Gaining Dominion in Public Speaker Requires Taming the Ego. Quieting the Ego Improves Mental Health

Seventy-five percent of all people suffer from fear of speaking in public. This group includes every imaginable walk-of-life and career from moms and dads, to salespeople, teachers, and CEOs. Once I asked Margaret Thatcher if she was afraid of what seemed the everyday responsibility of any head of state. “Oh yes, Jim” she responded decisively, “I have to talk to myself when I step up to talk and I say ‘come on old gal, you can do it’ and then I let the message take over.” This set me to thinking that gaining in self-knowledge and throwing ourselves into topics bigger than the ego were two touchstones to gain improved mental health as well as mastery in speaking. Stewing over what we will say and how we will be received by our audience can wreck havoc with peace of mind. I always tell my coaching students to forget what their mother told them and to “leave her at home” when speaking at work or for work. By that I mean clear you mind of any subconscious need to hew to what your mom (or dad) required of you in the public speaking category and put the breaks on any need to impress them with your attempt at prowess. Easier said than done–but it is a start at conquering the constant need for approval. I know what I am talking about. My dad was a speech coach. Try that on for fear of approval. I began giving talks in the 7th grade and have never stopped. It wasn’t until after college and speaking at Rotary, after having been followed by spies during a professional exchange in the Soviet Union, as I was reporting on my adventures, I realized I was good at telling stories and conveying a message and I never looked back. I never tried to live up to my dad’s expectations again. It freed me to be myself. Then I went to work for the Great Communicator–Ronald Reagan. I was astounded to learn that this man had no ego. He simply did not care what his audiences thought of him. This was not a careless or unkind approach to the audience—far from it. But it did mean he approached the podium fearless and unweighted by personal ego. That yielded another title of “Teflon president.” These are all lessons, I have realized that not only help us on the dais or at the dinner table when communicating but they are great partners with improved mental health. So many of my coachees have expressed “you changed my life” after a few sessions. I quickly correct that nice appreciation with “I did not change your life. You changed it, by acquiring newfound self-acceptance and authenticity.” And that makes all the difference in both our mental outlook and our verbal acuity. Now there is an effective powerhouse of good influence in our lives and the sooner we start with better practices in communicating the sooner we may realize sounder mental health.