Our Approach: Mindset

For some people who we coach to speak to the media, or deliver presentations, nerves get the better of them. There is no magic dust to sprinkle around which eradicates these nerves. But what we can do is tap into the mindset of the audience and you. One of the strongest human emotions is empathy, and we can use it to our advantage. When a nervous speaker stands before a crowd shaking with fear, we (the audience), feel pained ourselves. That is empathy. And unless you are typically addressing sociopaths as part of your work, it is a common trait of every audience member you will ever talk to. Happily, empathy is not just an emotion that works for negatives, it applies to positives too. If we can radiate confidence and control and poise when we stand before someone, those feelings will instantly be transmitted to, and embedded within, your audience. There’s even better news: studies suggest people are unable to differentiate between seeing someone who is appearing to be confident, controlled and poised, versus someone who is genuinely consumed with confidence. So where we start is to get you to radiate positivity from the get-go. For some people that is a tweak and refinement of your body (visual) language. For others, we suggest stepping into a ‘persona’, like actors and indeed professional broadcasters do before a live performance. Toby Wilsher, the Stage Director we work with at the 100th Monkey, says that just before a play starts actors stand in the wings visualising rapturous applause and the hollers of ‘Bravo!’ that come at the end. It is the same as when rugby player Jonny Wilkinson used to visualise a kick going through the posts – tracing its path with his eyes – before he stepped up to take it. From actors to sportsmen, the same clear mindset is paramount: visualise what success looks and feels like. And on the flip side: never assume failure. Never choose to get into an emotional state of anxiety and stress (because it is a choice), about something which you still have the opportunity to influence – i.e. it has not happened yet. Amy Cuddy on body language Where this went into a whole new stratosphere for me was when I saw the fantastic Ted Talk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy (the second most-viewed Ted Talk in history). We are familiar perhaps with the idea of someone giving themselves a pep talk before a big moment in order to ‘get into the zone’ as sports stars might say. Barack Obama likes to listen to rapper Eminem before big speeches for example, and a former Daily Mail news editor used to prepare himself for meetings with infamously combative editor Paul Dacre by looking himself in the mirror, telling himself he was an animal, and slapping himself around the face. That’s journalism for you. But Cuddy takes the pep talk to a new level of physicality. I implore you to watch her here but before you do, here’s my three point summary of this ground-breaking body language research:
  • It’s not just our mind which controls our bodies, our bodies (and the chemicals within them) can change how our minds think. We can coax our mind into believing we are confident and powerful through striking certain poses with our body;
  • Adopting a powerful ‘open’ pose with our body (think Superman or Superwoman, with hands on hips, making yourself as big as possible in your space) generates testosterone in our bodies
  • In just two minutes of holding this pose can make you more assertive, confident and comfortable because levels of testosterone are high, while levels of cortisol (causing stress/anxiety) take a dip.