I created the concept of “un-networking”.

Step 1: Identify possible valuable benefits to attending the After Hours Event.
Yes, Possible Benefits:                                                                                
•    I need new clients and new ideas.
•    I could learn something from the speaker.
•    The cheese chunks are more nutritious than anything I’ve got at home.  

No Perceivable Benefits:
•    So don’t go.

Step 2: If “YES, Possible Benefits”
Proceed with an open heart to the After Hours Event. Be aware of the Possible Benefit to you and then let go of the expectation that you will receive it. Yes, I know, that’s the tricky bit. But if it were easy, we’d all be sitting on top of a fluffy cloud with lots of dark chocolate.

Step 3: How To Let Go Of Expectations Script
(Say to yourself) “… My purpose in attending this event is because I need…(fill in the Benefit you are after.) However, the outcome, whatever it may be, is beyond my control. So I’m just going to show up, be myself and see what happens. And I can choose to leave whenever I want.”

Step 4: How To Be Yourself
Trickier than it sounds for our self-conscious, time-poor western society. This is an affliction affecting up to 50% of the population. Read the related article: “The Shy Person’s Guide To Party Survival”.

Step 5: Your Arrival
Take a deep breath, ground yourself and look around. Where is there movement and energy? Where are the awkward places? And most importantly, where is the food? Walk determinedly in your chosen direction. Frequently the best place for meaningful connection with new people is in the kitchen or by the carrot sticks.

Step 6: The Business Card Swapping Ceremony – Do’s & Don’ts
Do try either of these:
1.    Upon initial introduction, immediately offer your card. Politely ask if you may receive one of theirs in return. The beauty of this ceremony is that it immediately generates conversation – “Oh that‘s an interesting business logo, what’s the story behind it?” and so on. It also means you won’t forget peoples’ names thirty seconds after they’ve just told you.

2.    If after chatting for a while, you decide that this is a person you’d like to get to know, as a buyer, seller or friend, either offer one of your cards or ask if you can have one of their cards. Generally, if you accept someone’s card, I believe it is good manners to offer one of your own. This creates a balance of mutual giving and receiving.

Do not try either of these:
1.    Simply “plonk” your card in front of people to whom you are not currently conversing and then buzz off, distributing them like poison pollen.

2.    Accept a card and immediately stuff it in your bag without looking at it. The Japanese believe the card personally represents you and as such, should be treated with the appearance of respect. Many of us feel the same way.

Step 7: Make New Friends, Connections And Business:
After all that effort to attend the After Hours Event, cocktail party, business breakfast or general smoozing, you might as well take it all the way. Write where and when you met the person on their card. If you enjoyed talking and made an offer, such as sending them some information, then phone or email them within 24 hours or so.

Frequently, your thoughtful and genuine follow up email or phone call makes Un-Networking very worthwhile. You just never know what interesting opportunities, ideas and people are out there.

But if you never go, you’ll never know.

© 2013, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

Public Speaking Tips For Shy People

You don’t have to be a “natural” talker to be good at public speaking. Often it is the shy silent types who turn out to be the powerhouse presenters.

I regularly work with shy or taciturn people who are inclined to silence and avoid public speaking and unnecessary conversation – but not because they are scared of it. They come to me because they want to maintain their natural style and ensure their message is effective. Let’s face it – in our society there are times when you must speak up and out, especially in your career and if you want to stay in it. Communication is one of the most highly prized people skills.

I define “public speaking” as “whenever you have a conversation with anyone other than yourself, you are, “public speaking.” So, face to face, phone, verbose or taciturn, whenever you speak with someone you are in fact, speaking in public. We all benefit from improving our people skills, no matter your personal communication style. You can either watch this short video or continue reading below, my 4 speaking tips for the naturally taciturn:

1. Short & Sweet
Accept that your honed message is good enough. People do appreciate short and sweet as a breath of fresh air to the endless drivel of fluffy verbiage. Listen to feedback to find out if listeners want more from you and if so, put the next 3 tips into action…

2. Great Structure
To ensure you have spoken effectively and not missed any vital links between points, use a talk structure which acts as a foundation for your  whole message. I use the structure of: Problem, Impact, Solution and Action.

3. Invite Questions
Always invite questions at the end or throughout  a longer presentation to ensure you have satisfied your listeners need to know:

  • “I’d be happy to take questions now; are there any?”
  • “Would you like more detail on any aspect?”
  • “Is anything not clear?”

Actually, answering questions is a great way for the naturally taciturn and those who prefer speaking off the cuff, to speak in public without preparing a ginormous presentation. It can also be a delight for the audience as they get the exact answers they want, rather than having to sift through detail.

4. Gestures & Props
A simple way to dramatically increase impact and effectiveness is to use gestures and props during your presentation. This requires forethought but the rewards are great.

Gestures – use your whole body, hands and face to speak for you. If you talk about moving to the centre of a room, then physically move to the centre. If you describe something as “amazing”, show ‘amazing” with your whole body.

Props – a “prop” is a physical item that accompanies and enhances your talk. It includes powerpoint projections, music, products and stuff like boa feathers. Even if your talk is about a new Procedure Manual, take it along and wave it around. Audiences love to learn through seeing, touching and doing as well as hearing. The more interactive and practical, the more interesting and effective your presentations. Props also act as a memory prompt rather than having to rely on notes.

You will speak with greater ease and authority and when you use less words and create more action. Why not show a naturally taciturn or shy speaker this article if you know they have something that needs to be heard?

© 2012, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au