Public speaking can be crazy making. Many clients work with us on overcoming the stress of giving presentations.

Annie Murphy Paul’s recent book, The Extended Mind – The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, outlines the research behind human ability. She suggests that the things and the space around us have a profound effect on how we think, feel, and develop.

One concept from her book provides a great tool to channel the fear of public speaking in a positive direction.

Cognitive Reappraisal

Cognitive reappraisal involves labeling a sensation (sweaty palms, increased heartbeat, shaky hands) and reinterpreting it in an adaptive way.

Is it possible for you to “think outside your brain”? Can you accept your physical manifestations caused by nervousness and do a mental twist from a misery mindset to an excited mindset?

Annie Murphy Paul thinks you can! And so do I.

NERVOUSNESS and EXCITEMENT exhibit similar physical responses.

She sites Alison Wood Brooks’ (an associate professor at Harvard Business School) study on reappraising nervousness as excitement.

Subjects are placed in these nerve wracking situations:

  • Completing a “very difficult IQ test” administered “under time pressure”
  • Delivering, on the spot, “a persuasive public speech about ‘why you are a good work partner’”
  • Belting out an 80s pop song (Don’t Stop Believin)

These poor subjects are instructed to either “stay calm” OR “tell themselves that they are excited.”

The study found that reappraising nervousness as excitement “yielded a noticeable difference in performance.”

  • The IQ test takers scored significantly higher.
  • The speech givers came across as more persuasive, competent and confident.
  • The singers performed more passably too!

Annie Murphy Paul and Alison Wood Brooks deserve a standing ovation.

Your Speak For Yourself® Challenge expressed by Paul: “Choose to reappraise debilitating ‘stress’ as productive ‘coping’”.

Source: The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain; Mariner Books (June 8, 2021)

Thanks to: @CrossCountryDriver for bringing this book to my attention

Author: Karen Cortell Reisman is Founder of Speak For Yourself®, a communication consulting firm, and the author of 2 books on how to communicate. She lives in Dallas, Texas and cannot sing Don’t Stop Believin.

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© 2021 Karen Cortell Reisman, All rights reserved

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