Ask HN: How to overcome stage fear / social anxiety

68 points by yogrish 2 months ago

I am in a Techno managerial leadership role in my organization. I am facing issue when facing large audience. I am good at giving tech talks to multiple audience. May be initial anxiety will be there while giving tech talks, but once I start, I am really good in making impactful tech talks/presentations. Also general topics, I can talk infornt of my 75 member team.

But when it comes to impromptu talks, giving opinions or asking just questions in big forums involving senior leaders / peers or other team members, I generally fumble. My body language doesn't show confidence, try to mince words etc.

I step back because i feel i am being judged, or I make wrong statement etc.

Any one who has overcome this fear and were able to improve Body language showing confidence amidst many people (esp. when your managers are present). Please let me know if you have any hacks in overcoming this situation. This will take me leaps forward in my career. Thanks for your support, as always.

ggeorgovassilis 2 months ago

> Any one who has overcome this fear

Yes, but you're not going to like the answer: I stopped caring. Not because that is the best solution, but the only one that worked for me with my limited skill set. I focus on the topic and blatantly assume that my contribution outweighs my presentational shortcomings. People keep seeking my input despite that, so the sum must be a net positive or everybody is just crazy.

I read some of your HN contributions, you seem to be a based person. I think I would enjoy working with you and you probably get along well with others in your organisation. I think people hold you in higher regard than you think they do.

  • snickerer 2 months ago

    A 'I totally don't care about you fools'-attitude was my solution, too. It worked great for me and I love it. I get on stage and have a deep 'love me or hate me, I don't care, that's my show' feeling.

    After I told to myself that I have this attitude, I started to be able to play with the audience's attention instead of focusing on myself.

    • rg111 2 months ago

      > A 'I totally don't care about you fools'-attitude was my solution, too.

      This attitude sorted my entire life, and it keeps solving more and more problems.

      I am so glad that I adopted this mindset very early in life (late teens).

    • ggeorgovassilis 2 months ago

      It's a bit more nuanced for me, I just wanted to keep my comment short. I love most places I work at, I want to contribute as much value as I can and keep harm away from the company and my colleagues. Given my skills and limitations, it boils down to a simple dilemma: either I contribute and make people mad at me or I shut up and let them walk into their own demise.

      • geraldwhen 2 months ago

        You sound young, because it’s never so simple. Sometimes it is far easier and cheaper to fail and then correct than fight for a perfect solution up front.

        People really don’t like failing. And they’ll often fail faster than you imagine. If you’re looking for reading material, pick up “How to win friends and influence people”

        • ggeorgovassilis 2 months ago

          > You sound young

          Thank you :-)

          > because it’s never so simple

          I thought I made it abundantly clear that the reality of the situation overwhelms me and oversimplification is the only way that I could make work.

  • sokoloff 2 months ago

    Related to "not caring" is "realizing that others don't notice near as much as you do".

    It's like hearing your own heartbeat as you're trying to fall asleep. No one else can hear it; they also don't notice slight pauses nearly as much as you do. Take the time you need and plow through it.

    • garbagetime 2 months ago

      > "realizing that others don't notice near as much as you do"

      Not a necessary truth

      • sokoloff 2 months ago

        OK, I should probably amend that. Verbal fillers and overused words are often more noticeable to the audience than to the speaker (or umm-ahh-er). Those tend to not be judged very harshly though and are rarely a reason to be fearful of how you're perceived while public speaking.

  • anthropodie 2 months ago

    I remember in earlier days of Tesla, Elon Musk was not really great at his presentation skills. Looking at him I was like I might just be able to pull off my presentations like him. Kinda helped with my confidence.

    People really don't care. They might chuckle for a moment if you really goofed up but they forget very fast. It's us who amplify what others might be thinking. Someone said it rightly:

    We suffer more in imagination than in reality.

    • alpaca128 2 months ago

      Then there's my case, I spoke in an insanely monotonous, mind numbing way during presentations (which I was unaware of), and all the teachers in school lied to me and pretended nothing was wrong to not hurt my feelings or something. There my classmates suffered in reality, or at least I would have.

      Teachers, please don't do this, do your fucking job and be honest. School is the best time to work on things like this.

ajb 2 months ago

One theory about anxiety is that there is a self reinforcing cycle:

Feel anxiety - attention on own body language - less attention on others - less effective communication - feel more anxiety

The theory then goes, that the way to break the cycle is, when you find yourself paying attention to your own body language, resolve to concentrate instead on making the communication effective. Look outward, not inward. Ask clarifying questions, find out the context, look for people who might want to ask their own question but are too nervous etc.

This creates a positive cycle. You become better at communication, and your body language improves as you stop feeling that your are at the mercy of the situation.

Other people are not actually interested in whether you are feeling nervous, they just want to communicate. They will forget fumbles if you move past them yourself.

ciconia 2 months ago

I've had a really bad case of it: trembling uncontrollably, becoming completely stuck in my mind, and failing miserably. This predicament has basically destroyed my career in music (and I'm a pretty good musician!), and made me avoid a lot of situations in which I might have been able to contribute from my knowledge and experience, in different domains.

As someone who still struggles with the same problem, here are some things that really help me:

First, be open about it. Talk about it to your family, friends, colleagues, boss. That way you'll at least get rid of the shame and the guilt that accompany this "handicap". When my teenage kids, who are very sensitive this kind of thing, bug me about my trembling, or my breaking voice (which may come in a variety of social situations), I explain to them that it's not something that I do on purpose, and that it's not something I control.

In fact, when I get this kind of anxiety which is manifested physiologically (which can look scary to the other people in the room), I try to explain to my audience what's happening to me. I have found that people's attitude will change from bewilderment and suspicion to empathy, which immediately lowers the tension in the room, helps me calm down somewhat and lets me get on with the subject matter with greater ease.

I have also found that concentrating on my breath helps tremendously, and in fact the physical effects come because my body muscles seem to contract in a sort of panic reaction, and the only way I can reverse that is to take long, slow breaths that relax my body.

So, when talking in public, I slow down, taking the time to breath at the end of each phrase. This is not easy to do at first, but combined with an attentive and empathetic crowd, it really changes everything! A practice that I have found to work really well, is to practice mindful breathing while doing some activity, like programming, cooking, gardening or whatever.

I found this to be surprisingly challenging at first, as you need to split your attention between the activity at hand and the controlled slow breathing. But every time I practiced it (especially in preparation for giving a talk), the difference was remarkable.

I hope this helps!

davzie 2 months ago

The technique I use if I ever feel this when speaking or playing gigs is to embody fully the idea that it’s not me on stage or about to go on stage anymore, I am now a character that resembles whatever that audience wants to see. That really helps because now you can hide those insecurities (that are normal) behind a persona.

  • drukenemo 2 months ago

    I really think you are on to something. This technique is used widely by performing artists. Your comment shouldn’t be underestimated in my view.

Shinmon 2 months ago

You are being asked those questions because you are seen as an expert in the matter or as an "authority" (by expertise) in general.

First, I think it should be okay to answer "I don't know" if you don't know. If you feel like this is okay it should become easier.

If you lose confidence when your managers are around I would start asking myself why this is the case? Are you afraid that they will judge you? Do you have a strained relationship?

Anyway, this is a rather complicated issue which takes time to tackle. If you can afford it, go see a public speaking coach/mental coach/therapist. If you think it's just part something you need to practice, there are "impromptu theater" groups.

  • Zanni 2 months ago

    Seconding "impromptu theater." Or, as I was going to say, improv comedy. Improv will make you much more comfortable with 1) trusting your instincts, 2) keeping your cool when you can't immediately think of what to say or get an unexpected reaction to what you do say.

    If that doesn't sound like your jam, maybe look into a speech class or Toastmasters. I know you're already comfortable speaking in front of large groups, but you'll have an opportunity to practice extemporaneous speech (speech with very limited prep), which should be directly applicable to your situation.

stranded22 2 months ago

Join Toastmasters and take up a role every meeting, be it with table topics, evaluations or another role.

You are then in a safe environment where everyone wants to see you succeed and give you help.

james_in_the_uk 2 months ago

I suffered with this at the start of my career. I am a lawyer so it was not ideal. People want to ask a question and get an answer.

I found that it was being put on the spot that flustered me. I learned to respond by saying: "That's a good question. Give me a second to think it through". Then I would wait a few seconds, until I felt the tension ease. Then I'd invariably be able to give a better answer.

I did it to manage my anxiety but I also found that it helped convey a sense of authority and gravitas.

Over time I am not so anxious when being put on the spot, and so tend to launch right in, often to less effect than if I'd paused for thought first.

ignite 2 months ago

As someone who did exactly this, and taken others through this, let me assure you the answer is "practice, practice, practice".

Several people below recommend toastmasters. Do it.

They have been around for a hundred years, because they are good at it. There's nothing wrong with other approaches, but toastmasters is good at making nervous people comfortable. Toastmasters' meetings have short, improv speeches every meeting, so you can practice the thing you need work on. And you can get feedback, delivered kindly!

Improv is fine, too. I just find it a little scarier to get started in. And it doesn't have as much emphasis on "organize your thoughts". Of course, it's a lot of fun!!

Anything that gives you practice on what you aren't good at is good. Give lightning talks at small users groups. Hell, get a weekend job at Starbucks. Have a friend ask you questions like this, and answer them on your feet. Get up in the morning, and explain something to your mirror. Find the nearest small group of people, and summarize the responses given here!

Practice, practice, practice

  • ipnon 2 months ago

    When I was trying out for the state high school orchestra I was so nervous I couldn't speak to the judge. My shirt was soaked with sweat. We never made eye contact, it was easier to try pretending he wasn't there. I had practiced the tune a thousand times. Every scale was completely memorized, every rhythmic variation was a reflex. I had practiced so much practically all I knew anymore was breathing and playing the trumpet. I could have played that tune perfectly if I was in a burning airplane falling out of the sky.

    You have to be so good at what you do that it doesn't matter how nervous you are. Focus on the content, and deliver. All the audience wants is a good show. Once you realize you're as good as you're supposed to be, all the anxiety and pressure slowly fades away.

  • munbun 2 months ago

    Best advice here. It also takes less practice than you think for stage fright to go away.

dontbenebby 2 months ago

I was briefly a child actor, but left that world to focus on developing tools and techniques to fight some of the horrible people I met in that space.

There is no replacement for practice… make a slide deck or script and practice it repeatedly, to the point you barely need notes. This will take 10-40 hours for a 30 minute presentation. (Spaced across multiple weeks - you will increase the chances you bomb your talk if you attempt on short notice)

Then practice it in front of someone, and edit the copy until someone who is not an expert in your domain doesn’t want to ask clarifying questions.

Then practice another 10-40 hours until you’re as comfortable as you were prior to trying it out on a test audience.

You might spend 20-40 hours practicing per 30 min of speaking initially, but eventually you’ll get to a point where that ramp up period will get much shorter.

The above, paired with some improv classes and purposefully letting yourself bomb a few open mics will get you to a point where not only will you advance your career, you’ll be so persuasive you may not care if you have one due to all the side quests you go on with the enraptured folks who come to you after your lectures :-)

riaandewit 2 months ago

What worked for me: come up with a bit of patter or a general “surrounding script” that you wrap your answers with. JFK did this sort of thing to buy himself time to think.

You can also use it to build in your disclaimers: you’re just giving your opinion on the spot and might have better answers after thinking about it offline for a bit. Counter to intuition, I found the “hmm, first approximation says THIS to me, but can I take the problem away and get back to you with something better, once I have more data and have run through the options in my head?” Approach tends to build trust over time, and actually helps ramp up your confidence too. It turns the whole process from a step to a gradient.

Don’t worry too much about the body language of confidence. Unless you’re doing something pathological like picking your nose or something, there is a WIDE range of acceptable ways to interact: think Brin, Musk, Newton, Darwin, Hawking.

And… cut yourself some slack - you’ve got this ;)

aqme28 2 months ago

Take an improv class.

Like 6 times a week you'll have to go up in front of a dozen other students. Just that repetition really helped my stage fright.

  • dhunter_mn 2 months ago

    Many years ago as a part time undergrad student (I went to a "nontraditional" university) I took an Interpersonal Communications class, which was very good. I told the instructor that I had fear of public speaking and wanted to know if she had any recommendations for overcoming it. She strongly recommended a class called "Acting for Non-Actors". She practically guaranteed it would cure me. Alas, I was never able to fit that class into my schedule, wish I had.

    • aqme28 2 months ago

      You're not dead. There are still tons of acting classes you could take.

gchokov 2 months ago

I've recently read "Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry" by Catherine M. Pittman, Elizabeth M. Karle

It shows the processes of getting Anxious and the role of the cortex, and amygdala in the process. It also shows how you can really rewire the parts (mostly by associations) the parts of the brain trigger these panic and anxiety attacks. It's a great book, and there's also audio book. Very much worth the 6h of listening time. Knowing the mechanisms and biology behind those things helped me see the bigger picture and answer a lot of the "whys and hows".

Lastly, welcome to the club, you are not alone - fortunately this is a skill we can master.

zefbeck 2 months ago

I remember when I was younger, I actually ran away from a presentation I was due to give at a local library!

Now, I enjoy them, but still find the first minute tough. And this is key for me, the first minute. Get through this and then its like going down a hill.

Two things that helped me.

1. Instead of taking the "everyone's a fool" approach as many have commented, go in and try and make a joke or comment that is humorous.

"This is going to be the most interesting 3 hour presentation of your life!"

You want to show the audience you are relaxed and once they appear to be friendly and nice, the feedback loop puts you in a new sense of power.

This will be the first minute. You can also ask the audience for a raise of hands to a few questions (don't over do it) but it connects you to the foreign enemy in the first few seconds.

2. Don't do it.

If you really feel like you are going to die - don't do it. Explain to whoever has it on you to present this why and ask someone else to do it with your input.

hknmtt 2 months ago

Fear comes from the unknown - that you will be exposed as fraud by the audience. So if you know your stuff, the topic of your talk, inside and out, you will be confident in what you say and therefore the way you present it.

Second thing is to do something like Till Lindemann, the lead singer from Rammstein, did. he too had massive stage freight so ho came up witch a character and his entire performance is exactly that - a performance. So you interact with the audience through this mask, this filer, of a made up persona and so it's not really you doing the talking. At least that is how your mind will rationalize it.

badpun 2 months ago

Why do you feel you need to "show confidence"? If this is required for a leadership position in the company, then it doesn't sound like a great culture [1]. We should be above a platoon of chimpanzee, where displays of dominant behaviour is all there is.

[1] Admittedly, this is more or less required for leadership position in large organizations - but none of them have good management culture. They companies are usually rich and stable enough for management to become irrelevant and degenerate into Game of Throne-esque turf wars.

laurieg 2 months ago

As someone who had gone from severe shyness to comfortably talking in front of a variety of audiences, the simple truth is that the more you do it the better you get.

As far as I know there aren't any clever tricks that don't involve drugs.

There one positive is that practice compounds. 20 talks isn't double the experience of 10 talks it's 10 times more. The change for me was quite sudden. Going from very nervous to reasonably comfortable quickly. I spoke to other performers and they said their experience was similar.

throw_away1525 2 months ago

Tell your doctor about it and ask for a beta blocker like propranolol. They are seriously performance enhancing drugs and used by many performers, surgeons, etc...

I was originally prescribed propranolol for my fear of flying. You can Google for the biological mechanism, but it essentially removes the physical symptoms from anxiety (racing heart beat, adrenaline rush, etc...).

I had a more pills than flights, so I started using them whenever I had to teach courses in industry as a consultant as well as I also suffered from stage fright (as does everyone, really, it is extremely normal).

It is absolutely incredible how much our anxiety and fear is actually anticipation of the onset of physical symptoms. On the beta blocker, if I made a mistake speaking I literally wouldn't skip a beat - my heart rate would stay the exact same, and I would be able to cooly correctly myself and move on.

The best part? I'm no longer afraid of flying or public speaking and don't even need to take the drug anymore to do either. Exposure to both of these things with the help of the beta blocker helped me overcome my fears almost completely and these days I can fly or speak publicly with no issues!

edit: An additional tip... While preparing, record yourself giving your presentation. Watching your recording will be very illuminating, I promise. You will cringe a lot at first, and then later want to re-watch sections because of how articulate you were. This is one of the absolute best practices one of my professors in engineer school taught us (he would record us presenting to him and our classmates, then ask us to watch and critique our own talks) and this practice has served me very well my entire career.

jedberg 2 months ago

The key is in the difference between the situations -- when giving a tech talk, you are in control. You had time to prep, you know the material well.

I assume those don't apply to your impromptu discussions. So you have to figure out ways to change that.

Prepping and knowing the material is the easiest one. Go deep and learn what you need to learn to be informed. Once you have that you will feel more in control, and will get less nervous.

refurb 2 months ago

You keep doing it again and again. Exposure therapy.

One thing that worked for me is having a kid. My concern about what other people think took a huge dive once I had 20 hours of things to do in a 16 hour day.

I remember talking to another parent at work that screwed up in front of the CEO and she said the same thing "I'm too busy to really care". It really turns the volume down on everything else.

hackerman123469 2 months ago

Most people don't overcome it, but deals with it. A lot of people still feel it, but choose to ignore it or substitute the feeling with something else. What can help in dealing with anxiety and fear is really just not thinking about it. I know it sounds a little cliché and whatnot, but it really is the best way to deal with it. Anxiety and fear usually stem from overthinking.

illusiveman 2 months ago

Have a look at physiological sight, explained by neuroscientist Andrew Huberman.

Basically, it consists on doing an inhale following by another quick inhale, and then a long exhale.

Theory says that you repeat that pattern 2-3 times, and your stress is drastically reduced for whatever reason I don't remember right now, but he explains it very well in his podcasts and as guest in other podcasts as well.

jtode 2 months ago

James Earl Jones, according to legend, had a horrific stutter growing up. If you're not familiar, he played Darth Vader and has one of the deepest, richest voices in movies - it is very much his main asset.

Long story short, I read somewhere (usual "I didn't verify this at all" caveat applies) they did some brain scans on him to see if they could figure out anything about stuttering, and as it turns out, when he speaks now, he uses the part of his brain that relates to singing, rather than talking. He didn't fix the problem, in other words, he just sang his way around it, and once you keep that in mind, listening to him speak has a feel to it.

I had crippling social anxiety when younger, I would feel absolute terror going into a party for instance. But I also play in bands, and not once have I ever experienced stagefright in 30ish years of live performance. But if I do a good show and an attractive person approaches me afterwards, I'm just as awkward and useless as ever at closing the deal. In fact, I only feel comfortable hanging out at a bar if I'm playing there - if I'm working, in other words.

Basically, a room full of your peers is not the same as an audience, so don't bother contrasting the two situations; I can tell you with great confidence that they are two different things, even when they are comprised of exactly the same group of people. So whatever you do, don't be confused about why you do well in one and not so much in the other. This is how the anxiety brain works.

The usual suggestion from professionals these days seems to be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy after just about any diagnosis, but it doesn't sound like you've sought a diagnosis for your social anxiety yet. Worth pursuing - there are also pills that can help without the debilitating effects of alcohol or other things people use to get over that hump.

samelawrence 2 months ago

1. Accept that you may never lose your stage-fright, but you may be able to turn that fear to your advantage (motivation to prepare, or improve performance style). Winston Churchill is considered one of the great orators of the 20th century, but he had such bad stage-fright that he had to run out onto the stage. Admiral Lord Nelson, the greatest naval captain since Sir Walter Raleigh suffered from chronic sea sickness. Sometimes these are things that we just work through.

2. Do it a lot and the novelty will wear off, making it easier over time. No replacement for hours behind the wheel.

3. It's not related to anxiety, but the best book on public speaking I've ever read is "Ad Herennium", attributed to Cicero, but probably not written by him. I read it as a teenager and it changed me.

globalise83 2 months ago

Please try an improvised theatre / acting group for a while - you will learn everything needed in a safe and playful environment.

mrhektor 2 months ago

I am a stammerer, so I have some experience with social anxiety and fumbling when asked impromptu questions in front of an audience.

In a situation such as what you're describing, and where I couldn't avoid answering, what ended up happening with me was that I would want to get the answer over with as quickly as possible. And that often resulted in fumbling, not thinking things through and generally gibberish coming out of my mouth.

The key for me was to slow things down. I know it sounds simple, but avoid rushing your response. Just take a beat. Make the answer deliberate, and make your brain think about the question being asked. When my brain started working on the problem of "answering the question", I found my anxiety was replaced by eagerness to answer the question. It also did wonders for my stammering, because when talking deliberately about something I was an expert in, the confidence comes naturally.

Easier said than done, but try slowing it down :)

yosito 2 months ago

The answer is simple, but not easy. Search for a Toastmasters club near you. Attend their meetings regularly and practice!

quadcore 2 months ago

just questions in big forums involving senior leaders / peers or other team members, I generally fumble. My body language doesn't show confidence, try to mince words etc.

I step back because i feel i am being judged, or I make wrong statement etc.

What Ive learnt from my experience is that youre body isnt crazy: if it feels afraid, there might be a challenge (or rather, a danger). For me the only way to stop being afraid is to understand it to its core and understand how to beat it (to a reasonable degree).

In your specific case, you're facing a terrific challenge because they are certainly experienced leaders and very emotionally intelligent.

There are many things to know to beat it, its a complex one (which I dont fully understand either) but i know it starts there:

Tangurena2 2 months ago

For me, it took practice.

I used to be incredibly shy and had extreme difficulty talking to strangers. When I attended a police academy, the instructors noticed it immediately and attempted to humiliate me until I dropped out. I didn't. Later I got a job that required speaking in front of groups - basically teaching mechanics & technicians how to diagnose and repair electrical/electronic problems in automobiles. I was still shy and anxious about speaking in front of others, but I did it anyway.

Several other people have mentioned Toastmasters. This is an organization that exists to help people gain the skills & confidence to speak in front of strangers. Or just your coworkers. Some companies host their own chapter of Toastmasters.

Broken_Hippo 2 months ago

I'm similar: I find large groups easy, small ones more difficult. I always think it is because the people in large groups are anonymous.

This is, as you say, social anxiety. And you might be able to get better with some practice. Local theater, choir, or other hobbies might prove to help or simply doing things that get you out of your comfort zone more often. Basically, this is just training yourself to act differently and gets you more used to small anxiety. Of course, a lot of the practice won't have the added stress of your career so it might or might not pay off.

The other side of this might be some help through professionals. A therapist might be able to give you some spectacular tips that me, an untrained random internet human, won't know. A GP might be able to prescribe something to help with the anxiety.

kapsl0k 2 months ago

I had suffered pretty much the issues for the most of my adult life (almost 10 years) until finally dealing with it this year. I was anxious all the time - every day after I woke up I was constantly thinking of meetings to come and possibility of my body trembling, my voice cracking and thus being judged, being laughed at etc.

The solution for me was to visit a therapist. It took 1.5 years of a therapy (and another 6 months of waiting for a seat) but this is the best investement I have ever made.

For me the issues seemed to originate in the childhood, certain events impacting my thoughts like the feeling of being judged, being inferior to others etc. The therapy is not easy - you need to trust your therapist, open up and be honest with him but it can certainly help.

AussieWog93 2 months ago

My 2 cents as a complete sperg, who used to work for a company founded by a complete sperg, start a business.

When you're the head honcho, people not understanding your body language or confidence is their problem, and they'll quickly adapt.

kqr 2 months ago

I don't know if it's going to help you specifically, but what's helped me is to slow down. Basically, if you can't prepare ahead of time, take the time to prepare your answers in the moment.

Acknowledge the question, repeat it back slowly to make sure you understood it right, be silent for a while thinking about the response.

Then beware that it's fine to say "I don't know but I can look it up" or "can we come back to this in a few minutes? I would like to let it stew a bit" or "I will give you a proper answer later but if I'm allowed to speculate wildly just to keep the discussion flowing..."

eachro 2 months ago

Confidence usually comes from something. Sometimes it is innate. For those less lucky, it generally comes from preparation and just as important, the belief in the work you put in to be ready for w/e talk you're giving.

xtiansimon 2 months ago

> “But when it comes to impromptu talks, giving opinions or asking just questions… I generally fumble. […] i feel i am being judged, or I make wrong statement.”

Take this how you will, but maybe your impromptu answers are ‘wrong’ in some sense.

When I was younger I was very free with my opinions. As I’ve become older I’ve met more people and suffering off-the-cuff responses from others has opened my mind to my own B.S.

In part I’ve improved my speech, writing and thinking following my growing interests in philosophy and linguistics.

If nothing else, I’ve learned the phrase “word salad”.

mettamage 2 months ago

You're not scared of talking to large groups per se (I'd call 75 large). So it seems you're sensitive to perceived status. But they are your team. I dare to guess you think about the outcome and might be afraid it's going to go sideways.

Cognitive behavioral therapy might help. Why CBT? I have a suspicion you have some warped beliefs. Fix them. Get a therapist who specializes in social anxiety cases and do that with him/her.

spaceman_2020 2 months ago

Join a local improv group!

I'm not particularly shy, but I'm a little stiff with my body in public. I started doing improv a couple of years ago. Really helped me open up physically in public.

Most people in my group had some similar issues - either with public speaking or public body language.

And if I'm honest, it's also a whole lot of fun. Most groups are very welcoming to newcomers. Check to see if there are any local groups offering introductory classes.

quickthrower2 2 months ago

“I don’t know, I can try and find out for you”

“I am not sure, maybe Sue (in same meeting) knows more about that area?”

Are valid replies. Armed with various get outs, if you can’t answer or only part answer or only probabilistically answer then you will be OK you can say these with confidence.

And if you know you can answer with confidence.

And sometimes it is wise to say you are not sure even if you are (avoiding a promise that might get broken)

polotics 2 months ago

Preparation preparation preparation. Then dress rehearsal with feedback from trusted people. The improve and prepare again with the improved version. Then when you get on stage, you will know that the fear is good: it means that you are fully emotionally invested in what you're going to say. Fear not feeling fear before you get on any stage: it's a bad sign that you won't come out as sincere.

fluxinflex 2 months ago

> But when it comes to impromptu talks, giving opinions or asking just questions in big forums involving senior leaders / peers or other team members, I generally fumble. My body language doesn't show confidence, try to mince words etc.

Hang on, didn't you just post your question to a forum of peers? ;)

Perhaps it has something to do with context, HN is just a bunch of tech kiddies (and adults) staying around the water dispenser drinking the cool-aid, while work is full of bosses constantly on the lookout for people to make redundant. At least that is what I imagine.

Preparation is important, mental preparation is even more important. I once did a speakers course and the best part was telling an emotional story (out of ones own life) in front of the other participants. Being close to tears in front of other people harden me to talk about anything in front of anybody.

I was one told the imperfect notion of imagining your listeners to be naked (sorry this was told to me before #metoo - don't do this at home). The intention was to believe that your better than your listeners and therefore king of the stage. Don't believe this. That doesn't work. It makes you arrogant and presumptuous.

I found it better to think of being a speaker as being asked to speak by people who wish to listen and learn something from you. Speaking isn't a competition, it is a community sharing ideas.

scanr 2 months ago

Doing technical sales helped me the most as the incentives and feedback for effective human interaction were very clear.

Doing customer support was great for acclimatising to talking to people who were upset.

Improv has been excellent for commoditising awkwardness in a safe space and is just a lot of fun.

Mainly it’s the same as getting good at most things:

- do it often

- get good feedback

- have good mentors

- learn from those who do it effectively

gardenhedge 2 months ago

Very few people are actually good at this - some might think they are. Whenever The Q&A parts of a talk are normally useless. E.g. Question is asked.

Answer is: "That's a great question". Let me refer to something I already said or say something pretty generic. Ok, next question.

bloqs 2 months ago

Psychologically, self-consciousness loads heavily on your neuroticism (big five)

You are self concious, because of fear. Your fear may be because of overtuned threat perception due to your personality, but also external factors.

You need to stabilise this part of yourself to stop feeling overwhelmed.

1. Make sure you keep your caffiene consumption CONSISTENT and as low as possible. None is best, but dont go not drinking any if you have 4 cups a day. 2. CONSISTENT sleep, achieved by rising at exactly the same time daily and immediately eating a full brealfast with fats and protiens and fewer carbs. 3. CONSISTENT practice at speaking in a manner that is easy for you, so on a subject you know, to a small, familiar audience (teams call with direct reports perhaps). Maintain mindfulness of just one person, or focus on speaking to one person in the crowd when you do, and stop focussing on yourself. 4. Remember you are a highly competent individiual.

dekken_ 2 months ago

Would you say you're physically impressive/powerful?

Complete anecdote, but you might find it useful.

I started running seriously about three years ago, now I run 10k almost everyday.

Being stronger (and in constant pain) has made me much more assertive.

aristofun 2 months ago

There is no ather scalable way but practice what you’re lacking.

Acting classes, YouTube channel, public speaking clubs etc.

Just do it until you’re satisfied.

There is no other way. Everything else is just redundant words around this basic idea.

serverlessmania 2 months ago

If you experience physical symptoms, you need to practice, practice and practice challenging social situations, and propranolol helps a lot for important events like interviews and stages anxiety

chillbill 2 months ago

To add to the rest of the comments, I have found that not wearing headphones in public (while walking around or in public transit) helped a lot.

srs_sput 2 months ago

I would suggest talking to a therapist about how you are feeling. A therapist can work with you on strategies to overcome this.

patrulek 2 months ago

You can improve your body language by improving your body.

fswd 2 months ago

You might be introvert, which means you feel compelled to prepare yourself before a meeting or presentation. Without this, you feel anxiety. Giving impromptu talks is easier with an extrovert personality. With some effort, you could switch. I am also introvert and so far have failed 100% of the white board style interviews, basically big tech interviews are heavily biased against interverts. I try to hint to this by saying I'm not much of a social butterfly. To be honest I perplexed to even think how extroverts find enough time to be productive at coding which requires long uninterrupted time in front of an editor. The whole working from home helped introverts out, but I guess that is going away for some companies.

Anyway, TLDR: Become an extrovert.

  • bearmode 2 months ago

    >which means you feel compelled to prepare yourself before a meeting or presentation.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with introversion

    >Without this, you feel anxiety.

    Introverts aren't necessarily anxious people

    You're making the mistake a lot of people online do where you're conflating social anxiety with introversion. Both make you not want to be around people, but for very different reasons.

  • fluxinflex 2 months ago

    > Anyway, TLDR: Become an extrovert.

    As an introvert, becoming an extrovert always comes across as playing a role, being an actor, my character is introvert and anything else is acting.

    So for me, an introvert can't become an extrovert, but an introvert can play at being an extrovert.

    • fswd 2 months ago

      Yes this is true.

s5300 2 months ago



Box style breathing

benevol 2 months ago

Ever tried Elles-Dee?