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  • Bruce Rule

To Become Good at Public Speaking You Must Ignore Your Inner Critic

Is this you?

You are feeling fine on the Zoom call or in the meeting until you are called upon to talk.

At that point you tense up. Your whole body clenches inside and you break out in a sweat. Your mind is so focused on your body’s reaction you have a hard time concentrating on what you want to say.

It flashes through your mind that everyone is looking at you, and you panic even more because you are sure they can see how upset you feel inside.

What makes it even worse? Our inner critic.

You know who I am referring to. It’s that voice in your mind that is constantly critiquing everything you do, pointing out every slip of the tongue or awkward gesture and reminding you that you could have done better. 

That inner critic is your worst enemy when you are trying to improve as a public speaker. The negative “self-talk” that goes on in your head is probably the hardest thing you will have to overcome on your journey to improved public speaking.

You will have to learn to ignore that inner critic while speaking, which is difficult for most people to do.

Why is it so difficult for you to ignore your inner critic? Because the critic “speaks” faster than you do.

The National Center for Voice & Speech says most people speak between 120 and 150 words per minute in conversations and a bit slower in presentations (when we are being very careful with our words). Professional speakers like auctioneers and TV commentators tend to speak faster, at a pace of as much as 250 words per minute.

Researchers have used brain imaging to estimate that people have a median rate of 6.5 different thoughts per minute. Which means that your inner critic could be pointing out as many as six things you are doing wrong every minute you are speaking!

That is why it is so hard to ignore your inner critic.

But there is hope because of one thing I want you to remember. When you are speaking you almost always will be doing better than your inner voice tells you.

Why do I say this? Because your inner critic will point out every instance where you hesitated, or used a different word than you planned, or skipped a phrase that you meant to say, and every other instance where you are doing something different than what you rehearsed. That’s because your inner critic is holding you to what you did when you rehearsed. So it will keep telling you that every small change that happens in your presentation is wrong.

But remember this: Your audience doesn’t know any of that. The people listening aren’t comparing what you said to what you rehearsed, because they don’t know what you had planned to say.

Your audience is taking in your presentation for what it is. They are absorbing what you are saying for the first time.

Because of that, you should ignore the inner critic who is judging you based on what you rehearsed.

It will be hard, and sometimes you won’t be able to completely ignore the negative self-talk in your head while you are speaking.

But as you build confidence it will become easier. And that will reduce your anxiety and nervousness.

public speaking rule communications bruce rule

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