A lot of people think that they are ‘naturally’ a poor speaker. They are too quiet, too timid, too introvert, too nervous to be a public speaker
This is nonsense. In fact I believe this negative belief is the greatest barrier holding people back from communicating more effectively, stifling their ideas and damaging their ability to succeed.
For example, when a baby is born it doesn’t politely murmur to the nurse, “um excuse me, I’m quite a quiet person, but if you can hear me could I please have some milk?” Instead we all made our grand debut screaming and wailing at a surprising volume compelling everyone around us to respond to our needs.
What happens over the course of a lifetime, however, is we learn we can be hurt by being open and vulnerable. We may be bullied in school, picked on by siblings, punished for speaking up in class. We can fail at interviews, shut down by a difficult boss and learn to keep our ideas muted for fear of rejection.
This leads to building emotional armour to protect us from the pain of vulnerability. That armour becomes a burden though, as it prevents us from connecting with each other — and we desperately need to connect.
It’s only by dropping our armor that we can be true to ourselves. We can let people in, and allow them to fully connect with us, which is ultimately what we need to communicate effectively, build relationships or give a powerful presentation at work.
There are two major problems emotional armour creates:
1) PRESENTING HORNS WHEN YOU HAVE A HALO
Studies show it takes people 15 seconds to make an emotional decision about you. This opinion rarely changes, even twenty minutes later.
When you walk into a room, people take in your body language, your clothing, your hair, your vocal patterns. Then they decide whether or not they like you, trust you and want to work with you.
And the kicker is, if they subconsciously decide not to trust you, they’ll begin searching for a logical reason to back-up their emotion.
There’s a name for this. It’s called the horns or halo effect. This causes challenges if you go into a meeting with emotional armour. In the first 15 seconds you may give an impression of something you’re not — guarded, grumpy or emotionless when in fact you’re pleasant and warm underneath.
Even if you give a trustworthy presentation backed by reputable sources and have character references that are pristine, if you come in guarded or closed off, your audience is going to find some reason to back up their initial negative impression.
They’ll give you horns when what you really have is a halo.
So make sure you drop the armour before the meeting, not afterwards as many people do, with a sigh of relief as they leave the room. Instead sigh with relief as you put the armour down before you walk in, then be the full version of yourself.
2) BEING “COMFORTABLE” ISN’T PROFESSIONAL
Emotional armour comforts us. This can include habits or physical behaviours we engage in when we’re seeking comfort.
Think about it this way: wearing pajamas makes you feel comfortable, but you would never wear them to work. It would give the wrong impression.
When people explain their behaviour at work as something they do to feel ‘comfortable’ they are often explaining actions they take to maintain their emotional armor in the workplace. These actions can appear as out of place as wearing pajamas to the office.
Slumped body language when you’re giving a work presentation may feel comfortable but appear as if you don’t care, when really that’s just how you comfort your body when you’re nervous. Twisting your hands together when you talk could make you look shifty or untrustworthy — maybe unstable, depending. But actually, you’re just feeling insecure in the conversation you’re having with the CEO of the company.
Whatever your comforters are, it’s crucial to be aware of the impression they make. The next step is to become comfortable without those behaviours, as you return to the way you were born to speak, stand and move.
And the best way to release these habits is to seek constructive feedback.
Getting critique from a professional will break you out of your comfort zone and help you realise all the strange ticks you’ve picked up wearing your emotional armour.
Feedback from your friends or family isn’t always helpful. They either know you too well or are too nice to give you advice in a constructive way. The same goes for your boss or co-workers — they aren’t all going to be pros at communication either.
A presentation skills workshop or communication course can build your self awareness and free you from old habits, but if you aren’t able to find one of those, then an acting class makes a good secondary option.
You’ll learn to drop your emotional armour in order to connect with strangers while performing — which is exactly what a good professional speaker does. And the classroom environment promotes critical feedback in a structured environment.
You’ll get actionable feedback you can use to improve while getting comfortable being the true version of yourself.
To learn more about how we can help you please contact our team.