From the first chapter of Small Talk Big Results: Chit Chat Your Way to Success!
Locubrevisphobia (n.) A pathological fear of making small talk, often resulting in the sufferer avoiding social and networking events [from Latin “locu,” speak, and “brevis,” short + phobia].
OK. I made that up. But many people do have fears that hold them back from making small talk.
Let’s take a look at the four most common fears that hold people back.
1. Fear of the unknown. When I was little, my mom said, “Don’t talk to strangers!” For some people, that childhood fear of strangers persists into adulthood.
Attitude Booster: Act like a host, not a guest.
You are at a business networking event and have done your reconnaissance—checked out who is there and identified potential conversation partners. You’re ready to make your move, but there is that twinge of nervousness. Are you nervous about introducing yourself to total strangers?
Consider a different scenario for the next networking event you attend. Think of yourself as an event’s host and not its guest.
As a host, you would introduce yourself to people you don’t know and introduce them to others. Wouldn’t you tell them where to find the food and drinks? Wouldn’t you introduce people as they arrive? A host has an active role as opposed to the passive role of a guest. You can play the role of the host even though you are not the actual host. Get in the habit of holding out your hand first and saying, “Hi, my name is ____________.”
2. Fear of rejection. Anytime you open your mouth and speak, even just to chit chat, you risk rejection. If you never talk to people, you won’t be rejected. But guess what? If you never talk to people, you will also be very lonely.
The best way I’ve found to overcome the fear of rejection is to focus on how I feel when I am accepted. It’s a great feeling and it’s worth risking rejection.
Attitude Booster: Recall the beginnings of your important relationships.
Ask yourself: what do I have to lose? Nothing! What do I have to gain? Possibly everything! Think back to when you first met your spouse or another important person in your life. How did it all start? You probably started with small talk.
I remember when my husband and I met. I was 17 and at my first beer-kegger party. As neither he nor I drink beer, I suppose it was fate that the only two sober people there would strike up a conversation. We were both geeky types, so our geeky small talk worked out just fine. More than 30 years later we are still together.
3. Fear of being a bore. You know what it’s like to hear someone drone on and on, so you don’t want to be the person others want to escape!
Attitude Booster: If you are afraid of being a bore, you probably won’t be one.
There is a simple solution, too. As long as the other person is talking, they are NOT bored! By encouraging them to talk, you become the most fascinating conversationalist they’ve ever talked to.
4. Fear of looking stupid. You are afraid that if you open your mouth, you will insert your foot. Or, maybe you won’t know what to say.
Attitude Booster: This fear is bigger in your mind than in reality!
It just doesn’t happen that often. But if it does, an effective technique is to make fun of yourself. If you can make fun of yourself, you will put others at ease. This fear is easily overcome with practice and preparation.
Have you ever suffered from locubrevisphobia? What has helped you overcome your fear of small talk?
Brush up your small talk and networking skills by getting the book!
Do you remember the first time you realized that the spoken word had power?
Was it when you were small and asked someone to be your friend, and they said yes?
Or, maybe someone used words to hurt you and even though your mom said, “Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you,” you knew that wasn’t true.
Or, maybe, like me, you found out . . . by accident . . . words just came out of your mouth and people reacted.
This me at three. Big teeth. Big smile. Bad hair days. . . .some things never change!
However, one thing that did change for me at 3 was that I realized the power of the spoken word.
My mother had brought me to work to meet her boss and coworkers. One look at her boss and I was in awe. She was just about the ugliest woman I had ever seen—long pointy chin, hooked nose, dark, bushy eyebrows over beady eyes. I blurted out, “Mommy! She looks like the Wicked Witch of the West!” Suddenly, there was complete silence. Wow. I had made quite an impression!
My mother turned to me and said, “Diane, don’t you mean, Glenda the Good Witch?”
Hello? Did my mother just lose her mind? “No. Glenda was pretty!”
Fortunately, my mother’s boss started laughing and all was well. And I had found a new power—the power of words.
Over the years, I have continued to learn that my words can have a powerful effect.
From saying “I do” more than 30 years ago when I married my husband to saying yes to adopting my 2 youngest children. When we adopted our youngest child, Yuri, six years ago at age 12 from Russia, words were especially important as both my husband and I had to prepare 10-minute speeches to deliver in front of the judge—speeches that had to be interpreted as we spoke and speeches that would determine if the judge would allow us to adopt Yuri. I even had to convince the judge that we weren’t adopting Yuri just to be slave labor or to harvest his organs.
Those were powerful, life-changing words.
I can thank Toastmasters for helping me develop powerful words.
I’d like to tell you that my joining Toastmasters was part of a bigger plan for my life—a powerful plan for powerful words—but it wasn’t—well, maybe it was—it just wasn’t my plan.
When I first visited a club, Rogers Toastmasters, in late 2003, I wasn’t looking to become a polished speaker or to enhance my leadership skills; I was just looking for a club that would allow my homeschooled, teenaged son to participate, even though he was too young to join. They welcomed his participation, on one condition—I had to join the club!
I joined the club and the next week, I was in a leadership position, as educational vice president, helping to plan club meetings. Over the past few years I have held several club and district leadership positions, greatly improving both my management and leadership skills—“on-the-job” leadership training in the non-threatening and supportive environment that is a hallmark of Toastmasters.
In addition to growing in leadership, I grew in communication skills, through the various projects emphasizing different aspects of communication from the basics of organizing a speech to the challenges of leading discussions. I even entered and won a few speech contests.
As my confidence as a speaker and leader grew, I began to see myself differently. I began to see myself as someone who could use words that could uplift and inspire others—and I could do it on purpose! And, I started with helping people in Toastmasters.
I’ll never forget the first time I mentored someone in Toastmasters—her name was Barb.
Barb was an older woman, in her mid-60s.
When Barb joined my club, I was excited. Now I wasn’t the only woman in the club! I couldn’t wait to hear her icebreaker speech.
The day of her icebreaker arrived and she approached the lectern like someone on a death march. When she got there, she set her notes down, gripped the sides of the lectern, and looked down at her notes and . . . for the next 5 minutes . . . didn’t look up.
Her voice shook. Her hands shook. The lectern—well, it looked like we were having an earthquake. Then, she started to hyperventilate.
It was one of those speeches that both the audience and the speaker couldn’t wait for it to end.
When she finished, she sat down next to me and didn’t say a word until the end of the meeting when she turned to me and said.
“That was awful. I quit.”
I didn’t want her to quit. She was the only other woman, after all!
“Barb, why did you join?” I asked.
“Well, I want to be able to speak at my church to raise funds for a medical mission trip to Argentina.”
“Barb, if that’s still important to you, don’t quit. I’ll help you.”
For the next 6 months, My club members and I helped Barb overcome her fears and polish her presentations.
Six months after that dreadful speech, Barb not only spoke at her church, she also competed in the club humorous speech contest and won!
“I’ll help you.” Powerful words.
Other toastmasters have helped me–encouraged me even more than I have encouraged them—with powerful words of encouragement.
It was with the encouragement of other toastmasters, that I began to consider developing myself as a professional speaker.
Three years ago I applied for a job to teach high school class room workshops for a local college. Vitalia Bryn-Pundyk—she and her husband Roman, are both Distinguished Toastmasters and professional speakers—was a major source of encouragement. Vitalia was employed at the college and she clued me in that the “information session” was really a thinly disguised audition—everybody had to stand up and talk for a couple of minutes—they used that impromptu speaking to thin the crowd. That was the first of 3 auditions. For the third audition, they told us to prepare to sell something to teens—a product, a service or a concept for 3 minutes. However, they also said, that they would tell us to stop before the 3 minutes was up—when they had heard enough to make a decision.
Picture this: a classroom style room with the two decision makers sitting at the back. 10-15 people who had made it through first two rounds of auditions and this is the final audition. You don’t know how long you really will be speaking, but you know you have to wow them at the start.
Guess how long I spoke before they told me to sit down?
Only 20 seconds.
I used a familiar example—one I’d heard another speaker use—but high school students probably hadn’t.
“Raise your hand if you’d like this $100 bill.”
(I held up a $100 bill. After most raised their hands, I immediately crumpled the bill, threw it on the ground, stomped on it and then jumped on it with both feet. I then Then picked up and showed crumpled bill to the audience)
“Do you still want it?” (people raised hands) “Of course! It’s still worth the same!”
“Like this $100 bill, even though some people may have crumpled you, or trampled on you in the past, you are still worth the same.”
I had more but that’s where they stopped me and I got the job.
I could thank my toastmaster experience, and my toastmaster friend’s powerful words of encouragement.
That’s how I got my start as a professional speaker! I now speak to corporations and associations on communication and leadership topics, coach others on speaking and even teach a speech class to homeschooled students.
Where could your powerful words take you?
Now, you might not want to be a professional speaker, but your powerful words can make a difference to yourself and to those you influence. But the most powerful words don’t come out of your mouth accidentally.
Find your powerful words–on purpose–with Toastmasters!
I also have made a short version of my Toastmaster story as a Toastmaster Testimonial Tract that other Toastmasters can use as a template.
What do you think about focusing on strengths and downplaying your weaknesses?
I recently took the Strength Finders 2.o strengths survey, a set of 177 paired questions which took me about 25 minutes to complete. I had purchased the Kindle version of the book and received a code to take the test online.
My top strengths as determined by the survey are, in order:
- Activator–one who acts to start things in motion
- Maximizer–one who seeks to take people and projects from great to excellent
- Learner–one who must constantly be challenged and learning new things to feel successful
- Woo–one who is able to easily persuade
- Communication–one who uses words to inspire action and education
If you know me, does this ring true?
Here is the list of all 34 strengths–which strengths do you have?
- Achiever – one with a constant drive for accomplishing tasks
- Activator – one who acts to start things in motion
- Adaptability – one who is especially adept at accommodating to changes in direction/plan
- Analytical – one who requires data and/or proof to make sense of their circumstances
- Arranger – one who enjoys orchestrating many tasks and variables to a successful outcome
- Belief – one who strives to find some ultimate meaning behind everything they do
- Command – one who steps up to positions of leadership without fear of confrontation
- Communication – one who uses words to inspire action and education
- Competition – one who thrives on comparison and competition to be successful
- Connectedness – one who seeks to unite others through commonality
- Consistency – one who believes in treating everyone the same to avoid unfair advantage
- Context – one who is able to use the past to make better decisions in the present
- Deliberative – one who proceeds with caution, seeking to always have a plan and know all of the details
- Developer – one who sees the untapped potential in others
- Discipline – one who seeks to make sense of the world by imposition of order
- Empathy – one who is especially in tune with the emotions of others
- Focus – one who requires a clear sense of direction to be successful
- Futuristic – one who has a keen sense of using an eye towards the future to drive today’s success
- Harmony – one who seeks to avoid conflict and achieve success through consensus
- Ideation – one who is adept at seeing underlying concepts that unite disparate ideas
- Includer – one who instinctively works to include everyone
- Individualization – one who draws upon the uniqueness of individuals to create successful teams
- Input – one who is constantly collecting information or objects for future use
- Intellection – one who enjoys thinking and thought-provoking conversation often for its own sake, and also can data compress complex concepts into simplified models
- Learner – one who must constantly be challenged and learning new things to feel successful
- Maximizer – one who seeks to take people and projects from great to excellent
- Positivity – one who has a knack for bring the light-side to any situation
- Relator – one who is most comfortable with fewer, deeper relationships
- Responsibility – one who, inexplicably, must follow through on commitments
- Restorative – one who thrives on solving difficult problems
- Self-Assurance – one who stays true to their beliefs, judgments and is confident of his/her ability
- Significance – one who seeks to be seen as significant by others
- Strategic – one who is able to see a clear direction through the complexity of a situation
- Woo – one who is able to easily persuade
Confidence comes from within. Confidence is about overcoming limiting beliefs. Confidence is about overcoming fear.
You were born with only two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Everything else is learned.
How can you become more confident?
1. Take Action—Action conquers fear. Action is the most significant confidence-builder. Self-confidence builds with achievement and takes failures in stride by focusing on the learning experience. Take action. Take baby steps toward achievement. What little action toward a greater goal can you take today? Pick one thing that you can do today. Maybe that one thing is buying a book to motivate yourself. Fire Your Fear! by Deirdre Van Nest is a quick read that can do just that!
2. Project a Positive Personality—A sense of optimism breeds confidence. Looking for the good in yourself and others builds positive momentum. Take a gratitude moment every day to reflect on the positive. Laugh often, even if you have to force it at first. Do you need a quick Laughter Lesson?
3. Pursue a Passion—When you care about something so much that you forget to care what others think, you look at what you do and say as a gift you are giving to others. Find a cause outside of yourself. A dream coach, like Betty Liedtke, can help you if you need to break through to find and pursue your passion.
4. Participate—contributing to group efforts and looking beyond yourself will grow your sense of community and possibly even your leadership skills, which in turn build self-confidence. Take your passion and find an outlet. Check out non-profits, look for a Meet-Up group, look for events in your area.
5. Get Healthier—when you are healthy and energetic, it is easier to be positive and self-confident. Pick one area to start with. Examples: Start every day with an 8 oz glass of water. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier. Do 10 push-ups and 10 sit-ups every morning. Park further away and walk.
6. Dress and Act the Part—Act “as if.” Act and dress the part. Action can precede feeling. Acting confident and looking good can help you feel confident. Start with your posture. Sit up straight as you are working. Before you enter a room, imagine a fishing line attached to your hip bones that runs through your chest and out the top of your head. Imagine it is pulling you to stand tall. Next, invest in at least one outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks and wear it often! Put a shopping trip on your calendar. If you feel clueless, hire an image consultant like Monica Molstad Baresh. Worth every penny.
7. Stop the Negative Self-Talk. Immediately nip it in the bud before it grows into a life-choking vine that strangles the self-confidence right out of you. Practice thought displacement. When a negative, confidence-busting thought takes hold, immediately root it out with a positive counter-thought. For example, if your thought is something like “I’m not good enough,” replace it with, “I’m taking action to get better. I’m . . . [focus on the actions].”
8. Dump the Baggage—take a look at what’s weighing you down–from the smallest hassle of losing things on a messy desk to the big, energy-sucking messy relationships. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do to reduce the heavy load. Start with the easy stuff. Take 10 minutes to go through the piles on your desk. Set a timer and really do it. I dare you. Do it now. Take action.
9. Seek a Spiritual Foundation—If you are so inclined, consider that that you are a special creation, created for a greater purpose. You have confidence in something other than self. Reflect, meditate or pray first thing in the morning to start your day. If you didn’t do it today, do it now, even for just a moment.
10. Join Toastmasters. One of the biggest self-confidence building actions I have ever taken was to join a Toastmasters Club. I didn’t join because I wanted to build self-confidence, but the fun and positive association of the club members and the fact that I took little baby steps of action to conquer fear of public speaking and then to improve my communication and leadership skills led to growing self-confidence. Find a club today.
What do you do to build your self-confidence?