The fear of public speaking is very real. I’ve covered the fear extensively over the past couple years and this year won’t be any different.
One significant reason that facing up to the fear (and eventually overcoming it) remains a hardcore adversity is a fierce internal critic. The inner judge varies in jerkishness from person to person, but in each of us one lives.
Is the fear of public speaking another way of saying the fear of what others will think about us? I believe so. Why else would we care if we made a mistake or not in front of others (an audience)?
And if not due to a worry about what the people in the audience would think about us, then what? Good question. Now your hamster is starting to turn the wheel. I like it.
Could it be a fear of what YOU (or your INTERNAL CRITIC) will do or say to you if you were to do something stupid in front of others? Intriguing.
Let’s face it, we are our own worst critics.
Here’s the reality…
Just to put it into perspective, according to a study done by Weight Watchers, women put themselves down at least 8 times a day. 46% of the women who participated in the study said that the first put-down came before 9:30 am!
As a recovering perfectionist, I would have taken a paltry 8 put-downs in a heartbeat compared to what I was treating myself to. The point being, it’s not just women who have a nasty inner-critic.
There's hope for us, though. No enemy is invincible.
What does putting yourself down do?
Unless you physically beat the crap out of yourself like Jim Carrey in Liar Liar, they’re just words right? So what’s the big deal?
Correct. They are just words. Maybe a few here, a few there, meh, no biggy, right? Wrong. They compound and they strengthen the more you use them.
I wrote about affirmations a while back, check it out here.
Early on when I first started in public speaking, I would tear myself a new asshole virtually every time I spoke. Any mistake, big or small, I’d take myself to town on it. It got to a point where I felt hopeless, that I obviously couldn’t do anything right and this speaking stuff was probably a waste of my time.
Beating myself up was actually the real waste of time. It just intensified my fear of public speaking and made the decision to do it the next time even harder.
The “Magic Ratio”
There was an interesting study done by a Dr. John Gottman who interviewed 700 newlywed couples.
For each of the couples, Gottman and his research team listened to a 15 minute conversation (topic was a marital conflict) between the husband and wife. After they examined the conversation, they made a prediction on whether or not that couple would stay together or ultimately get divorced.
10 years later they checked back with the couples and found that they had predicted divorce with a 94% success rate.
So, what was it about the conversation that allowed them to predict with such accuracy? It was what Gottman calls the "Magic Ratio."
The couples that stayed together had around a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions. On the other hand, of the divorced couples, the ratio was 0.8 to 1. That means, .8 positive to 1 negative.
Negative could be criticism, fights, arguing, snarky comments, etc. Positive could be affection, compliments, encouragement, etc.
Not a huge difference between positive and negative among the couples that ended in divorce, almost 1 to 1, but it illustrates that negatives seems to have a crap-ton more weight than positives and thus requires more positives to counteract the influential negatives.
What’s your current ratio?
Do you have the slightest idea of how many thoughts of doubt or put-downs you have in a single day?
Using the 5:1 ratio of positive to negative, how many positives would you need to counteract them?
How about this, every time you do something that would normally end in self-criticism, be ready to turn it into a positive instead. That’s how you can drown out your critic, with sheer volume of either encouragement or compliments.
For public speaking, each time you have an opportunity to speak, as soon as you sit back down, tell yourself something that you did well. When it comes to conquering the fear of public speaking, just getting up there is a major step toward winning. So why not compliment yourself on something as basic as standing face to face with an audience?
Get in the habit of encouraging yourself. It truly does get easier and soon you won’t need to fear your critic’s, well, criticism.
Give it a try and send your critic to the unemployment line.
Keep the "Magic Ratio" in mind and share this post!
About this guy...
Howdy! My name is Matt Kramer and I used to suffer excruciating death when speaking in front of a group, now I LOVE it. Overcoming this fear has changed my life and it can change yours, too. My focus is to help you overcome the fear of public speaking so you can build the confidence to go after what you want in life.