Have you ever been in a social situation and felt out of place? It can sometimes feel so uncomfortable to be around people we are not familiar with, and in situations that we are not familiar. You might have felt like there was nothing you could do and maybe you could not wait for the situation to be over! I have been here more times than I can count and well… it sucked. Luckily there is a way to deal with this challenge. In the last four years, I have been focused on overcoming my fear of public speaking and expanding my comfort zone. My journey led me to Improv in Chicago at Second City. Here are some very important principles I learned that you can use to overcome your fears and build your confidence.
“The next message you need is always right where you are.” Ram Dass
One of the first lessons I learned in Improv was to listen actively. It is important because when you are doing scene work with you partners, you must be ready to make choices and build on their choices. To do so, you must listen! To actively listen, you must be present and in the moment. Being in the moment is powerful because most people aren’t. The struggle here is that our attention is often in the past or future. When you can be in the present moment often, you can achieve true confidence because you can engage and connect with people on a higher level. Being present brings more opportunities.
Seek To Understand
Think about your favorite people. Why do you like being around them? They probably are more interested in you than you were in them. They probably asked you questions and got you to talk about your favorite most passionate subjects. You can do this too! When you interact with others, actively listen to what they have to say with a focus on understanding what they have to say. Most people seek to be understood. Flip the script and focus on understanding others. Do this by asking questions and listening empathetically.
Always Remember Names
Always remember how important it is to use someone’s name when you talk to them. Using names are important because they will help you connect. Remember people’s names and use them. You will stand out because most people don’t remember and use names. It can be difficult. However, if you apply yourself, you can remember names fairly quickly. One of the easiest ways to remember someone’s name is to relate that person to someone you already know with their name. Once you have the person you know in mind, imagine them interacting and doing something crazy, bizarre, or weird. That’s the key because you won’t be able to forget that.
“A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”
– Dale Carnegie
Use The Power of Repetition
Another powerful tool in learning Improv is repetition. Doing the exercises that make thriving and hysterical scenes takes a lot of practice and repetition. The more you practice, the more confidence you will gain. When building your confidence, it is helpful to lower and eliminate your fears. When confidence is low, it is usually due to some anxiety about a future event. It could be fear of failure, fear of rejection, or even fear of success.
The fastest way to overcome fear is to face the thing you fear and do so often. You have to go through the process over and over again until you realize that you can go through with it. The act of repeatedly going through the thing you fear most will expand your comfort zone. For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, the fastest way to lower your fear is to get up and do it over and over again.
Things like preparation, visualization, and powerful presenting techniques will help you as well. However, if you want to become better and overcome your fear, these tools are simply not enough. You have to get up there and do it! The longer you avoid the thing you fear, the more power it will have over you. Overcome your fear and build confidence with repetition.
Make Mistakes Often
“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
In improv, there are no mistakes only gifts. The reason is profound. If you don’t have to worry about making a mistake, you can take action and try anything. When you take action, you lower your fear and build your confidence. When you do have a setback, there is always a lesson you can learn to help you in the future. Whenever you have a “mistake” or perceived failure, instead of being hard on yourself, focus on what you learned. That is how you eliminate the concept of failure. Just like everything else, failure is only a concept with a negative connotation. Turn it into a positive and use it to make you a stronger, confident person. Remember, the best learning experience you can have is one where you make a mistake. It is truly a gift when you find the lesson. If you are not making mistakes, then you are not making progress.
Practice the “Yes, And” Approach
When it comes to relating to others and team building, the famous “Yes, And” approach is gold. The “Yes, And” approach will help you build greatness with your friends, family, and coworkers. Have you ever told someone an excellent idea and they responded with “Yeah…. but that won’t work because someone has tried that.” The “Yes, But” is the opposite of “Yes, And” and a No with a smile. It can indeed kill a great idea and stop it right in its tracks. If you adopt a “Yes, And” attitude, then you come off as a great leader, real team member, and someone who finds progress.
Remember That Today’s The Day
“Do not wait: the time will never be ‘just right.’ Start where you stand, and work whatever tools you may have at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.”
At some point, if you want to overcome your fears, you must face the situation that you fear. With the right tools, you can make it happen. A principle used in Improv is the idea that “Today’s The Day.” It means in a scene that the character makes a choice to take action on a want. Making decisions to act often will give you stronger decision-making abilities and build your self-discipline. If you take action, then you will grow and make progress. If you choose to wait until the perfect moment, then you will be waiting forever. The time will never be just right. Make a decision to take action and face your fears.
If you want to overcome your fear of public speaking, you need to get up and speak in public. If you want to overcome your fear in social situations, start putting yourself in more social situations. Joining Toastmasters and Improv has given me the ability to be fearless in almost any situation in a short period. What are you afraid of? How can you use the principles about to expand your comfort zone and build your confidence? Remember, the time will never be just right. Take action!