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  • Bruce Rule

To Become Better at Public Speaking You Must Be Kind to Yourself

This is the third idea I want to make sure you understand right up front if you want to become a more effective communicator. The first two ideas can be found here and here. If you keep these three thoughts in mind, you will not only improve your public speaking. You will improve almost every aspect of your life.


"If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid." --Epictetus, Greek philosopher


No one likes to be thought of as foolish or stupid, of course. People simply don’t like to embarrass themselves.


But understand that becoming a good public speaker can be a long and difficult process. And it is intimidating to learn to be a good speaker because, well, it is so public. The unfortunate truth is that you can only improve so much when practicing by yourself in front of a mirror. At some point you have to get in front of other people who will be staring right at you, waiting to hear what you have to say. And that can be scary, especially if you are at the start of your journey.


Also, it can be embarrassing to show others that we aren’t good at something. It seems like this is especially true when we are adults and we want to make a good impression. We want others to see us as competent and cool, not foolish or stupid.


And yet, to become better, you will have to put yourself out there. You will have to take the chance of looking foolish.


That is why the third idea that I want you to keep in mind on your journey to becoming a good public speaker is: Be kind to yourself.


Remember, you deserve credit being willing to put yourself out there in a way that you think might make you look a bit foolish.

That is why it is important for you to understand that what you are doing is difficult. Public speaking, remember, is something that a lot of people are scared to do. In fact, a lot of people say it is their No. 1 anxiety.


So keep that in mind every time you stand up in public.


Remember, your audience actually is rooting for you. They want you to succeed. They want you to do well. Think about it. Have you ever been in the audience when someone else got up to make a presentation and thought, I hope this speaker sucks? I hope he’s boring? I’m going to look for any mistake he makes?


Almost certainly not. So trust me when I say the people who will be your audience are on your side.


If you stumble over a word, or lose your train of thought for a moment, don’t get down. Instead, be kind to yourself and just move on.


The audience won’t make much of a small mistake on your part, unless you do. They will forget it almost immediately, unless you call it to their attention by making a big deal out of it.


The plain fact is most of your audience will probably be thinking about something other than your performance when you are speaking. Sad but true. They may be listening for the content to see how it is applicable to their job, if it is a business presentation, or their lives, if you are speaking outside work. But it is rare for someone to sit in an audience and actually critique how a speaker is doing. 


So don’t be so hard on yourself when you speak. Yes, pay attention to where you could have done better and work to improve those things. But don’t get so down on yourself that you feel it is hopeless or that you can’t see straight enough to determine what you are doing well. Force yourself to be clear minded in what works and what you need to improve.


Focus on what you are attempting to do – get better at public speaking. You are doing what a lot of people are scared to do.


So be kind to yourself. You’ll improve faster.  

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