Do you tremble when it’s your turn to talk? Do you avoid public speaking at all costs? And do you feel like that fear is holding you back? I sure did. Here I share my story of leaving my comfort zone and finding my voice.
Sometimes, when we speak, we aren’t communicating effectively. Furthermore, if you are like I was, Speaking could be a big source of discomfort, insecurity, stress, and confusion.
Seeking Comfort by Ceding the Floor
For years, I struggled with my voice, my communication skills, and having confidence in what I said. I felt challenged even to be heard and express myself, so I defaulted to not speaking up for myself—or not speaking at all.
I became comfortable listening, and I developed personal tricks to cede the floor to someone else so that I wouldn’t have the responsibility to carry the conversation. My comfort was being in the supportive role of asking questions, reacting, and listening. This was a cover for my lack of confidence, assertiveness, and effective communication skills.
In this series, building effective ways of being is just as important as addressing what doesn’t serve us. And, in my opinion, the top two life skills that help to navigate life are (1) effective listening skills and (2) Effective Speaking Skills.
It is not easy to expand our skill set, but it is definitely possible. And well worth it. The goal is to gain comfort in self by gaining mastery of these life skills. Here I aim to share some tips that helped me to gain confidence, assertiveness, and finally, my voice.
From Getting Side-Eye to Taking Center Stage
First off, as it has been repeatedly said, awareness is key. My insecurity, doubt, and sensitivity made me fully aware of my inadequate communication skills, but I didn’t do anything to improve them until my focus shifted to making positive change. Once I was aware of the possibility of positive change, I sought to better my communication skills. My goal was to be free of my fear of speaking, since it was holding me back. Taking this on meant also taking on the dreaded public speaking.
I was such an unskilled, bad public speaker, I would tremble—I avoided speaking in public whenever possible. I’m going to be honest . . . overcoming this fear was a lot of work: taking risks, leaving my comfort zone, and making sure to practice, practice, practice. I built new, effective speaking skills and reframed my thinking to replace everything that wasn’t working for me. It was a total trial-and-error process, so I had to endure learning the hard way what didn’t work for me. What did this entail? Bombing, debacles, and a lot of side-eye. Surprisingly, that was the best part of this growth. In finding ways to express myself, meet my needs, and have my say, I also became very comfortable with things not going my way. I still got side-eye if someone didn’t like what I said—we can’t please everyone all of the time.
As with all positive change, it really takes commitment and determination to stay the course, get the results, and achieve success. As long as you commit to overcoming any obstacles to reaching your goal, it is only a matter of time until you do. If you want to be more comfortable expressing yourself, stay determined until you achieve it. This is a process of growth, not something to be zipped through.
Facing Fear and Finding Your Voice
I found that working on my assertiveness helped with my voice. Specifically, using my voice to meet my needs became the driving force of my communication skills. A lot of times, we end up angry, frustrated, annoyed, bothered, and so on, instead of opening our mouths and expressing our needs. Getting in the practice of speaking up helped me to solve problems and divert emotional upset. Also, on the topic of avoiding emotional upset, what we say is just as important as how we say it.
Insulting, cursing, name-calling, and saying hurtful or disrespectful things is not helpful if your goal is to communicate effectively. As tempting—or perhaps even involuntary and out of control—as it might be to speak this way, in my mind, using effective communication skills means that we are making the situation better, not worse. And it is true what they say, taking the high road and maintaining respect with your words will always benefit you most; reacting with disrespectful or hurtful words will always backfire and make things worse for you. Don’t we know that?
Take the time to make the effort; do the work to get the benefit. There are tons of resources, books, and information, for us to build any skill for which we lack confidence or want to improve. To improve my speaking skills, I went to my local Toastmasters organization and moved through its program, and even beyond. I completed 20 speeches over the course of my attendance, and what I found was that getting over my fear of public speaking really helped me to get over my fear of speaking in general.
Wherever there is fear, there is opportunity for growth. When we don’t stay in the fear, we can attain freedom from it. This is what I call freedom and happiness, which is what you gain when you master effective communication skills and find your voice.
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