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9 Ways This Introvert Polished His Public Speaking Skills

The gist: Not all introverts suffer from public speaking anxiety. But if you do, here are some ideas to eliminate it and become a strong communicator.


I stood on stage, looking out over everyone focused on me—waiting for me to speak, to say anything— and the voice in the back of head made its way forward to remind me, “You’re not good at public speaking.”

I was the opening talk for the TEDx event, and it was up to me to set the tone.

This is an extraordinary responsibility on top of giving the most important talk of your life and, had it been any other circumstance, I might have given into that voice. “Yeah, you’re right. I shouldn’t be here. I’m an introvert. I’m an internal editor. I can’t even finish a sentence with my wife without wanting a do-over.”

Thankfully, I’d done my homework. Not just on the talk, but on how to overcome my public speaking anxiety. I knew what I needed to say, I believed in the message, and I had a plan even if the perfect circumstances I spent so much time practicing in didn’t reflect reality on game day.

Today, I can get on stage in front of a few thousand people and speak with confidence and authority. If I’m lucky, some finesse and a few jokes that aren’t total duds. But it certainly wasn’t always like that.

When it comes to public speaking, any confidence I have is the result of a tremendous amount of work, frustration, cold sweats, and embarrassment. But I’m glad I had those experiences because they got me here—a place I can share some lessons about how to go from a terrified, bumbling idiot to a calm, confident communicator.

That, perhaps, will be the most useful part of this article for you—simply knowing that public speaking skills can be learned. You don’t have to be born with them.

From sharing an idea with a small team of friends to standing in front of thousands of strangers, these are the public speaking skills—many from speakers far better than me—that have transformed me from a timid, stuttering speaker to a confident, respected one. I hope they help you spread your own big ideas.

Continue…

Lazy Expert Syndrome: How to Stay on Top of Your Game

The gist: We all eventually suffer from “lazy expert syndrome.” The best way to snap out of it and grow is to mentor someone new to your field.


It was the “roaring twenties” in America, and business was good. Even for criminals.

Al Capone had slowly built himself an empire making upwards of $100M each year. The only problem? He was in the business of narcotics, prostitution, gambling, and murder.

Capone literally got away with murder for years because he’d painstakingly built a network of minions to do his bidding. He was a careful man. All the major crime-fighting bureaus in The U.S. were trying to take him down, but he was untouchable.

That is, until he made an extraordinarily dumb mistake telling a prosecutor he was sick and couldn’t come to court to testify in a case. The police investigated, found him perfectly healthy, and arrested him on contempt of court. That started the ball rolling on a series of charges that eventually brought down the whole operation and sent Capone to the infamous Alcatraz prison.

One of the biggest businesses in America, brought down by a tiny flub. How could it happen?

He got lazy. Capone let his ego get the best of him; he thought he was so untouchable he didn’t need to exercise caution anymore.

The world is better off without Capone’s expertise, but it’s not better off without yours.  If you’ve ever made a rookie mistake—one you should have known better about—you might have experienced what Capone did: Lazy Expert Syndrome (LES).

Read on to learn how to keep LES from ever taking you down or setting you back. Continue…

Recover From Career-Limiting Mistakes With Humor

The gist: Humor is a great psychological tool to get and keeping people on your side. Use it wisely, and use it often—especially when you screw up.


Everyone makes mistakes. But what makes one mistake forgivable and another not?

You’ve probably seen plenty of instances where big mistakes were ignored. Or the opposite—seemingly insignificant mistakes are blown out of proportion.

“How does that happen? Where’s the justice?” you might ask yourself.

You may not realize, though, that when you make a mistake, the way it’s received by everyone around you almost completely depends on how you react to it.

During the 2014 mid-term elections, Tom Brokaw, a world-famous news reporter, made what would have been a career-limiting mistake on-air.

The next day, every media outlet in America was talking about it. But instead of criticizing or making fun of him, they were laughing it off with the air of forgiveness.

How did Brokaw turn his massive flub—what would could have been a career-ending move for any rookie reporter—into an endearing news story? And how can you use the same psychological principle to magically recover the next time you find yourself in the same situation?

Use humor. Continue…

From Low Self-Esteem to President: A Lesson On Overcoming Self-Doubt

The gist: Low self-esteem can grip all of us. And feeling self-doubt is part of being human. Understanding your psychology can help you overcome it.


In 1911, a young man by the name of Harry was struggling with low self-esteem. He’d met a woman, Bessie, and they became friends. Before he knew it, he’d fallen in love. There was a problem, though. Harry didn’t know if Bessie felt the same way, and his self-doubt was tearing him apart.

While away from home, he wrote her a seven page letter filled with passage like this:

Speaking of diamonds, would you wear a solitaire on your left hand should I get it? Now that is a rather personal or pointed question provided you take it for all it means. You know, were I an Italian or a poet I would commence and use all the luscious language of two continents. I am not either but only a kind of good-for-nothing American farmer. I always had a sneaking notion that some day maybe I’d amount to something. I doubt it now though like everything.

But I never had the nerve to think you’d even look at me. I don’t think so now but I can’t keep from telling you what I think of you.

Say, Bessie, you’ll at least let me keep on being good friends won’t you? I know I am not good enough to be anything more but you don’t know how I’d like to be.

Still if you turn me down, I’ll not be thoroughly disappointed for it’s no more than I expect.1

Harry, it seems, was no master of seduction.

In time, though, he must have built an effective tool for dealing with his crushing self-doubt because he did eventually marry Bessie, and today he’s more widely known as President Truman, the man ultimately responsible for ending World War II.

How did he overcome his crippling self-doubt? A key quote from his time in office and notes from cognitive psychologists give us a hint. Continue…

Footnotes

  1. Archived at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum.

How to Manage Your Overwhelming Social Calendar

The gist: It’s easy for an introvert to become overwhelmed by a busy social life. Here are 6 ideas to thrive socially without burning out.


As an introvert, it’s shockingly easy to become overwhelmed by a busy social life. From going to work to hanging out with friends to attending networking events, it can be hard to come by much-needed alone time.

Personally, I’ve been trying to solve this problem by ridding my calendar of (useless) meetings. These days, it’s not unusual to find myself racing around town for three or four different ones on any given day and jumping on a Skype call between them for good measure.

I’m an introvert so I despise days filled rushing from group to group—it’s totally exhausting.

At the same time, I’ve created this life. I’m free to choose which meetings I do or do not attend, yet I choose to attend many. It’s a funny predicament I’ve put myself in. I hate meetings, but I consciously end up in many of them. Why? Because I actually like meeting with people and building relationships.

I think that says something about introversion many who don’t possess it struggle to understand. We’re not shy. We’re not hermits. We love building connections, we just find it tiring to do so.

While I’ve worked to cut the number of meetings I attend, I’ve also attempted to understand my introversion better. I wanted to find the happy balance and never again sit through an important meeting feeling brain-dead.

Thanks to new research about introversion and a healthy dose of self-experimentation, I’ve pinpointed a few important rules to follow when it comes to setting myself up for success at important meetings.

Continue…

Be More Persuasive by Telling Compelling Stories

The gist: Be more persuasive and inspirational by telling better stories. Five simple steps will help you form perfect arguments.


When I was a kid, my mom had stories for everything: why you should brush your teeth, eat vegetables, and not talk to strangers or do drugs. One I remember vividly, though, is about lying.

When I was six, I was on my first baseball team. I loved playing in games but didn’t care much for practice. To get out of it, I’d pretend I was sick. When she caught on to what I was up to, Mom threatened, “You were too sick for practice yesterday, so you must be too sick to play in your game today.”

The details are fuzzy, but I probably cried a lot and ran around throwing a fit. When I was done, she told me the story of the little boy who cried wolf. No one believes a liar, even when they’re telling the truth.

After that, I only needed to hear the story to know it was time to shape up each time I stretched the truth. The story changed me. Against my instincts and desires, it forced me to be a better person. I still remember it today when the temptation to lie strikes.

One little fib might not be the end of the world but, over time, you erode your credibility until it’s completely gone.

Story is a powerful motivator for change in anyone. If you have a message for the world—if you’re trying to get people to change the way they think and behave—a story could be the most powerful weapon in your toolbox. Continue…

Your Attachment Style Determines the Quality of Your Connections

The gist: The quality of your relationships is highly connected to your attachment style. You built yours long ago without knowing it, but it’s never too late to improve it.


When it comes to making friends and connections, I can be a tough nut to crack. As an introvert, I keep others at arm’s length. For a long time, I forced myself into a paradox where I’m both loyal to those I’m close with but extraordinarily hard to get close to.

I’d assume anyone who wanted to get to know me must just want something, that they were in it for themselves and I had to protect myself. Unless I already knew who you were, I wasn’t going to let you into my circle.

“It’s not my fault,” I’d say. “It’s just how I am. Everyone should just deal with it. They would if they really cared.” For years, I missed out on making a lot of connections and, honestly, I felt lonely.

Eventually, I got tired of that. Not tired, so much, of my attitude, but tired of the results of it. I started to learn more and more about introversion. What it means. How it works. Why I am the way I am.

What did I learn? That my approach to building connections had nothing to do with my introversion. Instead, it had to do with a flaw in the way I thought about relationships and the people around me.

Once I fixed it (and no, it wasn’t easy or done in 3 simple steps), my life started to fill up with new, meaningful connections. I met new business partners, made new friends, met my wife, etc. etc.

Here’s what it was, and what you can do if you’ve been in the same place. Continue…

To Avoid Loneliness, Focus on Connecting Instead of Impressing

The gist: If you want more and better relationships, focus more on connecting with people over everyday things and less on impressing them.


Let’s play a quick game. If I asked you which of these movies you’d rather see, how would you answer?

  1. Revenge Of The Dinosaurs (rated 4 stars by other viewers)
  2. Revenge Of The Head Lice (rated 2 stars by other viewers)

You’d probably choose the dino flick, right? I would.

Let’s add another layer. Now you’re the only one who knows about the dinosaur film and all your friends want to watch the lower-rated head lice movie. Which would you pick now?

If you’re like most people (myself included), Revenge Of The Dinosaurs just got a lot more intriguing 1. Higher rated and I’m the only one who gets to see it? Sign me up! Well, not so fast.

You may have a taste for adventure and unique experiences, but do you also want to build strong connections and friendships? If so, you might have made precisely the wrong choice according to relationship research out of Harvard.

If you’re the type of person who wants the best of both worlds—to lead a life of adventure and build meaningful connections with people—you might need to change how your approach.

Here’s what the research found along with my strategy for filling life with meaningful experiences and also building strong connections. Continue…

Footnotes

  1. Hat tip to Pacific Standard Magazine for this example.

The Bill Murray Technique: How To Improvise Through Anything

The gist: Four, simple things you can practice every day will help you find the “right thing to say” in any situation. Even if you’re nervous or uncomfortable.


There was no script. There was no prompting. No cue cards, no visual reminders, no lines at all. The only direction? “Pretend like you’re a child, living out your biggest sports fantasy.”

That’s everything Bill Murray had to go on when he created this scene, which has become one of the most famous improvised movie scenes in history:1

Beautiful, isn’t it? Two minutes before he shooting the scene, Murray had no idea what he was going to say. But when the lights came on and the camera started rolling, the story flowed like it were there all along.

That skill has taken him—and plenty of others who’ve mastered the art of improv—far in life.

And if you’ve ever been caught with your pants down, unable to come up with the right words when you needed them the most, there’s much you can learn from the greats. Continue…

Footnotes

  1. I learned this from the IMDB entry for Caddyshack.

Ikea Effect: Make People Happy by Putting Them to Work

The gist: If you want to be happier, do things for yourself. If you want to make people happy, help them do the same.


A home down the street from me went up for sale the other day. I like to track the market activity around me, so I stopped by the open house to meet the realtor. When I got to the door and saw the asking price, my jaw dropped.

They’re asking how much for… that!?

I immediately knew they were asking at least $30,000 too much. “How could they possibly think they’ll get that much for it?” I wondered.

The realtor greeted me and told me a bit about the owner. She had the home built herself and customized every aspect of it to her taste. She picked the carpets, countertops, fixtures, tiles, and paint colors. She’d really poured her creative energy—and a lot of labor—into the place. She saw it as a masterpiece.

Unfortunately, I saw a house like any other but with paint colors I’d never choose.

The seller experienced what’s called the Ikea Effect—a psychological phenomenon that explains how we come to love and value the things we put effort into.

In this case, our home seller was experiencing the negative side of the Ikea Effect, but there are a few positive ones you should know about because they can, in fact, save you a lot of money (or even make you a lot) and add an extra layer of happiness to your life. Continue…