Mary Selene Margareth D. Mizal
When I was five, I attended nursery at this school near our house. Each day, one student would be asked to lead the flag ceremony – to sing Lupang Hinirang, recite Panatang Makabayan (the old version), and lead the class in the morning exercise to the tune of “Mag-exercise Tayo Tuwing Umaga” by Yoyoy Villame.
One day, I was asked to lead my class in the flag ceremony. I was really excited to stand in front and show my classmates how well I know the national anthem, how well I can recite the country’s pledge of allegiance, and how flexible my body is as I do the routine of the morning exercise.
National Anthem sang. The tape was stopped. Next, the Panatang Makabayan. As I was halfway in reciting the country’s pledge of allegiance, I suddenly forgot what to say next. I stood there, in front of all my classmates, stiff as a bamboo. My hands started to sweat as I looked up the ceiling, trying to remember the words that slipped my mind. Thank God, some of my classmates remember the lines. I followed their lead and carried on with the rest of our morning routine. God willing, I was able to overcome the embarrassment. And now, I do a lot of speaking with and in front of people.
There are a number of reasons why a person is afraid to open his/her mouth when asked to speak in public or even while having a typical everyday conversation. For one, that person may be apprehensive about his/her grammar. That person may be afraid to make grammatical mistakes. So, instead of not saying the right words and not putting the words together in the right order, he/she would rather reply with a simple “yes” or “no”. One’s personality could also be a factor – he/she might be a really shy person that’s why that person is hesitant to have a conversation.
Whatever the reason is, speaking confidently does not develop overnight. As the cliché goes, practice makes perfect. Great public speakers were not born that way. Their environment might be a great factor in honing their skills, but self motivation plays an important role.
To overcome your shyness, here are some tips that can guide you in transforming yourself to be that bold you.
Look in the mirror. Talk to yourself while facing the mirror and tell yourself that you are wonderfully created. Be comfortable with what you’re wearing and make sure that it is appropriate for the occasion. This is one way to jumpstart your confidence level. Stand straight, chin up, stop playing with your shirt, and quit biting those nails. Remember that 60% of people’s first impression on you is based on your appearance.
Breathe. Once you’ve stepped onstage or if the person beside you started talking with you, don’t forget to breathe. Yes, don’t hold it. Improving on your conversation skills might be a great way to deal with this situation, but, for a start, deep breathing makes you more relaxed and makes you think clearer, thus, allows you to react just in time before your audience notices that you’re actually terrified.
Charm with the eyes. In our culture, eye contact implies attentiveness. It also indicates politeness. Take note, doing eye contact is polite, but staring is not. Eye contact also shows your interest on what the other person is talking about, thus, you’re establishing good rapport because you make the other person feel important by giving him/her your undivided attention.
Believe in what you say. One of the keys to being a confident speaker is believing in what you’re saying. If you believe in what you say, you can say it with conviction and you will catch the attention of the person you’re talking to. For all you know, you might be saying something they don’t have knowledge about. Do not agree or disagree with other people just for the heck of it. Pretend and you will be easily spotted. What’s worse is that people might think that you’re just a pleaser who is not really worthy of their time.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Make them, but do not dwell on them. Make it a point to always look at the bright side of things. If people don’t make mistakes, then there wouldn’t be any room for improvement. The conscious effort to improve you is a commendable thing to do. Look at your mistakes as stepping stones towards being seen and heard.
Be yourself. If you come from a different country where English is not the first or second language or if your first language is neither Tagalog nor English, still do not hesitate to talk. There are accent neutralization courses offered at some language schools, but your accent is one of the things that actually define you. Don’t be ashamed of it.
Update, update, update. If you are updated with the goings on around you, you need not be afraid to express your opinions and talk about a lot of things. Having knowledge about a lot of topics gives you the edge on the conversation. Take pride in sharing what you know, but be humble enough to acknowledge your differences in opinion.
Speaking with confidence takes time. It also takes a lot of practice. Reading all the tips and knowing what to do are not enough to make you a confident speaker. Look for situations where you can apply what you know. Knowledge without application is like having water for your plants without you pouring it on them. You have to use it. Develop it. Hone it. And be surprised by the power of speaking confidently.
Be seen. Be heard.