Using Locus of Control in Public Speaking

Using Locus of Control in Public Speaking

An article by Fred Kofman describes the essence of “locus of control” as it relates to taking responsibility of personal actions:

“Ability to respond does not mean guilt. It doesn’t matter who is responsible for the situation. What matters is that you see yourself as able to respond, improve and learn when confronting the situation.”

This can take on different meaning across one’s life, but the key is that one accepts responsibility for positive change when confronted with challenge, no matter what the cause. This message is very helpful for a number of reasons in the context of challenging the fear of public speaking:

• Adopt strategies for success. There is a tendency for negative self-reflection as a result of fear: “I am not strong enough, brave enough, or confident enough to stand up in front of an audience.” Thoughts like this are counterproductive to success and fuel rather than “flip” fear into positive energy. A better strategy is to accept the feelings of fear for what they are – pure emotion, with no blame or cause attached – and focus on strategies for success such as confident body language and vocal strength.

• Focus on the positive. Thoughts such as “what if they don’t laugh at my jokes?” or “what if they are not receptive to my leadership?” which go along with mental pictures of the gravity of a challenge (such as imagining a huge, non-smiling audience) take the control away from the speaker. To take control back, the speaker can focus on increasing the “ability to respond” to the situation, such as having practiced, prepared for questions, and researched the audience.

• “Confront” the situation. As the above quote implies the key to action lies in the confrontation of the situation itself. As with confronting any fear, this means taking a deep breath and moving ahead with courage despite feelings of anxiety. The bottom line is that to take control, the speaker must go ahead with the challenge to speak, despite fear and any potential outcomes. This involves more than a leap of faith – it involves the speaker saying “despite this fear, I will take control and I will speak despite my feelings of fear.”

In taking the above steps the speaker ultimately takes control of the situation in which fear exists. This is the best and arguably the only way to challenge and reduce fear. With the intention of embracing the challenge and moving towards a positive outcome, despite any result (actual nerves on stage), the speaker has already won. Most times, through this approach, the speaker will be rewarded with an experience that is not nearly as bad as they have imagined, and after a while, is actually enjoyable.

Some additional helpful points from the article by Kofman that apply in a more general sense to taking control of actions and accepting responsibility for positive change include:

• What is the challenge you are facing? (Instead of “What did they do to you?”)
• How have you responded? (Instead of “What should they have done?”)
• How has that worked out for you? (Instead of “How are they wrong?”)
• What could you do now? (Instead of “What should they do now?”)
• If you need help, whom could you ask? (Instead of “Who should fix it?”)
• What can you learn from this? (Instead of “How should they be punished?”)

Access the full article by Kofman here:

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