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How to Gain More Confidence When Speaking

How to gain more confidence when speaking

Self confidence: Do you want to know how to gain more self confidence when speaking?

Last week, I received a phone call from a man who wanted to know if I could help him with his low levels of self-confidence. The conversation went on for over an hour and it was very interesting and I thought I could write a summary of it in the hope that it would be of interest to you.

I will write this blog as a dialog, which will give the essence of the conversation. I will call the caller, Bob, which of course is not his real name.

Bob: I don't feel like I have enough confidence in some situations, so people don't listen to me

Chris: Does that mean that you do have enough confidence in other situations?

B: Yes.

C: In what situations do you have confidence and in what situations do you NOT have confidence?

B: I have confidence in situations when I know all the information and in situations where I am prepared. But in situations which are free flowing and spontaneous, like most of our meetings are, I feel like nobody will listen to my opinion, and that I am not very clear.

C: So, whenever you know the facts, you feel confident and whenever you don't know the facts, you don't feel so confident. Is that the basic formula?

B: Yes. I suppose so.

C: So, in order for you to be more confident you need to focus on the facts.

B: But what if I don't know the facts, what do I say then?

C: You ask the following questions of the people in the room:

"What are the facts relating to this situation?" And whoever answers the question you listen and write notes on what they say. Then you ask the secondary question, "How do you know that these are the true facts. How do you verify your information?"

B: But I feel that nobody listens to me, when I speak. I often don't know what to say to contribute to the meeting.

C: I think that you may be labouring under a false idea. Bob, do you think that, in order to contribute to the meeting, you need to be always giving information or giving your opinion or giving your recommendations.

B: In order to be respected, you have to be giving your opinion or recommendations.

C: Bob, you don't.

In order to contribute to the meeting you don't have to be always giving information to the others, or expressing your own opinion. Instead, you can make a great contribution to the meeting by asking intelligent questions.

And in any meetings you can always ask the same fundamental questions.

I would like you to learn these four questions and use them at any time you think they would be of help to others.

  1. What is the goal, the purpose that we are trying to achieve?
  2. What are the relevant facts, relating to this situation?
  3. How do you validate these so-called facts? How do we know that these "facts" are true?
  4. Now we know these facts are true, what are we going to do next, to achieve the goal?

Remember that you don't have to be speaking to be impressive. You can contribute by asking the right questions, taking notes, listening and asking the next question.

Bob, a lot of people think that, in order to shine, they have to be doing all the talking. This is not true. The one who controls the conversation is not necessarily the one doing all the talking. The one who controls the conversation is often the one who asked the last question.

Remember that: The one who controls the conversation is often the one who asked the last question.
For example, in a court of law, the defendant does all the talking, and the lawyer asks the questions.

Don't think that, to be an impressive speaker, you need to be an orator. You don't need to be an orator. You need to be a person who can ask the right question, at the right time.
And there are questions you can ask that always are good questions.

Here they are again:

  • What is the goal?
  • What are the relevant facts?
  • How do we know that these "facts" are actually true?
  • Now we know these facts are true, what are we going to do next, to achieve the goal?

C: You need to rely on these questions and get other the people talking. You take notes and keep asking intelligent questions. Don't feel daunted by your own opinion of yourself that you are not an orator.

B: People don't always listen to me though.

C: That is three times you have said that people don't listen to you. Is that what you think?

B: Yes. It's true. People don't listen to me.

C: How do you know that is true? Has anyone ever said to you, "Bob, nobody is interested in what you have to say. Nobody listens to you, Bob."?

B: No. It is just what I think people think.

C: Be very careful here Bob. You are psyching yourself out with your own thought process. You are undercutting your own self confidence with some terrible internal mental-chatter.

When you are in meetings and you are feeling a lack of self-confidence, what thoughts are running through your mind, about what you think, the other people are thinking of you?

B: "First, I think that they don't understand my accent". (Bob is from Nigeria and has a very crisp, precise African accent. It is very clear and easy to understand!)

B: "I think that they don't think much of my opinion, and I think that I don't give good eye contact".

C: Bob. All the time you are thinking these things, you are distracting yourself from the main purpose of the meeting, and you are causing yourself to lose confidence. All the time you are distracting yourself with these thoughts, you are not on your main mission, which is to add value to the meeting. All you are doing is mentally beating yourself up.

I want you to take a piece of paper and divide it down the middle into two halves. On the left side, I want you to label it, "Don't ask" and on the right side, I want you to label it, "Do ask".

On the "Don't ask" side, please write the following list of questions.

  • Why don't people listen to me?
  • What is wrong with me?
  • How could I impress them?
  • What do they think of the way I look?

All the time you are thinking about the answers to these questions you are losing confidence and you are distracting yourself from your main mission, which is to "add value to the meeting".

On the right side of the paper, write these questions down.

  • What is the goal, the purpose that we are trying to achieve?
  • What are the relevant facts, relating to this situation?
  • How do you validate the so-called facts?
  • Now we know these are true facts, what are we going to do next, to achieve the goal?

Communication - Persuasive Communication : How to gain more confidence when speaking

If you do the left hand list you will continue to lose confidence. So stop asking your brain to answer the left hand list. The act of asking and answering the left hand list is enough to blow your brains.

Instead, focus your mind on asking and answering the right hand questions.

Then you won't lose your mind. You will add more value to the meeting. And you will start to gain confidence in yourself, as a valued member of the team; one who can be trusted to ask the right questions at the right times.

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About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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Further Reading in Communication - Persuasive Communication

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    People judge everything you say, what you do, how you look. Make sure they see you in a positive light.
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  • The Way You Speak to People
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  • Persistence
    Persistence is a state of mind that can be developed over time. If you want to develop more persistence, then take the following steps.
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  • How to Persuade People to Act on Your Ideas
    Having a great idea is not enough. You need to be able to get other people on board! Persuasive communication is essential if you want to take your idea off the drawing board and put it into practice. Here is how to do that.
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