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Tongue-Tied – Anxiety in meetings

Tongue-Tied – Anxiety in meetings

giraffeDo you ever get tongue-tied and fluff your words in meetings?

I’ve been working with a client recently who has had this issue and explained how she would stutter, stammer and mix up her words in important meetings.  Drained and fed up by this reoccurring issue, she wanted to put an end to it. Sue (name changed) wants “people to think that I’m knowledgeable, confident and comfortable”.

Sue discovered that she felt intimidated in these situations and realized that this came from second guessing what the people in the room where thinking about her. She imagined they were thinking negatively about her (“I look stupid”, “do they think I’m idiot? etc”). This was causing her to become more nervous and subsequently diminishing her performance even further – a vicious cycle.

How to stop the vicious cycle?

1. Sue realised that she was actually causing herself the problem by focus on the people and not what she was there for. Simply by focusing what you want to get out of the meeting (her objectives) can have a profoundly positive affect. And by focusing on what you want to get out of the meeting, you’re affecting people’s thinking in a positive way.

2. By her own admission Sue ‘winged’ most meetings. Preparation was fleeting at best and she realized that this habit was putting herself under pressure and limited what she could control. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” says Benjamin Franklin.

Preparation is crucial to build confidence and be in a positive mindset – What do I want to get out of this meeting? What information do I need? What questions do I need answering? Do I have supporting arguments and evidence, if challenged? etc

The results 

6 months on, Sue has worked really hard; focusing on what her objectives are for meetings and preparing much more thoroughly for them (she admits she could still do more prep– a challenging habit to crack!). The results have been wonderful to hear about. She “feels much more confident in meetings now” and there have been significant improvements in the measures that she set herself at the beginning of the journey:

  • ‘More comfortable in meetings’ = 6/10 (up from 2/10)
  • ‘Positivity in meetings’ = 6/10 (up from 2/10)
  • ‘Anxiety before meetings’ = down to 4/10 from 7/10

“Common sense!”, I hear some say “ah, but common sense ain’t so common”