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Not confident when speaking

  1. Sep 4, 2007 #1
    Dunno, I get stuck and fail to articulate what I try to say. People tell me how well I write and all that (mind you I'm no good at all, that's just what they say), but words just don't roll out of my tongue in the worst of moments (while participating in class, socialising, etc.). I speak sufficiently well when I'm with my brother or best friend, otherwise I get all self-conscious and make a bad impression by stammering whilst speaking and letting the other side complete a thought for me, to which I'd just nod in agreement or whatever.

    What should I do? Gah I hate this. And I hope this constitutes seeking advice in the context of academia because I'm experiencing this in college.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 4, 2007 #2
    The only way you will get better is to practice. Try not to isolate yourself and certainly don't shy away from conversation.
  4. Sep 4, 2007 #3
    I've had this too! What I try to do is socialize whenever I have a chance, even though I'm not particularly good at it, nor feel completely confident at it. You will find sooner or later that there is just no rational reason to not be, and its all you pressuring yourself more than anyone else is. take is easy.
  5. Sep 4, 2007 #4


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    maybe trying acting?

    when i had to give a talk, i sometimes would pick out one friendly face in the audience and smile at them to get myself some support.
  6. Sep 4, 2007 #5
    Maybe trying impromptu speech with some people who you feel comfortable talking with would help you become more articulate and confident when you are speaking. Thats what helped me with both speaking and timed writing.
  7. Sep 4, 2007 #6


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    Pick your favorite interest - something you know well and that you like thinking and talking about, then see if you can find a club or maybe a loose affiliation of people with the same interests. It doesn't matter if it's astronomy, antique cars, woodworking, cooking, music... When you're having a conversation about something you really love, you'll be thinking of that subject and will be less self-conscious. Eventually, this freedom from "mental lock-up" will carry over into other areas of your life.

    Even though I had performed in bands, choruses, etc all through HS, I had terrible stage fright when I was asked to perform a solo, and when I joined a band in college, I wanted to hang back, play rhythm guitar, avoid singing and avoid playing guitar solos, though I had no problem doing those things during practice sessions. Eventually, I overcame that, and ended up fronting bands, hosting open-mike jams, etc. What broke the ice for me was screwing up a guitar solo at a frat party. I dropped a couple of real clams in there - those notes couldn't have fit in that progression under any circumstances. I was really embarrassed, but my band-mates just grinned, the people on the dance floor kept dancing, and the world didn't come to an end.
  8. Sep 4, 2007 #7
    I wanted to say another thing that no one has mentioned. I think it is very important that you take action starting right now. The more time you let this issue be unresolved, the harder it will be to deal with in the future. But try not to set yourself high goals right away like giving a speech in front of a whole multitude of non-drunk people, ha. Build up steadily at it, but not too slowly. What turbo-1 explained hits right at home for me, as most of the boys at my block had completely different interests than I did, and obviously, engaging in conversations with them was perhaps an area where I could not excel at perhaps for this very reason. At the same time, because they were a majority with more common interests, it may have resulted in a slight isolation in my part, resulting thus, in some social side effects. This all changed when I joined a club of one of my favorite past times, chess. The social interaction, competitions, fun five minute rapid chess games, spectators, all was a boost for me, and as turbo-1 said, this confidence eventually leaks into all other areas, since you start to feel good about yourself, hence bringing your confidence up.

    BTW turbo-1, I play the piano. I too freak out in a solo:eek:
  9. Sep 4, 2007 #8


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    I overcame that one over 35 years ago and haven't looked back. For a couple of years, I hosted open-mike jams at a local tavern on Sunday afternoons and people came from all over to sit in. You never knew who was going to stroll in (sometimes some VERY hot players), and it was sometimes a challenge learning to play a new song with just a couple of seconds discussing the progression, key changes, etc. You have to have a pretty good sense of humor and enough trust in your audience to be willing to screw up now and again.
  10. Sep 4, 2007 #9


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    but dont be afraid. everyone id=s nervous at speaking, especially publicly., i myself after 40 years am still nervous every fall and spring at the beginnig of class, will they like me? will i blow it? the only way is to rpeopare something to say and rpactice saying it, and then relax and trust that what you say will be received in a friendly way. this is the same trust the others give to you.
  11. Sep 4, 2007 #10
    In my area there's a group called Toastmasters, which helps to practice speaking in front of a crowd. It has worked well for my boss.

    A friend of mine, who has spoken in front of 500 MDs, says that the teleprompter is all you see (as opposed to the auditorium filled by "naked" physicians) with bright lights on a stage.
  12. Sep 4, 2007 #11


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    I like mathwonk's advice-- pick someone in the audience to talk to. Of course, move your attention round to the rest of the audience, but if there is someone who is sitting and attentively listening to you, then I find it easier to talk to that one person than the others who are either looking at the screen, or whose eyes are wandering outside the window or around the room!
  13. Sep 4, 2007 #12


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    Loren beat me to it -- I was going to say the same thing. I was fortunate to join the speech club back in high school, and competed for several years. That gave me the tools, experience and confidence to be completely comfortable giving pretty much any speech or presentation, often to hundreds of people. I am so glad that I did that early on.

    My dad went to ToastMasters for several years, and he had only good things to say about it. You should try to find an equivalent group in your area -- you will be glad that you did it!
  14. Sep 4, 2007 #13
    I was never too shy around most people, heck, I rarely got stage freight until my sophmore year of college when I had presentations that were worth nearly the entirety of my grade. At that point I would get shakey and nervous and end up stuttering. But the trick, at least for me, to stop this from happening was to make up my presentations as I went.

    You may be thinking that I am nuts, and to that the fault belongs to me; I have misconstruded my point technique. The day before class I would focus on my topic and ramble to either myself in the mirror or to my girlfriend. I would give about 4 or 5 different speeches off of the top of my head on the topic. By time I got done with my ramblings I had figured out what were my strong points, by essentially how long I talked about them. On top of all of that, once I had all of those ideas bouncing around I could sit down for about 30mins and play with the organization. By time the day was done, I had the outline to a speech set up in my head and I knew somewhat how I wanted to present it.

    Good Luck!
  15. Sep 4, 2007 #14
    Yeah I read an article about how a guy who had severe stuttering problems from childhood to adulthood finally overcame it after getting involved with toastmasters
  16. Sep 4, 2007 #15
    I experience an anxiety disorder. In a graduate physics class I was to give a short talk on a topic concerning elementary general relativity. Standing in front of the class I froze, blushed, stammered and was considerably embarrassed. Even before an audience of less than ten, I felt shamed. I now am much more comfortable speaking before people whose interest is in mental illness, as if psychology gets the obvious out of the way yet is as much an interesting science.
  17. Sep 4, 2007 #16
    drink a sip of water, stand well straight, take deep breaths and look for familar faces int he crowd. keep eye contact too. that is all you need!
    (visit my blog!)
  18. Sep 4, 2007 #17
    Well, as you can see, you did well in bringing up this issue up front. Many of us deal with this, and we try as best to better ourselves. Did you noticed all the help that poured in? Sometimes I wonder: if I break my leg, should I go to the doctor right away, or should I go instead to PHYSICS FORUMS and ask for help? :)) You guys are great!
  19. Sep 5, 2007 #18


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    What country are you in, Loren? If you are in the US, I'll say again that participating in the ToastMasters group is extremely helpful, and provides you very important skills.

    Think about it -- you have good, valuable, important information that you want to convey well to a group. You owe it to them and to you and to the profession you are in, to do a great job of conveying that information. And with just a bit of good learning and practicing some techniques, you can do such a good job of conveying that information.

    I need to reiterate that I have not used ToastMasters -- I was lucky enough to get into the speech and debate clubs in high school, and that gave me the tools I needed and the confidence and comfort in front of a big audience, to do a really good job in public speaking situations (not just based on my opinions, based on written evaluations from the presentations). But if you haven't been lucky enough to have been involved in speech/debate clubs up to now, the ToastMasters or equivalent organizations have a tremendous amount of good information and practical practice to offer you. It worked for my dad, and it can work for you-all too. Please check them out (or search for an equivalent organization in geographical areas outside the US -- I have no idea how international they might be).

    I do need to say -- it feels good to be totally comfortable stepping up in front of a big technical audience, with important things to convey, and doing a good and natural and relaxed job of presenting your material. Everybody benefits from your skill at public speaking in that situation.
  20. Sep 5, 2007 #19


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    You might find one of Tim Gallwey's "inner game" books useful. They go a bit deeper than the usual questionable-value "instant self help" stuff.

    As some posts have implied already, part of the pyschology (according to Gallwey) is not to be afraid of making yourself look like a complete idiot - because 999 times out of 1000 that won't happen, and the other time will give you something to look back and laugh about, in the long term. One of Gallwey's messages is "think what is the worst possible thing that can happen if you screw up" - and usually, the answer is "nothing much".

  21. Sep 5, 2007 #20
    18 replies??!?!

    I'm really grateful to you guys. I realize I need to take a chill pill here and work things out right away. There's a toastmasters group around my place as well. Thanks folks, I'm going to read through everything posted again.
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