Tuesday, January 6, 2009

making excuses for poor speaking?

Do you work on making excuses ahead of time for why you might fail as a speaker--or set yourself up to do so with self-sabotaging behavior, like not getting enough sleep before a major speech, or leaving your notes at home? You might have plenty of company, according to an article in today's New York Times that notes "Some Protect the Ego by Working on Excuses Early." But one advantage for women speakers is reported from recent findings:
The urge to shoot one’s own foot seems to be stronger in men than in women. In surveys, Dr. Hirt and others have measured the tendency by asking people to rate how well a series of 25 statements describes their own behavior — for example, “I try not to get too intensely involved in competitive activities so it won’t hurt too much if I lose or do poorly.” Men tend to score higher on these measures and, in lab studies, to handicap themselves more severely.
Psychologists interviewed in the article note that handicapping your performance is another double-edged sword: While it may protect your ego when you reflect on problematic performance, it also may become an excuse you rely on in future situations, dampening your motivation to improve. Take the time to examine your excuses--whether in advance of a speaking engagement or after the fact--to learn whether you're using them to hold yourself back. Replacing excuses with motivation in your speech preparation might be the ticket to breaking through as a better, more confident speaker.