It’s OK to be nervous before giving a speech or when you’re entering an important round of negotiations. Feeling pressure is one thing but allowing it to morph into stress and tension is another.
When you allow this to happen, in a sense, you’re giving away your personal power, which inhibits your performance.
“Some of the most prominent patterns in the landscape of modern life are tension, stress and self-absorption,” says Eric Stone, a leading expert in how to improve communication with others, public speaking and performance.
“All aspects of public speaking, communication and performance are affected by negative tension and its two compadres,” he acknowledges. “Conversely, positive aspects of tension, stress and self-absorption do exist. Studying for an exam, performing in front of a large crowd, high-stake activities, giving birth, etc.”
Mr. Stone, a former New York City stage and television actor, operates Speakers and Artists International, Inc. (www.publicspeakingconnection.com) in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Dangers of self-absorption
“Self-absorption is the constant influx of thoughts of the same quality or theme but that are left unchecked and unobserved; it can be a quasi-permanent or chronic focus on specific situations or scenarios where the main character usually is, well, ourselves,” he says.
“According to numerous case studies, self-absorption or self-preoccupation is one of the leading causes of what can be called negative stress,” Mr. Stone points out. “In various frequencies, risk factors include anxiety, fear, nervousness, hyperactivity, irritability, helplessness, difficulty sleeping, hopelessness, fear or anger, blame, as well as cynicism or distrust of others.”
Tension from failure to listen
“We become negatively tense when we stop listening to how we really feel in our bodies. We lose our ‘witness consciousness,’” he asserts.
“Problem solving is deeply affected by tension,” adds Mr. Stone. “In my experience, tension is in essence a refusal or a resistance to trusting how we feel within the moment at-hand and distrusting the natural physical-emotional flow of our experience (sensations, feelings, thoughts, insights, etc.).”
Consequences of tension
“Negative tension breeds self-consciousness, righteousness, worry, insecurity, hyperactivity, uptightness, melancholy, anxiety, attention deficit, depression, sadness, paranoia, etc.,” he observes. “Part of being cultured and ‘fitting in’ is to display an impressive array of quite clever personal, professional and social disguises or role-played attitudes to hide our negative tension.”
“Negative tension resides and expresses itself as physical pressure in the body, emotional pressure in the heart, and/or mental pressure in the mind,” Mr. Stone adds. “Part of the battle to relieving stress and tension is to become aware of it ‘in the body.’”
He says relaxation and tension release must start in the body.
“It clears the way for new dimensions and offers considerable creative advantages in matters of communication, public speaking and performing,” he says.
“Relaxation that begins in the mind is a watching exercise,” concludes the expert. “We watch the mind but the anchoring occurs in the body starting in the breath.”
So it starts with breathing. Hmm, the LaMaze technique comes to mind.
You don’t have to become a student of the method developed French obstetrician Dr. Fernand Lamaze in the 1940s. But if you focus on your body’s breathing and movement, you’ll start training yourself to stop stressing in communication.
From the Coach’s Corner, here are key points for speech-making:
Public Speaking Tips – for Speeches in Accepting Awards, Honors — So you’re about to be honored for your pro bono work, volunteerism, or for creating a foundation to fund scholarships for education. But you get stage fright or don’t know how to most-effectively frame your acceptance speech?
How to Get More Opportunities as a Guest Speaker — Strategic consultant to technology and media graciously shares her recommendations on how to be invited to speak at events for your niche industry.
How to Obtain the Most Profit from Speaking Opportunities — A strategic consultant to technology and media shares her secrets to making the most of your opportunities from a speaking event.
9 Tips to Connect with People after You Make Your Speech — Typically, in making a speech at a public forum, businesspeople hope to get a return on their investment — here’s how you can get a strong ROI.
“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.”