Business psychology

Three steps to reframe your nerves

- January 24, 2014 2 MIN READ

As a soloist it’s possible that you may need to speak in front of others. If you have nerves to overcome, here are three tips to help you combat them.

Michele Bowden, author of Don’t Picture Me Naked, is Australia’s master in public speaking. At one of her presentations she shared a delightful story about a boy who gave a speech at school. The boy’s mother asked him how his speech went, and he replied indifferently, “Oh, fine”. The mother thought it was odd that he didn’t feel nervous and decided to ask in a different way: “So, were there any sensations in your body before you went up to speak?”  The boy’s demeanour completely changed, he said, “Yeeaahhhh mum, my hands were clammy and I had this sensation running through my body from my toes to my ears like red hot fire, it was awesome!”

I love that story because it’s a simple way of showing how to reframe our nerves. Why can’t we think of our nerves as a good thing? Not so easy to do?  Here are three tips that will help.

Acknowledge that your nerves exist

When you feel the butterflies in your tummy, when you feel clammy hands or a dry mouth, acknowledge them. Recognise that you may indeed be nervous and allow yourself to feel nervous. Really feel the sensations in your body and allow them to course through your veins. Recognise what “nervous” feels like for you, even though it might feel completely different for the next person.

Nerves are simply your desire to do well. Do not deny your desire to do well. If you squash them down and attempt to bury them, they will only appear with greater force at a later time (and we don’t want that happening on stage). Did you know that if you allow yourself to feel something fully it will dissipate in 7 – 12 seconds?

Befriend your nerves

Once you recognise what your nerves are for you, befriend them. Make peace with them. You may even like to give them a name, think Beyoncé’s, Sascha – her alter ego.

If you give your nerves a fun name like ‘Sooty’ for example, you can then imagine ‘Sooty’ appearing on stage with you, and all of a sudden Sooty becomes an endearing little puppet (or whatever feels right for you!).

You may also like to reframe your nerves by recognising them for what they really are –creative fuel to propel you into action.

If you didn’t have nerves, would you place the same importance on the event, and therefore apply the same energy?

Realise that your audience is there to see the real you

Lastly, no one wants to see you fail. Realise that your audience is there to see the real you, and if the real you includes a few nervous twitches, then they are more likely to trust you over someone who is appearing unauthentic in their approach.

How do you deal with nerves? Share your tips here.