One of the most stubborn myths about public speaking is the belief that people who command a stage are naturally gifted. That’s nonsense. They’ve worked at it.
While the best public speakers come from different backgrounds, companies, and countries, they share one critical habit: They’ve built a growth mindset.
Cultivate the growth mindset for public speaking by adopting these mental habits.
1. Know the difference between growth and fixed mindsets.
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck is credited with popularizing the idea of the growth mindset, an attitude that is essential for achieving success. People with a fixed mindset believe their abilities are unchangeable. People with a growth mindset know they can improve through dedication, hard work, and constant learning.
The next time you catch yourself saying, “I get nervous in front of people,” or “I’m not a good speaker,” recognize that you’re adopting fixed-mindset language. Instead, reframe your thoughts into growth-mindset statements. Dweck recommends that you add the word “yet” to your self-talk.
I haven’t entirely eliminated my anxiety yet, but I know I’ll feel more comfortable with time and practice.
I’m not happy with my public speaking performance yet, but I’m getting better with each opportunity.
The word “yet” offers a path to improvement. It opens the door to possibility instead of closing the door completely on your growth.
2. Learn from failure.
Learning from mistakes is the key component to cultivating a growth mindset. Those who think they know it all tend to be average or even poor presenters and public speakers, because they’ve stopped growing.
I shouldn’t be surprised at this point, but I’m still amazed to meet famous TED speakers who ask me questions or say they’ve read one of my books. These people are obsessed with constant improvement, which explains their success as public speakers and in their fields.
If you have a growth mindset, failure is not a sign of incompetence–it’s a learning opportunity. The key is to view an event as just one step on your growth journey.
3. Be open to feedback.
You may have delivered a presentation that failed to result in the desired outcome (making a sale, winning a new customer, etc.). But speakers with a growth mindset focus on areas where they did well–and areas where they can improve.
The key is to solicit feedback on your presentation skills and take steps to improve with every opportunity. For example, ask peers or friends to watch your pitch or presentation before you deliver it. Listen to their feedback and adopt some of their suggestions.
People who demonstrate expertise in any skill make it look easy, whether hitting a golf ball, playing the piano, or public speaking. And that’s because they practice, make mistakes, get feedback, and try again.
Your mindset will hold you back or propel you higher. Choose the growth mindset to reach your potential as a communicator.
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