(I wrote this post a couple of years ago as shyness affects us all at times and when we are undergoing changes such as college or university, then our confidence in speaking to others and feeling relaxed, may seem a little threatened! So I am republishing this today as there are things you can do to boost your confidence and here are THREE! )
- How many times have you walked out of seminar or a lesson and wished that you had spoken up and said what you wanted to say?
- How many time have you felt frustrated that you kept silent about your idea and then had to listen to other people discussing your ‘secret’ idea whilst enjoying the praise and lime light?
- Have you ever made a bargain with yourself saying next time I will speak up and then found yourself making the same promise again each week as terms slips away, noticing week by week that everyone else has spoken up but you?
- If you have answered YES to any or all of these questions then today I will reveal three easy ways you can change your behaviour in groups whether you are at University, in the Sixth form or at School
Before I reveal THREE possible solutions to your situation let me quickly tell you why I feel so strongly about the misery of NON -PARTICIPATION.
When I was a shy third year Undergraduate student at Liverpool University I can remember being very silent week by week during the ironically ‘dreaded’ English tutorial. For I shared each tutorial with about 5 other students who all seemed so confident, so worldly , so wise….
….Each week I kept promising myself to say something next time, but the term went on, and then the next term began…and I felt more and more trapped in my behaviour …
Shyness was a grim prison.
Until I remember that the next tutorial was going to be Joseph Conrad’s slim line classic, Heart of Darkness.
A very apt title looking back…
Once again I sat there, I felt all twitchy; I shuffled in my seat checking my watch…
Tick tick tick.
I took a huge breath.
For I felt an overwhelming surge of pent up frustration, even anger.
For I didn’t agree with what anyone was saying at all, time was ticking away, mocking me.
ANOTHER DEEP BREATH...and despite my shyness I had to burst out with my thoughts, red faced and stuttering as I may have appeared…
I dared to express my opinion. I pointed out why I felt the novel was about doppelgangers and fear.
Another student nodded, replied, my tutor murmured something. On we went….
After that I felt much better. I was on parole!
Something had changed.
I had given vent to my own curiosity about the novel.
I didn’t become the extrovert of the class but I did feel able to speak up sometimes and I even chose to write about Oscar Wilde who was definitely not to my tutor’s taste, but who nevertheless awarded me my very first 70% mark.
Something had genuinely shifted through speaking out and making my thoughts join the outside world.
As a tutor and teacher, I appreciate how important it is for students’ learning and self esteem to feel that they can speak up in discussions.
There is something powerful about speaking aloud and when we hear our ideas ‘out in the open’ we may often find that they become larger, or take a new direction, making us think more flexibly and even differently.
So what are the three ways you can improve your participation in groups?
1) Make sure you have prepared evidence for your viewpoint. This could be a quotation from an article/an image/section from book or report etc.
This supports you in terms of argument but perhaps even more importantly it gives the group something to look at that is not you.
You can pass it around as a hand out, remind the class of the line if it is class text, or even point it out if visual evidence like a projector.
It also ‘buys’ you breathing space for the group can read it or even listen to you reading it and this is a great asset for everyone!
Buy yourself TIME!
2) Look at everyone who speaks and give good eye contact. Smile. Smiling creates a positive state in both you and your listeners.
Being supportive involves you in the ‘action’ of the group and can even lead to a spontaneously expressed ‘I agree’ .
Each moment that you join in the action and movement of a group, even when you are not actually speaking aloud, you are building your participation.
You are building good will and affirmative emotions.
Participation is very much about being present in a group through body language as a clear indication of interest and curiosity.
Remember that we all like to be supported and acknowledged in any group situation.
Be Present by SHOWING that you are listening.
Participation is verbal AND non verbal.
Daring greatly through turning up for the group and for yourself!
3) Use curious words and curious phrases. Words matter.
Words have the power to transform as Alice found out once she followed her instinct for adventure and followed the mysterious white rabbit!
WONDER-LAND is hugely important for our participation.
So when you are giving positive eye contact, nodding, laughing, etc you may find yourself ‘adding’ in words or phrases that allow you to enter into the discussion in an open and non threatening way.
Curious Words open up possibilities and show feeling and curiosity on your part.
So What are these curious words?
Carol Ann Duffy 15 ideas!
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