When we struggle with performance of any kind, we often hear negative thoughts. I can’t do this…I am not good at this…I don’t like this…When we change our thoughts from NO to YES, we often experience profound shifts in thinking, feeling and performing. This is true of golf, fitness performance, and no doubt many other endeavors. Let’s take a look at how YES might relate to building presentation and communication strengths.
First and foremost, change your negative self talk to positive self talk. I experienced firsthand the power of yes while running sprints on a treadmill with my fitness coach and team mates. I am not much of a runner, so this was a huge challenge. Just as I started thinking NO WAY and I CAN’T our coach suggested saying YES and YES I CAN DO THIS. When I tried it I felt stronger and could keep running longer. It didn’t even matter if I said it in my head or out loud. I felt stronger. It was still hard, but not nearly as hard as it had been. If you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts about your presentation or your own speaking skills, try saying YES. Instead of I don’t like this, or I don’t feel prepared, think, I CAN DO THIS. I AM GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME.
Instead of yes, but…say yes, and… Maybe you just heard an idea or suggestion. Did you automatically say, yes, but…? You just negated the idea. Instead of saying yes, but… try saying yes and…then adding your suggestions to what the other person said. Example: We could hold the next staff meeting offsite. Response: yes, but that would cost too much. Positive response: yes, and if we can work it into our budget we should look into that. This is not easy to do. And when you do it, you will see how it keeps exchanges more positive. Try it if you are a trainer responding to comments from learners, or if you are a presenter who gets challenging questions.
Say what you WILL not what you WON’T. Often we hear people say, I am not going to take too much of your time, I am not going to take any questions today, or I am not going to go into the reasons behind this decision. Any time you hear what the speaker is not going to do, you begin to focus squarely on the negative or missing information. Instead, try saying what you are going to do. Today I WILL keep this brief, I WILL provide only a statement, or I WILL be focusing on our action plan. See what happens when you change the focus to the positive instead of the negative.
Say YES to a thank you. What do you say after someone thanks you? Many of us say “no problem.” I hear this everywhere I go, and each time I hear it I think, really? Are you sure it wasn’t a problem? Because it sounds like maybe it was a problem. Instead, try a sincere “you’re welcome.” Or go one better. My son Shawn has a beautiful response. He says, “My pleasure.” And he says it sincerely every time. It is another way of saying YES instead of NO.
My challenge to you is to begin looking for more ways to turn negative communication to positive, moving you from no to yes.
The power of YOU
When we focus on presentation skills, we often focus on what is wrong. We speak too fast, we say UM too much, we aren’t articulate enough. Maybe you have thought along those same lines, focusing on where your deficiencies lie. Guess what? Focusing on weaknesses doesn’t make you stronger. It just makes you more uncomfortable and self-conscious. A vicious cycle.
When you gave your very first presentation, your boss probably said, “go out there and just be yourself and you will do fine.” It didn’t seem like it at the time, but he or she was exactly right. We just didn’t know at the time how to be ourselves under the spotlight. Yes, we need to build skills and get better. We need to understand our strengths as well as we know our weaknesses. But you have it all within you to create and deliver fabulous presentations and deliver them as only you can. Only you can be you, with your knowledge, your skills and your strengths. I urge you to keep reminding yourself of this truth. You are most likely much better already than you realize. You are just right the way you are.
Author Gail Zack Anderson, founder of Applause, Inc. is a Twin Cities-based consultant who provides coaching and workshops for effective presentations, facilitation skills for trainers and subject matter experts , and positive communication skills for everyone. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-340-3008.