A Proven Way to Boost Performance in Public Speaking and Otherwise Mitigate Social Anxiety

–I hate your psych-babble, just tell me what to do:

Change your self-talk from first to second/third person. No, “I can do this. What they think about me doesn’t affect me.” Instead make it “Avisha can do this. What they think about Avisha doesn’t affect him.”

Research shows that making this change will significantly reduce anxiety and boost performance, particularly in social contexts.

Of course if you use Avisha’s name then the benefits for all those non-Avishas out there have yet to be proven. But feel free to give it a shot and let Avisha know how it goes.

It works for LeBron.

 

 

More Psych-Babble Please

The primary mechanism in play here is something called “self-distancing.” We tend to go through our lives extremely self-focused, constantly interpreting everything that happens through the lens of how it could affect us or be because of us. And because we are so self-focused, we instinctively assume that everyone else is focused on us as well.

Imagine that you are about to go out to a party when you realize that you have a distinctive pimple on your cheek. You try to cover it up, and your friends tell you that it’s barely noticeable, but still you end up going through the entire evening just knowing that every person in the room is covertly staring at you and it.

Now imagine that your friend had the pimple, and you were the one telling her that it was barely noticeable. Even if you were lying a little bit to make her feel better, I bet that you would very quickly forget about it and barely even recognize it when interacting with her throughout the evening.

If only you could view yourself not as yourself but as your own friend.

Researchers at the University of Michigan recently published a meta-analysis of 6 other studies on self-talk. Participants in these studies were subjected to social-anxiety-inducing situations and given clear instructions on how to mentally prepare themselves, either with first or 2nd/3rd person references. These situations included meeting someone for the first time and being told they have to make a good impression as well as being instructed to give a public speech with only five minutes of prep-time. Researchers measured performance through a combination of proven emotional surveying techniques and careful live analysis by judges.

Across the board, participants in the non-first-person groups demonstrated lower levels of anxiety before, during, and after the activity. They also were more likely to view the upcoming activity as a challenge rather than as a threat and less likely to spend much time dwelling upon their performance after the fact. Finally, and possibly most relevantly, they actually performed noticeably better on the activity itself.

It may sound a bit silly, especially if you are the type to actually verbalize your self talk, but I highly recommend giving it a try. Avisha knows he will.

It’s even kinda fun.