Sunday, November 30, 2008

keeping your cool

Today's New York Times looks into the psychology behind seemingly cool customers--those who stay calm under tense circumstances like, oh, public speaking, for example. Turns out it's not just a genetic tendency, but one that can be learned by regulating your emotions. Stanford University psychologist James J. Gross offers five methods of doing so, and I've added options for keeping speakers calm for each:
    • avoiding the situation, which many could-be speakers do;
    • modifying the situation, perhaps speaking to a smaller group if you're more comfortable that way
    • deploying your attention elsewhere, with a photo on the lectern or by playing music before you speak
    • cognitive change, to reframe what you're thinking about the situation, making it a positive rather than a negative, or
    • repression, which the article notes could be as simple as focusing on keeping your facial muscles from moving
The article goes on to note:
“Even if you’re someone who is initially anxious, you can develop tricks and strategies, so someone on the outside would say: ‘Her, anxious? She’s awesome at cocktail parties, she’s great at public speaking,’ ” Professor Gross said. “They wouldn’t understand that if you didn’t have those strategies, you wouldn’t be able to do those things.”
Have you tried regulating your emotions about speaking? Share your tricks and strategies with the rest of us!