I have difficulty with communication

I am a really shy person. I'm currently in a graduate program which requires lots of presentations, but they always make me feel stressed out and less confident. How can I get more confident?

Frank Walker
Frank Walker
I help couples manage the bumpy road called marriage. Whether your marriage needs a tune up, a major overhaul or just a flat tire changed. I can help.

Wow, congratulations on being in a masters program. You are in a unique place. So few have reached that level. You should give yourself a pat on the back.

Confidence is not something that comes naturally. But can and does come with practice.

Having gone through two masters programs I can sympathize with your your dilemma. 

So how is the stress affecting you?

Is it serious enough to stop you from presenting or is it just "butterflies"?

There are many ways of dealing with the anxiety and stress. Much depends on how serious the stress is.

So here are a few ideas:

1. Practice in front of a mirror.

Sounds strange but the practice helps.

2. Ask some friends to listen to your presentations. 

Not so much for their input as to just get used to presenting.

3. Focus on the material you are presenting. 

The subject matter is what you want to get across. Step away from your nerves and get into the facts you want to present. Let the material you present be the focus. 

4. Remember everyone else is just as nervous as you. 

Share your fears with some of your classmates and gain support from them. Focus on a friendly face during the presentation. Be a support to them in return.

5. "Fake it, till you make it". 

Yes it sounds blunt. 

But sometimes that's what it takes. Even if you feel like it, you won't die.

So much more can be discussed with a competent counselor. Take the time to let a professional help you work through this.

Again you have come a long way to be in a graduate program. Congratulations you have done great work so far. It's just one step at a time, take the steps.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Amy Nolan
Amy Nolan
Your journey to wellness starts here!

A good way to start is the language or "self talk" that is happening inside your mind.  Looking at your question, when it is said that the presentations "make me feel stress" you are giving the responsibility of the stress to the presentations and taking that away from your self.  The presentations cannot give or take away your stress, that's something only you can do and you can do it!   What language can you change in your self talk?  For example, are you saying "I can't speak in front of an audience! I'll fail?"  That sounds a lot different than "I studied my butt off and if I practice speaking out loud, I can ace this presentation!"  Although this is a short answer, I do believe that counseling will help you overcome these stressful feelings and bring out your inner confidence.   

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Kaileen McMickle, MS, LPC
Kaileen McMickle, MS, LPC
Licensed Professional Counselor

I was the very same way when I was in graduate school.  It makes sense that speaking in front of others would be scary because all of the attention is on you and you probably have expectations to meet each time (including your own).

Practice is the best way to build confidence before a speech.  Feeling prepared reduces anxiety for speaking just like it would for taking a test--you are solidifying the pathways in your brain that store and recall the information you need to know and speak about.

Remember that it's pretty normal to feel increased anxiety before and during a speech.  It's something that matters to you, so your body is trying to prepare you to fight through it.  It can often feel like your body is working against you when it is actually doing quite the opposite!

Also remember that people typically are not aware of how anxious you are.  They cannot hear your heart racing, they don't have access to your racing thoughts or insecurities, and they cannot feel the butterflies in your stomach.  

When you practice your speech, practice appearing confident as well.  Identify a couple focal points where you practice and pretend those are people.  Confident posture and eye contact can help you feel more confident about what you are speaking about.  When you get to the actual speech, have a couple focal points that you switch your gaze to every few seconds.  People will perceive that as confidence, even if you aren't looking directly into everyone's eyes (which can be intimidating).

Don't forget to breathe!  Taking a few deep breaths can send the message to your brain that what you are about to do is not dangerous--you are safe.  You'll still feel anxiety, but that's OK!  During your presentation, you can continue that in a sense by speaking slower.  It may seem like you are talking too slowly, but when you are anxious, it's actually a natural response to talk too fast.

Try to visualize yourself doing well and remind yourself that you can make it through a presentation.  When it's over, give yourself that credit!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Krista Harper, MA, LMFT
Krista Harper, MA, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Georgia and Hawaii

First of all, way to go in stretching yourself out of your comfort zone! You are sure to grow through all of this practice presenting to your peers, and that in itself will help to grow your confidence over time. In the meantime, do whatever you can to help yourself feel prepared for each presentation. Do your work ahead of time so that you feel well-informed on your topic, and then spend the days leading up to your presentation practicing. Do your presentation in the mirror, while you are driving (if it won't distract you from the road), and practice in front of a friend. On the day of the presentation, eat a balanced meal, get a pep talk from a supportive friend, use deep breathing to keep your body calm, and remind yourself that you are prepared. You got this!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

Have you tried rehearsing to yourself or a trusted friend what you will present to the class?   

The more confident you feel in a safe space, the more chance there will be of making the same presentation to a larger group.

Giving presentations is not necessarily a difficulty with communication.   It has more to do with performance than expressing yourself clearly.

Practice, practice, and practice, until you see yourself improve in how you present.

Also, keep in mind that whatever anxiety you may feel about making a mistake, the audience is almost alway much more forgiving than the person who feels anxious.

Anxiety heightens fear, so whatever concerns you have, check if they are growing from anxiety instead of a realistic assessment of your abilities or audience receptivity.

Good luck!

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Darlene Viggiano
Darlene Viggiano
Let Your Inner Light Shine!

I can offer you hypnosis for confidence in presentations, via Skype, if you're in Cali.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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